KICKOFF: Saturday, 8 ET
SITE: Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, NM
TV: WAC Sports Network
SERIES: Boise State leads 10-0 (last meeting, 2009, Boise State 42-7)
RECORDS: Boise State 3-0, 0-0; New Mexico State 0-3, 0-0.
POLLS: Boise State (3 AP, 3 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Boise State 56-7
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- The Broncos have had some trouble covering kicks this year, and that happens to be one of New Mexico State's few strengths. The Aggies rank 10th in the nation in kickoff returns at 28.2 yards per return.
-- Boise State doesn't need to do much adjusting to NMSU to beat the Aggies. The two teams are simply on different levels, and Boise State, a program in need of style points to impress voters, could pour it on the Aggies this week.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
-- The Broncos have piled up 1,117 yards and 88 points in the past two games. The key has been the development of the running game, which produced 275 yards against Wyoming and 175 against Oregon State. The Broncos were able to milk the clock in the fourth quarter against Oregon State by turning the game over to TB Doug Martin and the offensive line. Martin produced 61 yards on the drive, leading to the game-clinching field goal.
The Broncos rank second in the nation in rushing defense (61.7 yards per game), third in total defense (228.7), second in tackles for loss (9.7) and fifth in sacks (3.7). They have allowed 60 points, though, because their special teams have put them in some bad situations. Last week, Oregon State scored 17 of its 24 points off of special teams. The other seven were a gift from the Broncos, who committed a couple of unnecessary personal fouls.
New Mexico State is hurting on the offensive line, which only tells part of the story of the team's running struggles. The truth is, offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar has gone to the pass more than the team is built for due in large part to three straight games of the Aggies falling behind early. Through three games, the coaches still believe RBs Seth Smith and Kenny Turner can be great WAC running backs, but the production simply hasn't supported those optimistic feelings just yet.
The Aggies are shifting defensive play-calling duties this week and the rest of the season from head coach/defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker to linebacker coach Dale Lindsey. While Walker says the move is so he can focus on the rest of the team more, it appears maybe he was already focusing on the rest of the team at the expense of the defense, which ranks dead last in the WAC in scoring defense (41.7 points per game) and total defense (519.7 yards per game).
Broncos: S Winston Venable will have to sit out the first half of the game at New Mexico State, a penalty handed down by the WAC office for committing a flagrant foul in the game against Oregon State that was not called by game officials. He originally was suspended for the entire game but Boise State appealed and the penalty was cut in half. Venable has 11 tackles this season. ... With the win over then-No. 24 Oregon State, Boise State improved to 5-0 against ranked, BCS-conference teams under coach Chris Petersen. ... Boise has won its last 17 games, including 13 straight true road games and nine straight games away from home. The Broncos' streak in WAC play is at 16 games. The Broncos also are a perfect 9-0 in WAC openers since beginning competition in the league in 2001. ... PK Kyle Brotzman needs three more points to move into a tie for third place among all-time career scoring leaders in WAC competition. He has 367 points and is 8-of-9 on field goals this season. The all-time leader is Jason Elam with 395 points. ... WR Titus Young has had at least one reception in 33 consecutive games. ... Boise State is second in the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 61.67 ypg on the ground, while rushing for 206.0 ypg, which ranks 29th. The Broncos are third in total defense in giving up only 228.67 ypg. ... WR Austin Pettis needs 19 catches to become the school's all-time leader in career receptions. He has 171 catches. Don Hutt holds the record at 189. Teammate Titus Young is at No. 6 with 148 catches.
Aggies: No. 3 Boise State will be the highest-ranked team to ever play in Las Cruces. ... WR Taveon Rogers set a school record with 219 kick-return yards against Kansas, but it didn't earn him the WAC Special Teams Player of the Week, That went to Louisiana Tech freshman LB Rufus Porter, who blocked a punt leading to a safety in the Bulldogs' 13-12 loss to Southern Miss. Rogers leads the WAC in kickoff returns with his 28.8 average, good for ... New Mexico State is the only team in FBS competition without a sack. On a more positive note, the Aggies have given up only one sack themselves. ... The winless Aggies have lost their last 10 games. ... FS Donyae Coleman has had two games with double-digit tackles and leads the Aggies with 31 stops.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Broncos: RB Doug Martin -- The powerful, physical back has rushed for 326 yards and contributed 80 receiving yards. He averages 6.8 yards per carry.
