Aztecs Will Face Different Boise State Team

The California boys basking in the San Diego sun have to wonder what genius scheduled a game at night just under the foothills of Boise in mid-November. Why, it was ESPN.

The last two years, San Diego State had its way with Boise State, defeating the Broncos 34-31 in San Diego last year, and spoiling a run at a BCS Bowl for Boise State in 2012, winning 21-19. But one gets the sense that this just isn't a "new look Boise State", but a more passionate Bronco team as well. The Boise State players have picked up on the energy level of their talented and enthusiastic coaches, and aren't the same team that the Aztecs found to their liking each of the past two seasons.

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People trying to figure out how the game is going to go may as well give up now. The Broncos are favored by 14, but then they were favored by 19 last week against New Mexico and were behind nearly the entire game. Odds mean nothing to this Boise State team--they try to make every game close.

San Diego State suffered a 31-27 loss to North Carolina, and they were beaten by Nevada (30-14), Oregon State (28-7) and Fresno State (24-13). The Aztecs' biggest win this season is probably a 24-14 victory over New Mexico, a team the Broncos beat by 11. With their loss to the Wolf Pack, San Diego State will have to finish ahead of Nevada in the Western Division of the Mountain West to play in the second annual MWC Championship game.

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Controlling the line of scrimmage and the clock is important to both teams. San Diego State sophomore Donnel Pumphrey has been running wild, to the tune of sixth in the nation at 135 yards a game and 13 touchdowns. He's just ahead of Boise State's Jay Ajayi at 127 yards a game. But that's where the similarities end. Pumphrey is a shifty, speedy back who was named as an honorable mention selection by College Football News to its All-Freshman team last season, and Pumphrey has exploded this season (he ran for 246 yards on just 20 carries against New Mexico.)

Should their respective ground games not be clicking on all cylinders, the air game would appear to favor the Broncos. Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick is 12th in passing efficiency at 156.8; Quinn Kaehler of San Diego State is 76th.

Boise State's offense is averaging 521 yards a game to 391 for San Diego State. The Aztecs have a superior defense, allowing just 344 yards a game (28th in the nation) while Boise State is giving up a whopping 390 a contest. Even more important, San Diego State is 18th in scoring defense, allowing just over 20 points, while Boise State is much more charitable at #87, allowing nearly 30 points a game. That spirit of giving might be more valued next month around the tree, but on the football field, it's not a desired quality.

So some statistics favor Boise State, and some others favor the Aztecs. But statistics don't matter when the Broncos haven't beaten this team in three years.

ESPN in their infinite wisdom announced an 8:15 p.m. start time in mid-November in Boise, not one of the network's more intelligent decisions. Rain forecast for this week may be gone by Saturday, but the gametime temperature is expected to much closer to the forecast low of 12 than the projected high of 29, especially in the second half.

A full house of bundled-up Bronco fans is expected for the crucial conference game.


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