The Bears face Broncos, in the Cactus Bowl, on Tuesday

The Bears face the Broncos in the 2016 Cactus Bowl this year. BearsIllustrared caught up with Boise State Publisher, Kevin Hiatt, for a deeper look into the Broncos.

1.     With an at-times explosive Baylor offense on the other side of the field, how do you think Boise State's defense matches up?

This may be the question-of-the-day, and could prove to be the difference-maker when game day comes. The Broncos have been inconsistent on both sides of the ball at times throughout the season. Boise State has some injuries on the defensive side of the ball, but the front seven of the Broncos has been relatively steady throughout their toughest tests. It’s no secret that Boise State struggles against the triple-option, but they’ve also shown weakness against an up-tempo, fast-paced style of offense as well. If the line can play to the level they are capable of, they will have a great shot at forcing Baylor to beat them through the air, and with the loss of the Bears’ top rusher to the NFL (and skipping the bowl game), it’s possible that may be Baylor’s only option anyways.

2.     Give us a run down on some of the names to watch on the Bronco defense and what their strengths are.

David Moa. In fact, that may be the only name you need to be on the lookout for. Moa is not your prototypical nose tackle, and that’s what makes him so difficult to plan for. He has the speed and quickness of your defensive ends and outside linebackers, but also the ability to plug the gaps and stop the run. They don’t call him the “Moa Constrictor” for nothin’. He creates pressure, forces double-teams, and can swim past offensive lineman terrifyingly fast. I would also watch out for senior linebacker Darren Lee. This may be stretch of a comparison, but as a Dallas Cowboys fan, Lee really reminds me of a Cowboys linebacker that he shares a last name with, Sean Lee. He seems to always know where the ball is. He can play in coverage, stop the run, put pressure on the quarterback, and you better hope that you don’t see him in block coverage on special teams; he’s an animal.

3.     What does Boise State do best on offense, and what should Baylor fans be prepared to see?

When Boise’s offense is best, star junior running back Jeremy McNichols is priority number one. Jeremy can catch the ball, run up the gut, or cut it outside. When Boise State rides with McNichols, it forces the defense to suck up and load the box more, allowing sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien to stretch the field. Stretching the field is dangerous because of two 1,000 yard receivers on either side of the ball in Cedrick Wilson and Thomas Sperbeck. Sperbeck has been battling an injury, and his play has not been confirmed for the bowl game, which could be the break that Baylor needs on defense.Boise is incredibly balanced, and if Brett Rypien can stay out of his own head, this offense is among the best in the country.

4.     College football fans are very familiar with Boise State due to their success in recent seasons.  Most of that national success came under previous coach Chris Petersen however.  What has changed for the Broncos under 3rd year coach Bryan Harsin?

Some fans would argue everything, while others would say it’s “business as usual.” I fall somewhere in the middle of the two. Bryan Harsin didn’t skip much of a beat, coming in and pulling out a Fiesta Bowl victory in his first season as Head Coach. However, the Broncos have had seemingly annual turnover with both offensive and defensive coordinators the past few seasons. The wins continue to pile up, yet the continuity from a coaching perspective seems to be lacking. When Coach Pete left, Boise (the city) was in meltdown mode. In contrast, when Bryan Harsin’s name came up for the Oregon job this year, many fans didn’t seem to be bothered by the potential loss. The irony in that is that by the numbers, Harsin and Pete are nearly identical through their first three respective seasons at Boise State. Harsin is a hometown boy and alumni of Boise State, so I expect him to be here for years to come. 

5.     Baylor has obviously struggled with off the field distractions this year.  What is Boise State's mindset coming into this game, and do you think it gives them an edge on the Bears?

I don’t think Boise is looking at Baylor’s record, or the off-field distractions they’ve faced this year. Baylor plays in the Big 12, and Boise knows the level of competition that comes with that week in and week out. I think the Broncos actually have the opposite problem, where they underestimate seemingly “inferior” opponents (see losses to New Mexico and Wyoming the last few years), but tends to “play up” more to the big dogs. I’m really excited to see how this plays out. I predict we won’t be short on points or excitement in this bout!

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