WR Austin Pettis -- He caught a touchdown pass in each of the first 10 games last year. He's 3 for 3 this year. He has four touchdown catches and one touchdown pass.
S Jeron Johnson -- He's well on his way to another team lead in tackles. He has 24 tackles this year -- eight more than any other Bronco.
RB Seth Smith -- The returning 1,000-yard rusher has yet to have a breakout game, and in order for NMSU to avoid total embarrassment this week against the Boise State Broncos, Smith will need to produce. Considering Boise State leads the WAC and is second in the nation in rush defense (61.7 yards allowed per game), Smith will have his hands full.
CB Davon House -- House entered the season on the Thorpe watch list for the nation's best defensive back. He hasn't produced yet, but there isn't anything quite like the national stage and facing a Heisman-hopeful quarterback in Boise State's Kellen Moore to get back on track.
P Tanner Rust -- It's hard to imagine Rust won't get plenty of work this week against the tough Boise State defense. Rust has shown some glimpses of being a real good punter, but his 37.3 yards-per-punt average will have to improve this week to help win the field-position battle and not give the Broncos a short field all game.
RB D.J. Harper (knee, questionable).
RG Sioeli Fakalata (leg, out).
KICKOFF: Saturday, 2 ET
SITE. Hughes Stadium, Fort Collins, Colo.
TV: The Mtn
SERIES: TCU leads 6-1 (last meeting, 2009, TCU 44-6)
RECORDS: TCU 4-0, 0-0; Colorado State 1-3, 0-0
POLLS: TCU (5 AP, 5 USA Today)
PREDICTION: TCU 34-10
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- TCU needs to protect the quarterback. SMU put some pressure on TCU quarterback Andy Dalton last week and the result was a couple of interceptions and a brief third-quarter lead. But the realist in CSU head coach Steve Fairchild knows the deal. Saturday's game is less about beating TCU and more about a continued improvement of the program for the future.
-- Colorado State must make some big plays. The Rams aren't going to win the game without forcing at least a few turnovers. The Rams might also need to hit a couple of long touchdowns, or perhaps a key special teams play to stick with a much more talented team.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
-- The Horned Frogs certainly didn't play their best offensive game of recent memory last week against SMU, especially when senior QB Andy Dalton tossed interceptions on back-to-back enabling the Mustangs to take the lead. TCU's offense has been remarkably balanced in recent years, but through four games of the 2010 season, the passing attack ranks just 75th in the nation with 202.3 passing yards per game while the rushing offense is 11th in the nation, averaging 257.3 yards per game.
Don't tell Colorado State head coach Steve Fairchild that TCU's defense is a notch below the level it was at when the two teams played in 2009. TCU ranks No. 11 in the nation in total defense, allowing 114 rushing yards per game and 143.3 passing yards per game.
All of a sudden, things are looking up for the Rams' offense. All season, the progress of freshman quarterback Pete Thomas has given the program hope. Now Thomas might not have to do it all, with the running game coming off a big game. The offensive line played much better last week and needs to carry that over against a tough TCU defense.
TCU can beat you in many ways, so Colorado State will have its hands full on defense. Although Andy Dalton and the Horned Frogs' passing game gets a lot of attention, the running game can also be effective. The Rams are coming off a game in which they allowed 347 passing yards, so getting better in the secondary this week is a big key.
Horned Frogs: The trip to Colorado State will be the first out of the state of Texas for TCU this season. The Horned Frogs were home for their first three games and then made the short jaunt over to SMU for their first game on an opponent's field. The Frogs opened against Oregon State in Dallas. This will be TCU's only plane trip in the first eight games of the season. The Frogs are home for their next three. ... The Horned Frogs are riding a seven-game winning streak. ... Senior QB Andy Dalton will be making his only appearance in Colorado State's Hughes Stadium. He was injured and did not play in the 2008 game. ... TCU is 4-0 for a third consecutive season. ... Dalton is the nation's leader in wins by an active quarterback with 33, four more than Boise State's Kellen Moore. He also is TCU's all-time leader in the category. ... RB Ed Wesley is leading TCU in rushing and is second in the Mountain West Conference (104.8 yp) despite missing the first half of the game against SMU, when he was limited to eight carries. ... sophomore TB Matthew Tucker has rushed for 12 touchdowns in just 17 games. ... Redshirt freshman TB Waymon James has three touchdowns on just 16 rushes.
