Colorado State travels to Boise State for a Saturday night contest to try to get over the .500 mark. The Broncos have had CSU's number since joining the Mountain West, but the Rams will try to get over the hump with Nick Stevens back at quarterback. For more insight into the 5-0 Broncos, Nate Peters of BroncoCountry.com, the Boise State Scout affiliate, provides his take on the undefeated Broncos.
Inside The Rams: 1. Boise State once again is off to a fantastic start, entering this week at 5-0 and ranked 15th in both the AP and Coaches polls. What were the expectations of this team entering the season and what are they now for the remainder of the season?
Nate Peters: The expectations were, and I think to some extent always will be, a perfect season and major bowl birth. Is that crazy? Yep. But, for better or for worse, this is the state of mind and culture that has developed in Boise. The realist and non-homer fan may sing a different tune, something to the effect of 9-3 or 10-2, but the expectations are always high. It's great to have such confidence and lofty expectations, but when the sky falls (like some would argue it did in 2015), it gets very nasty around these parts. It's no secret that the Broncos are through the toughest stretch of their season, and with an undefeated record, and the offense finally putting together more than a solid quarter or two, the expectations are New Year's Bowl or bust. As smooth as the sailing may seem, however, the Broncos can't look past a desperate BYU team that seems to always play the Broncos tight, and the pesky Air Force triple-option that seems to be Boise's kryptonite.
2. What have opponents been able to do so far this year in slowing down Boise State's offensive attack, which is led by their three-headed attack of Brett Rypien, Jeremy McNichols and Thomas Sperbeck? What makes each of those three so special?
Peters: Very little. When you have a three-headed monster like Boise State does, targeting and containing one weapon simply isn't enough. Can they load the box and stuff McNichols? Yep, sure can. But then you have a wide-open (or not, since he seems to catch everything within 5 yards of him) Sperbeck that will torch you for 198 yards (yes, that really happened (sorry, Lobos)). The most effective strategy so far has been to pressure the quarterback, Brett Rypien. Many fans would call his first 4 games pedestrian, and at times, he seemed asleep at the wheel. When Washington State and Oregon State both surged back late, part of it was because their offenses finally started to click, but much of it was because Rypien got flustered (remember, he's only a sophomore) and either turned the ball over, or couldn't get it in the hands of Sperbeck. Want to stop the Broncos? Go after Ryp. Really I think what makes McNichols, Rypien, and Sperbeck so special (other than the obvious God-given talent for owning the pigskin) is their 100% effort on each play. McNichols runs like it's 4th and 2 at the goal line and the Broncos are down by a TD - but he does that every single play. Want to be really impressed? Don't watch Jeremy from the waist up for an entire series. Watch his legs, his hips, his feet. They are always moving. His engine is always at the 6th gear and pedal to the floor. Similar to McNichols, Sperbeck plays hard every down, but what really makes him special is his catch radius. He makes less accurate quarterbacks look like real gun slingers with his ability to catch anything thrown in his vicinity. And perhaps equally impressive is his yards-after-catch. Much like McNichols, Sperbeck's feet are always pumping and pushing for the extra yard. And finally you have Brett Rypien, the most highly ranked recruit (depending on what service you ask) to ever wear a Bronco uniform. His play as a true freshman was inspiring, and his skills have developed tremendously since then. Brett is not the most physically imposing guy on the team. Average to above-average height, and pretty skinny (think taller Kellen Moore). But where Brett Rypien beats you is in the film room before the game, and in his head during the game. He's about as studious and intelligent as you'll find, and his ability to read defenses and make smart decisions (yes, somewhat contrary to what I said above) is what separates him from many other quarterbacks, and ultimately what makes him so special to this team.
3. On the other side of the ball, the Broncos are yielding just 18.6 points per game. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the BSU defense? Who are the primary playmakers defensively for the Broncos for CSU fans to keep an eye on?
Peters: This Boise State defense is one of the best that we have seen in the last decade. Where's the weakness? Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps depth may be the answer, but many fans and blogs would contend that even that is a stretch. The defensive line will eat you for lunch, and come back for seconds, thirds, fourths, and as many courses as you have available. David Moa, the nose tackle, wants to eat you and your entire family (both extended and direct). They don't call him the "Moa Constrictor" for nothin'. When you hear "nose tackle" you probably think Terrance Cody, and some massive force plugging 3 gaps on his own. You would be wrong, if you thought that. David Moa stands in at 6'3" and 273lbs. What makes him so dangerous is his speed. Centers and tackles have no chance to single-block Moa. But if you put two or even three lineman watching out for him, you'll surely leave room for Jabril Frazier or Sam McCaskill to get through on the end and make your quarterback pay. Oh, Moa is only a sophomore (gulp). The linebackers are as deep as any unit the Broncos have, and they play nasty. Not nasty like unfair or dirty, I mean nasty like terrifying. They fly around, and they take no prisoners. Between the d-line and the linebackers, most Boise opponents haven't had much of a chance to run the ball. They get swallowed up for 2-3 yards per carry all day long. What is probably the most untested group on the defensive side is the DB's. They are young, and they are injured, but they haven't had to do much because their brothers up front won't allow it. The secret (in my opinion) to beating the Broncos would be to somehow beef up your line enough that your quarterback has enough time to go through the air against them. They've stepped up big on several occasions, but haven't been put in a corner yet - and I think that may just do the trick.
4. For Rams fans making the trip up to Boise for the game, what are some must-sees or must-dos?
Peters: There is a must-eat restaurant just down the street from Bronco Stadium (I refuse to call it Albertsons Stadium) called Big Jud's. Big Jud's is famous for their massive burgers, tots, and milkshakes. You do not walk out of that mom and pop restaurant feeling hungry. In fact, you're probably carted out by paramedics with an insulin pump because you ate too much and went into a diabetic coma. I also highly suggest seeing Table Rock (google it), and if you have time, making the hike. It's a giant overlook of the city. Do it at night. Do it early morning. But just do it. You won't regret it. Lastly, I suggest visiting The Village in Meridian. Amazing shopping and restaurants, a great movie theater, and a beautiful lighted fountain set to music. There's heaters and chairs all around to just sit and relax. You won't regret that either (and it's only about 15 minutes away from Boise).
5. Finally, what are your keys to a Boise State victory and score prediction?
Peters: I think it would be silly to say anything other than "ride the three-headed monster" here. The Rams are having a rough season (from my limited knowledge of their situation), and if Boise continues to pound the ball inside, and then gash their opponents deep, I think Boise will get very close to covering the somewhat ridiculous spread prediction of 30 points.
Final Score: Boise State 52 Colorado State 24