It’s a very big week for two groups of diehard fans: the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” on Thursday night, and the start of college football bowl games Saturday.
Among the slate of games Saturday is, of course, the Las Vegas Bowl between Boise State and Oregon. The Broncos arrive in Sin City on Tuesday, the Ducks on Monday night.
Here are some things to keep an eye on as the movie, and the game, approach:
▪ “The Last Jedi” apparently will feature a casino city called Canto Bight. No word on if there is a giant space Ferris wheel, but in Nevada’s casino city, both teams will get to check out the High Roller on Thursday night. It’s part of the bowl experience, which also includes charity appearances Wednesday and Thursday, a welcome reception on Fremont Street on Wednesday and a pep rally downtown on Friday.
▪ Strength will meet strength, as Boise State is 20th in the FBS against the run (125.8 yards per game), allowing more than 200 yards only once. Oregon is No. 8 in rush offense, averaging 268 ypg, and tied for fourth in the nation with 40 rushing TDs. It could very well be a clash as epic as Rey and Kylo Ren’s rematch.
▪ Rey could be tempted by the dark side as she understands her power, that seems pretty clear. Stars for both teams could be tempted to be drawn toward something powerful, too — the NFL. Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman, who stands at No. 6 in FBS history with 5,621 yards rushing, is pondering whether to play Saturday or avoid any injury risk.
“We have this week to figure that thing out,” coach Mario Cristobal told the Eugene Register-Guard. “We’ll certainly sit down and talk about it and come to a decision that’s best for him and the program.”
Boise State junior linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, is highly regarded by some NFL scouts. He’s considered a potential pick in the first three rounds if he declares, but he’s been mum on the subject.
“I really don’t want to talk about it right now,” Vander Esch said Wednesday.
▪ Last time we saw ex-stormtrooper Finn, he took a lightsaber slash to the back and was unconscious. It looks like he’ll bounce back just fine, but how about Boise State’s own foot soldier, running back Alexander Mattison? Last time we saw him, the 1,000-yard rusher had a boot on his injured right foot, putting around on a scooter. Unless he has a bacta tank, he might not be ready to go, which would mean senior Ryan Wolpin (377 yards) and redshirt freshman Robert Mahone (81) will have to pick up the slack.
▪ Seen in the trailers, porgs are little bird-like creatures that could be cute, or could be sort of annoying. The bird-mascoted Oregon team won’t be cute, won’t be a finesse team as some have seen them. Cristobal, named head coach Friday, will bring a hard-nosed, physical mindset. The Ducks’ players were in his corner with a team petition signed by more than 70 players in support the day before he was hired. They could want to make a statement Saturday.
▪ Old friends like Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia show up in the new movie. They’re sure to conjure up memories of hours of watching them years ago. Boise State and Oregon have their own memorable moments from their two meetings, the Broncos’ 37-32 win in Eugene in 2008 and a 19-8 win in Boise the following year that ended with the infamous punch.
Las Vegas Bowl
Who: Boise State (10-3) vs. Oregon (7-5)
When: 1:30 p.m. MT, Saturday
Where: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas
TV: ABC (Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit, Molly McGrath)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Vegas line: Oregon by 7 1/2
Tickets: $81.75 apiece at BroncoSports.com/tickets, the Athletic Ticket Office or via phone at 208-426-4737.