Rams: TCU will be the highest-ranked team ever to play in Hughes Stadium, matching the No. 5 ranking Colorado had on a visit in 1996. ... Colorado State has won three of its last five Mountain West Conference openers. ... Colorado State is 13-22 against ranked teams since 1993, but the last win came back in 1992 when the Rams beat then No. 7 Colorado 19-14. ... The Rams had been waiting for running back Raymond Carter to produce, and he did against Idaho, with 224 yards from scrimmage, 100 of it rushing. ... Colorado State is last among 120 FBS teams in rushing with an average of 59.0 ygp. The Rams are 26th nationally and second in the MWC in passing (270.25 ypg). ... Turnovers are a problem. The Rams are 119th nationally at minus-1.75 per game (nine giveways, two takeways).
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
RB Ed Wesley -- The sophomore running back and TCU rushing leader (104.8 rushing yards per game) left last week's game against TCU with a mild concussion. Don't expect it to affect his availability this week in the MWC opener at CSU. Head coach Gary Patterson says Wesley will be back.
QB Andy Dalton -- The senior QB has dominated the Mountain West Conference and his 33 career victories are the most in the nation among active quarterbacks. But there are still a few places in the league he has yet to win. Fort Collins is one of them as Dalton was injured in 2008 when TCU beat the Rams on the road. After a sub-par performance last week at SMU, Dalton will be itching to get back on track with a big game at CSU.
DE Wayne Daniels -- The senior defensive end ranks 21st in the nation with 3.5 sacks this season, but was unable to get to the quarterback last week at SMU. He'll have his chances this week against a Colorado State team that ranks 119th in the nation in sacks allowed, surrendering 4.25 per game.
QB Pete Thomas -- Thomas is off to a good start, but he hasn't played a defense as good or aggressive as the one TCU will bring to Colorado State. Thomas has to stay in against the rush and not make any mistakes for the Rams to have a chance.
FB Zac Pauga -- Pauga is a physical presence for the Rams offense and can be a key figure in getting the running game going. Colorado State needs to establish its running game early against TCU.
CB Momo Thomas -- Thomas is Colorado State's best cornerback, and he'll be tested by TCU's talented receivers. A big interception against Horned Frogs quarterback Andy Dalton is what CSU needs to stay in the game, and Thomas probably provides the best chance for that.
RB Ed Wesley (concussion, probable)
OT Mark Starr (concussion, questionable), DE Eugene Daniels (shoulder, doubtful).
KICKOFF: Saturday, 10 ET
SITE: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV: The Mtn.
SERIES: Nevada leads 20-15 (last meeting, 2009, Nevada 63-28.
RECORDS: Nevada 4-0
POLLS: Nevada (25 AP, 25 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Nevada 49, UNLV 24
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- Keep their heads is the key for Nevada's players. The Wolf Pack have been hearing all week about how good they are, having earned a spot in the top 25 for the first time since 1948. UNLV would like nothing better than to spoil the Wolf Pack's dream season. The Pack mus finish drives offensively. Nevada scored 27 points last week, its lowest output of the season.
-- Defense, defense and more defense is the key for the Rebels , who were absolutely humiliated by Nevada's pistol offense in a 63-28 loss last year in Reno. The Wolf Pack rolled up 773 yards in total offense, including an eye-popping 559 yards rushing. Somehow the Rebels must find a way to slow down quarterback Colin Kaepernick and company, who rank fourth in the nation in total offense with an average of 529.0 yards per game and have already scored 23 touchdowns in just four games.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
-- Nevada RB Vai Taua and QB Colin Kaepernick rank No. 14 and 15, respectively, in the NCAA in rushing yards per game. Each is averaging right at 113 yards per game on the ground for the Wolf Pack's sixth-ranked rushing offense.. Kaepernick is far better known for his rushing skills, but the senior quarterback ranks second among active quarterbacks with 800 attempts for lowest interception rate. He has thrown 17 picks in 1,018 passing attempts, trailing only Boise State's Kellen Moore.
Nevada is holding opponents to 18.5 points per game, a vast improvement on last season when the Wolf Pack allowed foes more than 30 points per game. In the first year under new defensive coordinator Andy Buh, Nevada ranks 20th nationally in pass efficiency defense.
The UNLV offense, which sputtered in losses to Wisconsin, Utah and Idaho, finally put it together in a 45-10 win over New Mexico its last outing. Senior QB Omar Clayton threw three touchdown passes for the fifth time in his career, all to junior WR Michael Johnson.
