The Lafayette, Louisiana area has been affected by recent dramatic flooding, and many are still facing the difficulties that come along with cleanup, and recovery. The game itself might serve as a welcomed pause from what the good people of Lafayette, and the surrounding region have been dealing with for the past couple of weeks. A good sized crowd is still expected.
While travel and lodging for the Broncos might have to be altered slightly, everything else about the first game of the season should be football as usual. The field is designed to drain large amounts of water, and the Campus and surrounding area is in good shape going into game week.
The 10 a.m. MST (11 a.m. Lafayette) kickoff will be a bit different for players and fans. As the first game of the season however, start time will probably have very little to do with the outcome of this contest.
Watching the game will be a challenge for some in Idaho, but not those who understand how to stream the game online. For those who don't, there are options. Boise State actually released a notification on the BroncoSports.com website that helps fans understand how to watch the game. How to watch the game
The Cajuns are coached by Mark Hudspeth. He took over the program after the team finished 3-9 in 2010. In 2011 Louisiana improved greatly under his leadership finishing 9-4 overall, which included a late season near-upset of Arizona, losing 45-37 in Tucson. It also included a win over San Diego State in the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl 32-30.
Under Hudspeth the team then went 9-4 the following three seasons, until taking a step backward in 2015 ending with a 4-8 record. However, don't expect another sub-par performance from the Cajuns this season. Even Phil Steele has placed UL on his top 15 most improved teams of 2016. In his College Football Preview this season Steele has them third on that list.
These two teams have faced each other just once before when the Cajuns visited The Blue in September of 2014. That game was dominated by the Broncos 34-9. It was never really close as BSU rolled up 499 yards of offense compared to just 241 yards for UL.
Boise State Head Coach Bryan Harsin also faced the Cajuns in 2013 when he was the head coach for Arkansas State. That game was won by the Cajuns 23-7.
In 2016 the Cajuns have 14 returning starters, seven on each side of the ball. Their go-to guy on offense is running back Elijah McGuire who has 3185 career rushing yards, and 1145 receiving yards. He is similar in the way he runs to that of Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols.
The offensive line is solid with three returning starters, and some talented young players. At tight end the starter Nick Byrne had 10 catches last season. He will probably get more of a load this year, and with losing some wide receivers to injury in the off-season, that may happen sooner rather than later.
UL does have talent at the wide receiver position, but they did lose one of the best in Devin Scott who will miss the season after knee surgery. Another projected starter that will most likely be out the first game is Al Damion Riles, but he will be replaced by a very talented Gabe Fuselier. A third projected starter, Gary Haynes, is suspended for the opener.
At quarterback the Cajuns will start Anthony Jennings a dual-threat transfer from LSU. In 2014 Jennings started 12 games for the Tigers, and passed for over 1600 yards. He led LSU to comeback wins over Florida, Ole Miss, and Wisconsin that same season. He is a talented player, and brings a dynamic that will certainly test a young Boise State defense.
On defense UL has a couple of very talented, and big, corners. Savion Brown (6-2, 210 lbs) is an All-Sun Belt preseason pick, and plays fast and aggressive. Last season he had three interceptions, and 43 tackles. He will be joined by Simeon Thomas (6-3, 194 lbs) who sat out last season because of academic issues. The Cajuns also return Travis Crawford at safety.
The defensive line should be a strength for UL with Karmichael Dunbar and Taboris Lee inside, and Mario Osborne at end. Dunbar and Lee have a lot of game experience, and Lee led the line last season with 40 tackles.
Another area of strength of this defense will be the linebacker corps. This experience should help the Cajuns as they attempt to stop the ground game of the Broncos.
It is no secret that the Broncos will be traveling into a part of the country known for hot temperatures mixed with high humidity. Some might think this will have a big impact on Boise State as they travel from a dry climate. As it stands right now less than a week out, the forecast calls for partly cloudy, and temperatures in the high 80's to low 90's.
The truth is that humidity and heat are a challenge. However, as soon as the ball is kicked off, most of that stuff goes out the window. Coach Harsin has also been watering down the indoor practice facility, and letting it heat up in that building to simulate this kind of environment.
Will it help? Well, it can't hurt, but in the end it will be about execution. The team that can do that best, rain, snow, or shine, or humidity, will usually win the game.
