RIVALRY WEEK: Idaho @ BSU

The countdown has begun for the biggest rivalry battle in the state of Idaho, the annual clash between the University of Idaho (7-3, 4-2 WAC) from the north, and Boise State University (9-0, 4-0 WAC) from the south. Senior tailback DEMAUNDRAY WOOLRIDGE and the Vandals head to Boise this weekend for the nationally televised showdown on ESPN-U, with bowl implications at stake for both programs.

The Tribe from the North will head south to take on the 6th ranked Broncos in a rivalry game that is relatively young (dating back only to 1971), but has all the venom of the fiercest rivalries throughout the college football landscape. Per usual, the series is "in-streak", and it's not Idaho boasting the state's bragging rights. In this latest streak, it's been all Boise State for ten painful years.

Ten years of one fan base yammering on and on.

Just like the Vandals did the previous twelve years.

Although Boise State holds a modest 20-17-1 advantage in the all-time series, the Broncos have not only dominated the rivalry game the last ten years, they've dominated the Western Athletic Conference too. And it's become glaringly obvious to Vandal fans that it will take the Vandals to dethrone BJC and right the universe.

This rivalry is part of the state's heritage. Some say the shift of the state capital's location from the northern town of Lewiston to the southern town of Boise was the spark that lit the sentiment between north and south; the shift that divided the state.

It's this deep seeded Idaho issue that fuels this rivalry.

To fully understand it or care, you would have to be a long standing Idahoan. But let it be known that this rivalry game is bigger than the teams that play in it. To put it nicely; the regions and their respective educational institutions have always been a hot political topic throughout the state…for decades! So it pits the classic scenario of North versus South, and like all rival schools the battle takes place on the gridiron. Make no "bones" about it; this rivalry is one of the best on the West Coast because of its regional position in the state, and the passion the two sides have about their school. Vandals just happen to think they have more to be passionate about. It's what happens when you school in a classic college town tucked away in the rolling hills of the Palouse. It's what college is meant to be. The only rivalry between the schools is athletically.

Beyond the blue, there is no comparison.

On the field, the Broncos are undefeated, the Smurf Turf is still blue, and a dangerous Vandal football team is headed to Boise to spoil the party. Coach Akey's turnaround in 2009 is for real, and the finishing touch could be orchestrating the biggest win the rivalry has ever known. He will have his Vandals ready to play on Saturday, and if he comes away with a win, he could send the city of Boise into a State of National Emergency.

It's never been truer – the Vandals have nothing to lose. The Broncos have everything to lose. It has never been so ripe for the picking. And the Vandals just happen to be dangerous this year. This game will have one of two simple outcomes.

1) Broncos win like they are supposed to and carry on with their BCS "Respect" marketing campaign as they face their final three conference games. The Bronco fans breathe a collective sigh of relief, while the Vandal fan base continue its own campaign for a Bowl game and turns it's sights to their final game against Utah State.

2) Vandals win, solidify a Bowl invite and the entire college football world sees it. Vandal fans discuss the 2009 season's proper place in the program's history, while Bronco fans' worst nightmare has become reality and they prepare for a long cold winter filled with Vandal basketball victories and chants of "overrated!" echoing through their basements in a ghost-like manner.
And so the stage is set…


Quaterback – Who's throwing the ball?

Brian Reader's debut at quarterback was a work in progress, and the progress made by game's end, was excellent. It took a while for the passing game to get warmed up, but when it did, it showed Reader can move the chains. With Starter Nathan Enderle still dealing with a rotator cuff injury, the Vandals will, once again, have Reader at the reigns, and if he picks up where he left off, the offense should be fine. Reader is more than capable of having a big day, especially after having a game under his belt. Last week against Fresno he went Once again, Reader will be facing a big physical defensive line. Boise State arguably has the best defensive line in the WAC, so the battle in the trenches will once again be epic.
(Reader – 40 for 383 yards and 3 td's, 0 int's)

Kellen Moore is one cool customer. The Bronco Quaterback shows great poise in the pocket and can effortlessly and accurately throw the ball all around the field. That's not to say he's not accurate when he rolls out. He's a student of the game, which allows him to make his progressions and quickly rid himself of the ball. If given time, Moore can pick apart any defense, so the Vandals will need to get pressure on him all day. Something the Vandals have been struggling to do all season.
(Moore – 268 for 2259 yards and 27 td's, 3 int's)

ADVANTAGE: BSU – Moore gets the nod here. With Enderle out, and Reader in only his second start, the Broncos' Kellen Moore is far more experienced. He's a heady play-maker with precision passing and old school toughness. He's rarely flustered, even when he and his center have their signature muffed snap...or two.


Running Game – Who's Running the ball?

