James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Boise State Welcomes Washington State To The Blue This Weekend

In week one Boise State went on the road and thumped the University of Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns 45-10. The Broncos high-powered offense had a field day with the Cajuns defense rolling up 584 yards of total offense. The Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien completed 22 of his 33 pass attempts finishing the game with 347 yards passing, and two touchdowns.

True freshman Alexander Mattison led the team with 61 yards rushing on 11 carries, and scored his first touchdown as a Bronco. Jeremy McNichols had 48 yards rushing, 98 yards receiving, and three touchdowns. Another new face, JUCO transfer Cedrick Wilson, caught seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown in his debut. Meanwhile senior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck led the team with 130 receiving yards on six catches, and a touchdown.

The young Boise State defense impressed, holding the Ragin' Cajuns to just 267 total yards, and sacked quarterback Anthony Jennings five times. They also held the Cajuns premier running back Elijah McGuire to just 46 yards on the ground. While Boise State coaches have to be happy with the results, there were also plenty of things to work on going into game two against the Washington State Cougars.

The Opponent

Washington State and Boise State have met four times previously. Each game was won by the Cougars, but the two haven't played since 2001. WSU won those four games by a combined score of 174-76. The closest game was the 1998 contest in Bronco Stadium which ended 33-21. However, the Broncos are 12-5 against Power Five teams in the last decade.

The Cougars were upset in week one of the 2016 season by the Eastern Washington Eagles of the FCS. However, anyone who knows the history of the Eagles, and of the Cougars for that matter, knows that you can't read too much into the upset.

Eastern Washington has been upsetting FBS teams, or playing them very close early in the season for the last six years. In 2011 they gave Washington a scare in Seattle losing 30-27. In 2012 they lost 24-20 to these same Cougars in game two. In 2013 they upset No. 25 Oregon State in Corvallis 49-46, and in 2014 scared Washington again losing 59-52 the third week of the season. Last year the Eagles played No.7 Oregon tough, losing 61-42 in Eugene, and then upset the Cougars 45-42 last Saturday.

Meanwhile under Mike Leach Washington State has lost every opening game with him as head coach. This includes last seasons loss to another FCS team Portland State. Yet Leach had his team rebounding strong last year finishing with a 9-4 overall record. Which, included a win the Hyundai Sun Bowl against Miami 20-14.

No one should think this game is going to be anything but a battle when the Cougars visit Albertsons Stadium. This will be a team highly motivated to avenge their week one embarrassment.

Washington State starts Luke Falk at quarterback. He threw for 418 yards last week completing 41 of his 51 pass attempts. He also had four touchdowns, and just one interception. Falk led the nation last season with 380 yards passing per game, and at 69.4 percent he was second in completion percentage. He also led the nation in pass attempts. He has been called the “Messiah of the Palouse” by one of his wide receiver teammates.

The Cougars also have an impressive duo at running back. Juniors Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow combined last week for 97 yards on the ground, 66 yards receiving, and three touchdowns. The wide receiving corps is also deep and talented, with several dangerous targets.

Leading the way is senior Gabe Marks. He had 10 catches against the Eagles for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Tavares Martin, junior Robert Lewis, sophomore Kyle Sweet, senior River Cracraft, and a few others make up a very deep and talented group.

Keeping on the offensive side of the ball the Cougars have a veteran line, and decent depth at that position. However, they did struggle a bit against EWU. They gave up three sacks, and were more than challenged even when facing a three-man rush.

On defense the Cougars are much better than the 45 points they gave up to the Eagles. In what has to be one of the greatest football names of all time the Cougars start a future NFL player at defensive end . Hercules Mata'afa is 6-2, 245 lbs, and is a player that gets after it. Overall he is part of a decent defensive line that should be much better than the Ragin' Cajuns.

At linebacker the Cougars have Peyton Pelluer and Isaac Dotson, and in the secondary the Cougars were without senior safety Shalom Luani in game one because of a disciplinary issue. However, he will be back in the lineup against the Broncos. He is a difference maker, and Washington State really missed him at home against Eastern Washington.

