The Broncos are coming off of an ugly win over Colorado State (3-4). It was a game that saw offensive struggles in the first half, and a special teams and defensive collapse with six minutes left in the game that let a 28-3 lead dwindle to a 28-23 final score. If Boise State wants to beat a good BYU team on The Blue they will have to do much better.
Brigham Young is 2-4 all-time against the Broncos. The two wins in the series came in 2013 and last season. However, the Cougars have never won in Boise. The last time these two teams played on the famous blue turf the Broncos hammered the Cougars 55-30. Idaho native (Pocatello) Taysom Hill will lead BYU into Albertsons Stadium. The senior quarterback is 136-of-226 on the season with 1420 yards, and completing 60.2 percent of his passes. He has been sacked 14 times, thrown nine touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Hill is able to run the ball when pressured, and Boise State will have their hands full containing him.
Hill has some talented targets to throw to. The Cougars leading receiver Nick Kurtz stands 6-6, and has 294 yards on the season. He is a match-up nightmare for most defenses, and it will be intriguing to see how the Broncos cover him this game. Colby Pearson is a 6-0 senior wide receiver, that is also an Idaho native (Blackfoot). He has become a popular target, and is second on the team with 221 yards, and two touchdowns this year.
BYU features one of the best running backs in the nation in senior Jamaal Williams. He currently has 942 yards on 165 rushes, and 10 touchdowns. He is hard to take down, has speed, quickness, and runs with authority. At 6-2, 220lbs he is a key weapon for this Cougars offense.
On defense BYU has had some struggles in the secondary this season. They are currently ranked No.100 in passing yards allowed, and have given up 10 touchdowns and just over 270 yards per contest. The BYU linebackers have been without Butch Pauu. who was leading tackler until being injured against West Virginia earlier this season. He was back Friday against Mississippi State, but seemed to re-injure himself. Right now it will be a game-time decision if he plays or not. The Cougars defense could use him in the efforts to slow down Boise State's ground game. Either way, they will be challenged immensely in this area.
When the Boise State offense is rolling there is not much defenses can do to contain them. With Thomas Sperbeck, Cedrick Wilson, Chaz Anderson, and Jeremy McNichols all able to catch the ball anywhere on the field, and with McNichols tearing up the turf in the ground game, they are nearly unstoppable. However, inconsistency has hindered this offense all season long. If this trend continues Thursday night it might give the Cougars a chance to pull of the upset.
Stopping the ground game will be crucial for the Broncos, and the linebackers and defensive line are going to need to have one of their best collective efforts this season to help their team get the win. It will be no easy task trying to contain Hill, and slow down Williams. How this key battle pans out is probably the biggest indicator on the final outcome of this game.
The secondary will of course also need to find a way to contain a good receiving corps, and cover 6-6 Kurtz, especially in the end zone. A mismatch in this area could produce points for the Cougars. So far this season Boise State Defensive Coordinator Andy Avalos has been able to get his team ready to execute an effective game plan against their opponents. If he is able to do the same thing despite a short week, then limiting what BYU does offensively shouldn't be an issue. However, it's a lot to ask with just four days of preparation.
It would be easy to make two predictions about this game, but that's the easy way out. The bottom line is that if Boise State shows up, and plays a complete game against BYU, and even if the Cougars play well, Boise State should win. The two teams have similarities, but the Broncos are better overall, and they are playing at home. Jeremy McNichols has carried BSU on his back on more than one occasion this season, and against an average BYU defense he should be able to have another good game.
Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien has proven that he can take advantage of an average secondary, and with the Cougars struggles in this area, he should have a solid performance. Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson looked good in practice this week, and despite being held out of most of the Colorado State game due to a high-ankle sprain, he should be back in full force. Thomas Sperbeck should break the all-time Boise State receiving record against BYU, and he hasn't had a bad game all season. Chaz Anderson has been looking better catching the ball, and his blocking has been outstanding.
One area where Boise State has struggled this season is special teams. This is especially true on onside kickoff coverage, and punt returns. The team has shown improvement on the latter, and after the near debacle Saturday night it's probably safe to say they spent some time on the former this week as well. That should help if the situation arises.
In the end it should be a powerful Broncos offense controlling the line of scrimmage behind a very good, and veteran offensive line. The Avalos coached defense will no doubt be swarming to the ball, and they should be able to slow down a potent BYU ground game. It will be a battle, and a close game on The Blue, but give the edge to the Broncos. Boise State will need to put together a complete game against a quality opponent, but game seven sounds like the perfect time to do so.
Score Prediction: Boise state 28, BYU 21