The Broncos are favored against Utah State by as many as 20.5 points. That might be too large of a spread considering this opponent, but oddsmakers no doubt have taken into account some of the costly injuries the Aggies suffered in that loss to Air Force. Let's take a closer look at this match-up.
As Boise State fans know in 2015 Utah State decimated the Broncos 52-26 in what has to be one of the most mind boggling defeats in recent history for BSU. It was a game in which fans witnessed eight Boise State turnovers, which included five fumbles, and three interceptions. The Aggies were up at halftime by a score of 45-10.
Most watching the game, including Utah State fans, couldn't believe what was transpiring on the field. The Broncos came into that contest ranked No.21 in the nation, and with a record of 5-1. In 2015 Boise State had opened the season with a big win over Washington, a painful loss late to BYU, and then rolled to victories over Idaho State, Virginia, Hawaii, and Colorado State before taking on the Aggies.
Everything looked like business as usual on that cool October Friday night in Maverick Stadium. Boise State was favored and in a position to contend for a second-straight MWC title, and a NY6 bowl game if they could win out. All appeared to be right in Bronco land. Then the wheels came off.
The 2016 version of the Broncos has a different feel to it than last year's team. There seems to be a bit more toughness, better focus, and players seem to be hungrier. Bryan Harsin didn't want to play up the “revenge” factor this week when talking to the media, but you have to believe fans, coaches, and players are looking for, at the very least, some kind of redemption in this game.
The Opponent Utah State has a great quarterback in junior Kent Myers. He is coming off one of his best performance of the season completing 29-of-47 passes for 360 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the loss to the Falcons. Not a bad performance considering Air Force hurried him all game long, and sacked him a total of six times.
Myers is a mobile threat, but Air Force did a good job containing him outside of the pocket. He finished the game with negative four yards on the ground because of those sacks, but had moments where he impressed including a 24-yard run, and a rushing touchdown.
Myers has a few talented targets to throw to as well, and Boise State's secondary will be tested. Rayshad Lewis is a talented freshman that has impressed so far this season grabbing 12 catches for 185 yards, and had his first career touchdown against Air Force. Senior Andrew Rodriguez caught seven passes against the Falcons for 64 yards, but Myers favorite target last week was sophomore Ron'quavion Tarver who had nine receptions for 143 yards.
Meanwhile senior running back Devante Mays, who rushed for 966 yards last season, and had 208 yards and three touchdowns in the season opener against Weber State, left the game with an injury after a single carry. In his absence backup Tonny Lindsey carried 17 times for just 18 yards. He also caught four passes for 40 yards. Sophomore running back Justen Hervey received one carry for 26 yards, but both of these players will have to do much better if Mays can't play Saturday.
Other costly injuries for the Aggies last week included starting safety Dallin Leavitt, and tight end Wyatt Houston. However, when Aggies head coach Matt Wells spoke to the media this week he stated that Houston is okay, but confirmed the status of Mays and Leavitt is not yet known. If Leavitt is out, it will have an impact on that Utah State defense.
The Aggies have a solid group of linebackers, and a stout defensive line. Against Air Force linebacker Anthony Williams had 11 tackles, two quarterback hurries, and a sack. His teammate and fellow linebacker junior Alex Huerta had a career-high 13 tackles. On the line senior nose guard Travis Seefeldt had seven tackles, and senior defensive end Ricky Ali'ifua had a sack.
Overall Utah State has one of the better defenses in the MWC, and it will be a challenge for the Broncos. The Aggies were able to contain an Air Force offense that was averaging 433 rushing yards per game to just 213 yards on the ground. The Falcons were also fifth in the FBS for total offense at 566.5 yards-per-game, but the Aggies held them to 326 total yards on the night.
The Broncos run a very balanced offense. They will certainly need that against an Aggies team that will be ready to play despite the odds-makers predictions. Running back Jeremy McNichols will need to have another stellar night to make sure this game goes the way the home team wants it to.
So far this season Boise State’s veteran offensive line has done a good job opening running lanes and protecting the quarterback. They will need to continue that trend Saturday. However, they will be facing a Utah State defensive line that has its own share of veteran players. This will be a key battle to watch all game long.
Last week against Oregon State sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien was hurried several times, and was sacked twice. The Aggies can be creative and aggressive with the pass rush so it will be key to give Rypien the time he needs.
It will be equally important for the young QB to get rid of the ball a bit quicker. Short passes to running backs and tight ends are something that could make the sometimes over aggressive Aggies pay for their pursuit. So far this season Rypien has completed just 10 passes to tight ends for 89 total yards. If Boise State is able to utilize the tight ends more in this game, it could frustrate the Aggies defense.
On offense Utah State is going to have to find a way to move the ball on the ground. As mentioned, Myers can be mobile, and he will need that skill Saturday. The Aggies will also need their backups at running back to gain key yardage, especially on first and second down so as not to put Myers and the rest of the offense into long third down situations. Three-and-outs will be costly for Utah State against the Broncos, and if they find themselves not able to move the ball early, this game could get ugly late.
Boise State is dealing with some injuries of their own, most notably starting linebacker Tanner Vallejo. He left the game last week, and returned in street clothes to the sidelines before disappearing again into the locker room. There is no official word if he will be playing or not. If Vallejo is out the Broncos have solid backups, but Vallejo will be missed.
Boise State is not the team it was in 2015. The Broncos are rolling, and even with less-than-perfect games, and young mistakes, this team is getting better and better. The defense is playing at a very high level, and the offense has shown flashes of greatness. The team just needs to put together a full game, and not let opponents back into games late. It should happen Saturday.
Utah State is coming off a painful loss, and has some key injuries right now. They will certainly give a good fight, and they always play hard against the Broncos. Their quarterback is outstanding, and he will have to carry a heavy load on Saturday night in Albertsons Stadium. It may be too much to ask in the face of a very good young defense that has proven itself so far this season, and Myers may be frustrated enough to make costly mistakes.
The linebackers for Boise State should be able to do a good job containing Myers, and the defensive line has done an excellent job getting to the quarterback this season—even at times with just a four man rush. The secondary has been every bit as impressive, and they match up well against the Aggies wide receiver corps.
Prediction: Boise State 38, Utah State 20null