The Match-up

These teams are similar in many ways. They both have accurate quarterbacks, deep receiving corps, veteran offensive lines, and depth at the running back position. The Defenses are also similar in that there are many young players, especially in the secondary. While Boise State had four new faces in the secondary on Saturday, the Cougars had three.

Both teams were also missing players because of disciplinary issues. The Broncos safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner is out four games due to academics, and senior safety Chanceller James sat out game one because of a violation of team rules. As mentioned previously Washington State's senior safety Shalom Luani missed game one, but will play against the Broncos. Sumner-Gardner is still out for three more games, but Boise State should have James back for game two against the Cougars.

Boise State didn't get much of a challenge last week, and the Cougars got more of a challenge than they may have expected. In both cases it makes this week still a bit of mystery. Can the Broncos repeat their performance against a much better WSU offense? Will the Cougars defense be motivated to step up against another powerful passing game after such a painful loss? There really is no way to know.

However, what we do know is that this game is at Albertsons Stadium. That should help the Broncos.

Boise State co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Zak Hill spent the last seven seasons at Eastern Washington, and his understanding of what transpired last week when the Eagles took down the Cougars could probably help with some of the game planning. It probably isn't a big advantage, but with two teams this evenly matched, it could be the smallest things that matter.

Oddsmakers seem to be leaning heavily in favor of the Broncos right now. Some have Boise State as much as a 12-point favorite. This may be too high considering much of the formula is based on one game, and usually teams make some of their best improvements between game one and game two of any season.

It is no secret that both teams will try to spread the ball around to its many talented receivers. Both teams will also be looking to establish a solid run game. However, Boise State may have the edge on the ground, and they may utilize it a bit more to keep this game from being a total high-scoring shootout.

Offensive lines will be key in this game. While WSU let their quarterback be sacked three times last week, Boise allowed just one. The Broncos also looked better at the line of scrimmage communicating, and better protection overall.

The biggest key of this game will be how defenses perform. Again, there is just no way to know how each will step up. However Boise State looked much better last week than expected. The secondary is going to get a tremendous amount of work on Saturday, and Washington State will get their yards through the air. It will be up to the Broncos young secondary to limit the scoring, and make big plays on third down.

The defensive line for Boise State will have to get pressure on Falk, and they will need to help create long third downs that aren't easy to convert. Expect Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos to utilize the strength of his defense, which is the linebackers. They will need to keep the pressure on the Cougars passing game, and to try to keep them from developing a effective rhythm.

Unlike the game last week, Boise State will need to create turnovers. This will limit the time on the field for that powerful WSU offense. Conversely the Broncos must not turn the ball over, and must take advantage of every scoring opportunity.

Special teams is another area where both teams compare. Last week both teams went 1-for-2 when it comes to field goals, and had similar performances in coverage and the return game. While this game may not come down to a field goal, special teams could be a real factor in two teams so evenly matched.

Prediction

While the Broncos are favored by a dozen, it may not be that kind of a contest. Boise State will score points, and no doubt the Cougars will get their fair share. But, this is going to come down to which defense performs better, and will probably be closer than some think.

The Broncos looked better on the defensive side of the ball in week one, and looked to swarm to the ball much better than the Cougars. They also did some things on the d-line pre-snap that confused the offensive line, and that may be be a challenge for Washington State. The Broncos may also have the advantage when it comes to putting pressure on the quarterback.

The home field advantage has a lot to do with this game. Boise State ended last year's home schedule with back-to-back losses. That's the first time that has happened since 1997. You know those players still on the roster this season want to make up for that debacle. You have to believe the team will be playing with a lot of pride to make sure it doesn't become three in a row—especially the home opener.

It should be a crazy game on The Blue. There may be some back-and-forth, but the defense of Boise State should be able to keep Falk from the kind of numbers he had in week one. Look for a tough contest, but the Broncos to pull out the victory by a touchdown.

Prediction: Boise State 42, Washington State 35


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