Thanks to the play of CB Will Chandler (three interceptions, two fumble recoveries), the Rebels lead the Mountain West Conference in turnover margin (plus-0.75 per game). The Rebels rank 66th nationally in total defense, allowing an average of 359.0 yards per game, and they are allowing an average of 161.2 yards per game rushing. Those numbers will be put to the test by a veteran Nevada offense that racked up a stunning 773 total yards and 63 points last year in Reno.
Wolf Pack: The WAC is looking at a controversial cut block by Nevada OL John Bender against BYU Romney Fuga. Fuga sustained a season-ending knee injury on the play, which was not flagged during the game. Coach Chris Ault said the block, on a screen pass, should have been flagged as a clip, but said Bender did not intend to injure Fuga. ... Nevada is ranked for the first time since 1948. The Wolf Pack entered the Associated Press and coaches' polls at No. 25. ... Nevada is off to its best start since beginning pay at the FBS level in 1992. The Wolf Pack started the 1991 season 12-0 before losing in the Division I-AA playoffs. This marks just the eighth time Nevada has started a season with at least four consecutive victories. ... Coach Chris Ault is fifth among active coaches with 210 victories. He trails Joe Paterno, Frank Beamer, Jim Tressel and Mack Brown among active coaches. ... Nevada is No. 4 in total offense, averaging 529 yards per game, and No. 5 in scoring offense at 44.8 points per game. ... QB Colin Kaepernick became the school's all-time leader in total offense when he threw for 196 yards and ran for 82 more against BYU to raise his career number to 11,357 yards. He has accounted for 797 yards total offense in two games against UNLV.
Rebels: UNLV will be playing its third ranked opponent in five games with Nevada, which came in at No. 25 in both polls this week, joining Wisconsin and Utah on the list. It's the first time that either team has been ranked in 36 meetings for the Fremont Cannon. ... UNLV is just 5-28 against ranked teams in its history and has lost 13 straight to ranked teams at home. ... UNLV has lost the last five games against Nevada after winning five in a row under coach John Robinson. No team has won six straight in the series. ... Junior CB Will Chandler leads the Mountain West Conference in interceptions (two) and is tied for first in fumble recoveries (two). ... Rebel senior QB Omar Clayton needs 117 passing yards to tie Sam King in third place on the schoolOs career list with 5,393 yards.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
LB James-Michael Johnson -- The junior earned WAC Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second time this season after recording a career-high 10 tackles against BYU. Johnson leads the team with 31 tackles this season. His 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks are also best on the team.
S Marlon Johnson -- The sophomore is second on the team with 27 tackles. Since he moved into the starting lineup for the second game of the year, the Wolf Pack defense has been much better. Johnson had arguably the biggest play of the season so far, a 65-yard interception return against Cal that swung the momentum of that game.
WR Rishard Matthews -- The junior-college transfer leads the team with 16 receptions for 252 yards. He also has one touchdown and is the team's punt returner, averaging 8.2 yards per return. Nevada's punt-return unit was dismal last season. Matthews has had at least three receptions in each game this season.
QB Omar Clayton -- The four-year starter has yet to throw an interception in 81 attempts this season while throwing for four touchdowns. He ranks third in career touchdown passes (39) and fourth in career passing yards (5,276). He'll need to have a big game if the Rebels are to keep up with high-scoring Nevada.
OLB Starr Fuimaono -- Nevada destroyed UNLV's perimeter run defense a year ago to the tune of 559 yards rushing. Many of those yards came on option runs off right tackle by Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who finished with 173 yards rushing. It will be up to Fuimaono and UNLV's other outside linebackers to try and string Kaepernick out when he leaves the pocket.
FS Mike Clausen -- Calusen is scheduled to make his first college start at safety after beginning the season as UNLV's starting quarterback in its season-opening loss to Wisconsin. Got to figure Chris Ault and company will test Clausen early and often, especially on play-action passes.
Wolf Pack: RB Mike Ball (suspension, out), FS Corbin Louks (knee, out), OT Steve Haley (arm, out), WR L.J. Washington (knee, doubtful).
FS Travis Dixon (knee, doubtful), DB Quinton Pointer (knee, out the rest of the season), RB C.J. Cox (arm, doubtful), WR Mark Barefield (leg, doubtful), LB Calvin Randleman (arm, doubtful), FB Anthony White (leg, doubtful), RG Doug Zismann (leg, doubtful).