Both teams come into the week one game with question marks. For Boise State it's all about defense. After losing six starters, and several key players with game experience, expect the tests to come early. One of the biggest unknowns is the defensive line. Defensive Line Preview
Corners are also thin, but there is some depth and experience at safety. However, linebackers are stacked. Led by Ben Weaver, Joe Martarano, and Tanner Vallejo, Boise State will rely a lot on this group for success. Linebacker Preview
Expect the Ragin' Cajuns to key in on the inside of the Broncos defensive line early in this game. With McGuire running the ball, and a good starting offensive line to run behind, this will be a challenge for Boise State. The first couple of series will set the tone of this game.
It must also be noted that Jennings is a mobile quarterback, so while McGuire will be working inside, Jennings could give the Broncos some trouble on the outside. However, Jennings hasn't been an extremely accurate passer. While at LSU his career completion percentage was under 50 percent, and his quarterback rating in 2014 was just 118.3. If the Broncos can get a rush on him, and contain him on the outside, they will limit most of what he can do.
If there is success on the ground for UL they may continue to push it until they are stopped or slowed down. With a new quarterback, and a little thin at wide receiver, they may also utilize shorter pass routes and screens to build confidence, chip away at yardage, and control the clock.
While time of possession isn't always a huge factor, keeping the ball away from the Boise State offense will be key for the Cajuns. If they can achieve long, sustained drives that end with points of any kind, they will keep the biggest strength of the Broncos on the sideline.
At home, and after an emotional few weeks, the Cajuns may also have some added energy in the first half. It will be important for this young BSU defense to step up and make a statement early. If they are successful forcing punts, and limiting the Cajuns offense, the Broncos offensive weapons will have the opportunity to take the crowd out of it.
The Cajuns have a good defense in 2016, but Boise State should have a huge advantage with what it has on the offensive side of the ball. If Jeremy McNichols gets going early, and Brett Rypien can spread the ball around, UL could be playing from behind most of the game. Running Backs Preview
For the Ragin' Cajuns it will be all about running the ball, and keeping the Boise State offense off the field. For Boise State it will be about fast, efficient scoring strikes, and a young defense stepping up to control the line of scrimmage.
The key battles of the game will be the UL ground game against that young Broncos D-line. That attack not only includes a solid running back in McGuire, but a mobile quarterback in Jennings that could keep drives going with his feet. He will also test the Boise State secondary, but look for shorter pass routes at first. The Cajuns will go deep down the field at some point, and if they have success, it could make this game a high scoring shootout. However, this is unlikely.
For Boise State it will be about balance. With McNichols leading the way on the ground, and Rypien throwing the ball to several very talented targets, the only question will be rhythm and play calling. The Broncos seemed to solve that issue in the Poinsettia Bowl last year, and if that performance was a glimpse of what is to come the Cajuns defense might be in trouble. If however, the offense sputters, the Broncos will be in for a long day.
The Boise State offense is just too good to think that they won't put up some impressive numbers. The line is solid, (Offensive Line Preview) the ground game is brutal, and Brett Rypien has only gotten better since last season (seriously). He also has talented targets at wide receiver like Thomas Sperbeck, Chaz Anderson, A.J. Richardson, Akilian Butler, Sean Modster, and talented JUCO transfer Cedrick Wilson just to name a few.
The defense has many questions, but defensive line coach Steve Caldwell should have his young group ready to play. All you have to do is look at his track record, and the size and talent of this new group to know they should be able to stand strong.
The secondary for Boise State will be thin, especially for this game, and it is a concern going into this contest. However, a run-first offense like UL does help the match-up a bit. But, most Boise State fans remember how frustrating it was last season to watch games against teams with run based offenses that somehow found a way to exploit the secondary of Boise State.
There may be in fact a few big plays made by the Cajuns, and they will most likely put a fair amount of points on the board. But, if this gets into any kind of a shootout, the big advantage goes to Boise State.
Both ground games should have some success, but with the passing game of the Broncos spreading out the defense of the Cajuns, expect McNichols to chew up some serious carpet, and Rypien to multiply yards.
The offensive edge goes in favor of the Broncos by a wide margin. The Cajuns have the more mature, and more experienced defense, but they will have a very difficult time shutting down all the weapons the Broncos have in their arsenal.
The Broncos defense will have its struggles, but the match-up does help what Boise State brings to the table. Special teams could also be a factor, and this is an area where the Broncos pride themselves in doing well. They even have a hammer to prove it.
It will most likely stay close early, but the depth and talent of Boise State should take this game over as the second half approaches. Look for Boise State to pull away down the stretch.
Prediction: Boise State 45, Louisiana 21