The Vandal's three headed monster continues to mystify opposing defenses. Deonte Jackson, Princeton McCarty and DeMaundray Woolridge provide a variety of looks at running back, and all have been effective. It's Jackson sneaking past defenders picking up a key first down, or McCarty juking defenders with his quick moves and his speed, or Woolridge handing out punishment to anyone in his way. He's a hard-to-bring-down, big, bruising back. While the Broncos Defense is stout, the Vandals massive offensive line has spent the entire season opening holes, and that trend should continue Saturday.
(McCarty – 91 for 528 yards and 2 td's)

Jeremy Avery has been the Broncos feature back ever since DJ Harper's season ended with an injury. Doug Martin has seen significant snaps, but as of late it's been all Avery. He is not the biggest back on the planet, but he can gain the tough yards on one play, and take it to the house on the next. But with the running game sputtering the last few games, expect to see Martin or Matt Kaiserman carry the rock a few more times to spell Avery.
(Avery – 137 for 782 yards and 2 td's)

ADVANTAGE: Idaho – The three headed monster gets the nod. There is speed, power and elusiveness in this backfield and it's used in appropriate situations. The different formations and different running styles keep defenses off guard. And let's face it, Woolridge is a punishing runner who loves to sell out for extra yardage. He dishes out more than he gets and that's why Idaho gets the nod. Plus, Idaho's offensive line has proven it can take over a game, especially running the ball.


Passing Game – Who's Catching the ball?

Vandal receiver Max Komar is one of the most explosive players in the WAC. His route running and ability to find open space has made him Idaho's most explosive offensive weapon. Second in line is Maurice Shaw. Shaw is a legitimate downfield threat. He got off to a slow season start due to a concussion, but has made up for lost time with spectacular downfield grabs. Eric Greenwood's coming off another week of endzone theatrics, as his two point conversion vs FSU was pure highlight. Daniel Hardy and Preston Davis continue to be the glue in the passing game. If the chains need to be moved, they seem to get the job done in every game.
(Komar – 54 for 874 yards and 10 td's)

Austin Pettis is Moore's number one target. A big physical receiver, Pettis has caught a touchdown in every game for the Broncos. Speedster Titus Young can stretch the field, and is used often to do just that. The Broncos also have a few sure handed, big receivers in Kyle Efaw, Tyler Shoemaker and Kirby Moore. All have contributed to the passing game. Tightend Tommy Gallarda and fullback Richie Brockel are short yardage and endzone targets.
(Pettis – 50 for 658 yards and 10 td's)

ADVANTAGE: BSU – Again, with Enderle out and Kellen Moore's accuracy, the Broncos have the edge in this one. Both teams have a number of guys that can catch the ball, but Boise State's tandem of Pettis and Young provide matchup problems for any defense in division one football.


The Trenches

The trench battle should be epic on both sides of the ball. The strengths of the two clubs happen to face each other. The Vandal offensive line versus the Broncos defensive line should be the battle on everyone's mind come Saturday afternoon. The massive size and strength of the Vandal O-Line, led by senior guard Mike Iupati (6-6, 330) will have its hands full with the Broncos D-Line, led by sophomore phenom Billy Winn (6-4, 288). The experience goes to the Vandals, but the Bronco defensive line has been better than good all year long. If the Vandals can hold the Broncos off, they will find success on offense. Easier said than done.

On the flip side, the younger and less experienced also face each other when the Vandals D-Line and the Broncos O-Line take the field. This battle will see more mistakes, which bodes well for the Vandals. Led by junior defensive tackle Fonomanu Sekona (6-2, 280) and junior defensive end Aaron Lavarias (6-3, 248), the Vandals could finally see some success against a Bronco offensive line that has played musical chairs throughout the season. The Broncos seem to still be holding competitions on the O-Line, which goes to show the depth they are dealing with. Still, none of this matters because Kellen Moore does not hold onto the ball. Once again, sacking him is easier said than done.


Overall Defense

A tale of two teams, the Bronco defense is the WAC's best, while the Vandals have struggled mightily to stop anyone from scoring, especially in the first quarter. While both teams have a serious youth movement in place, the Broncos have been far more impressive with their season's performance. Look for Bronco senior cornerback Kyle Wilson to lead his troops to another stellar performance, while Vandal safety Shiloh Keo will help his young bunch try to stop the Bronco offense.

The clear advantage would have to go with the Broncos D, as there is depth at every position, and they rotate throughout the game. They have played well in every game, while the Vandals D hasn't been able to stop anyone. However, the Vandal D has a knack for making key stops at important moments within a game, and that's why they enter this game with a 7-3 record.


SUMMARY

Its rivalry week for Idahoans and the Vandals are coming to Boise with one thing on their mind: Upset!

It's almost too perfect a setting for Idaho. If it were to happen, it would infuse this rivalry with a much needed dose of excitement, and shake the foundation of the entire Bronco Nation, sending it into a tailspin of epic proportions.

Wouldn't it be nice?

It's time for Vandal fans to show up in force! Head to the Smurf Turf with your silver and gold on and get ready to cheer for your "never-say-die" Vandals. If there is anything Vandal fans have learned this season, it's that this Vandal team can score on anyone, and it never gives up. The Vandals have nothing to lose. The Broncos have everything to lose.

And it's not out of the realm of possibility that with a few seconds left on the clock, the Vandal fight song will once again dominate Bronco Stadium.


Go Vandals!




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