BF.C BOWL GAME IN-DEPTH: Boise State offense

CORVALLIS - What should OSU fans be expecting from the Boise State offense on Christmas Eve? Will they pound the turf, or air it out? How will the Broncos fair against the Beaver if they start their backup QB? And oh by the way, OSU has struggled mightily against the run in '13, and one BSU player and his set of figures stand out like a sore thumb…

Boise State has put up a total of 2,422 yards rushing in 2013. Whoa boy.

My completely unsurprising prediction?

Look for BSU's interim head coach Bob Gregory to try and run it down the throats of the OSU defense all night long. Or at least until the Beavs prove they can stop the ground game – something not necessarily the forte of the orange and black during the regular season.

The Bronco running game likely to lead the charge
Boise State ran the rock 55 percent of their snaps in 2013, with redshirt sophomore Jay Ajayi accounting for 43 percent of those runs. Ajayi is the 17th most productive running back in the nation, running to the tune of 1,328 yards with 17 touchdowns. Ajayi also notched 16 receptions for 189 yards and touchdown.

Those figures are not altogether spooky as Oregon State showed – at least against Oregon – they are capable of slowing capable running backs. However, a statistic that may be a little disconcerting moving forward: Ajayi, surprisingly agile for a 6-0, 220 pounder, only lost 29 yards in the backfield on 226 attempts.

Yikes.

To better put that in perspective, OSU's two primary rushers, sophomore Storm Woods and junior Terron Ward, combined for just 215 rushes and lost a total of 61 hashes on those carries.

Couple Ajayi's impressive numbers with the fact that the Beaver stop corps is ranked 86th in the nation against the run, allowing an average of 193.2 ypg, and on paper you have to say the odds favor a healthy Ajayi putting up some good-sized numbers come Dec. 24 (ESPN, 5 p.m.)

Ajayi will have a hefty pile of help up front, as Boise State will greet ‘Aloha' to the Beavs with an offensive line boasting three seniors in LT Charles Leno, Jr., LG Spencer Gerke and center Matt Paradis, along with youngsters Marcus Henry (questionable for bowl game with an undisclosed injury) at right guard and Travis Averill at right tackle.

It's hard to read the tea leaves with what's coming out of Boise at the moment but my guess is the Broncos will likely enter the showdown in Hawaii with junior Grant Hedrick as their quarterback in lieu of senior Joe Southwick, who was the nation's third most leader in competition percentage prior to breaking his ankle in Week 7. And guess what…

Hedrick is a runner, too. Through six games of relief for the injured Southwick, Hedrick galloped past opposing defenses for 328 yards, losing 71 yards to sacks and TFL's, putting his total rushing at 257 yards with a long of 50 yards and six touchdowns.

I wouldn't be surprised if, between Ajayi and Hedrick, BSU runs the ball on more than 55 percent of their snaps during the Hawaii Bowl. And based on what we've seen this season, that could spell trouble for OSU.

Broncos' passing/receiving – the lesser of two evils
Hedrick's passing statistics during the past six contests have been fairly good in running the Broncos' hurry-up offense. Hedrick has accounted for 1,443 yards and 15 TD's to just five INT's as a starter in 2013. But those stats can be a tad misleading, as Hedrick is averaging merely 120.2 yards-per-game through the air currently. That points to a short, controlled passing game and BSU being far more confident in their ability to move the ball on the ground.

But redshirt junior Matt Miller, the Bronco's premier wideout who was the favorite target of Southwick, is still one to watch. Miller is 6-3, 222-pounds and while he is not a speed demon, he is sneaky fast and a terrific route runner who uses his body to get in front of the football and not only make a big target for the QB, but prevent opposing corners from getting in front of the pass for a tip or an INT.

Miller averages just 71 receiving yards a game, but has a healthy collection of touchdowns (11), and peaks at 12.1 yards per reception. Miller will likely be Hedrick's go-to in the redzone, where his big frame and soft hands will challenge senior Rashaad Reynolds and junior Steven Nelson at the corners.

In the mix with Miller are senior Geraldo Boldewijn and sophomore Shane Williams-Rhodes, who have thus far combined for 1,212 yards and eight touchdowns. Boldewijn (6-4, 220) is another big body, much like Miller, and he too will try to use his size against Nelson and Reynolds, who both stand at 5-11.

Williams-Rhodes, questionable for the bowl game with a leg injury, could be different animal. He measures in at just 5-6, 157-pounds but he's got lots of pure speed and acceleration. He has six TDs while Boldewijn has two, and owns the longest reception of the year so far for BSU, a 68-yard scamper for six against Colorado State. If he is cleared to play, will he get enough breathing room to run past OSU defenders in Hawaii?

NOTABLE NOTES
  • Can Boise State decisively win a game in neutral territory? All four of the Broncos losses occurred on the road in 2013. Granted, the crowd at Aloha stadium will likely not favor either squad, but when it comes down to brass tacks, OSU managed to win four away games in enemy territory (WSU, Cal, Utah, SDSU) compared to BSU's two (Colorado State, Utah State).

  • BSU does not seem to use their TE corps for much else other than blocking for the run game. The group, consisting of junior Connor Peters, sophomore Holden Huff, sophomore Jake Hardee and senior Gabe Linehan, has been responsible for just 19 receptions and a total of 202 yards with no TDs. It is also worth noting that only Peters and Hardee played in more than nine games in 2013.

  • Chris Petersen is gone, with Bryan Harsin on the way in 2014. But for the time being, Boise State has Gregory at the helm. Will there be some hiccups after all the distraction? Or will BSU explode onto the turf in Hawaii with the same aggression that made Petersen's teams so effective? Better yet, will the hurry-up approach look and feel the same with Gregory calling the shots? All intriguing questions to ponder and ones that won't be answered until game day.


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