Boise State welcomes BYU back to Boise for the first time since 2004 in a game that may (or may not) begin a long 12-game series. We enlisted Kevan Lee of the Boise blog One Bronco Nation Under God to give us some insight on this year's Broncos, who are 1-1 with an opening-week loss to Michigan State and win over Miami of Ohio.
1. With another early bye week, Boise has played just two games. What do you already know about your team's strengths and weaknesses in those two games? And what still feels like an unknown at this point?
As much as I can know anything about this team (it usually takes me a full season and part of an offseason to make firm assessments), I believe Boise State has a stout defense, a playmaking secondary, and an aggressive D-line. The defense, by far, is the most consistent aspect of this team.
Offensively, the Broncos looked awful against Michigan State and explosive versus Miami (OH). Those opposing defenses are apples and oranges, though. I would like to think that Boise State's offense is closer in skill to what we saw against Miami, but I can't be sure. At any rate, BYU's defense is closer to a Michigan State than a Miami.
2. Who are two most important players for Boise State that need to be playing well in order for Boise to win?
I imagine that the BYU defense will be able to take away one aspect of the Bronco offense and, given the tape of the Michigan State game, that one aspect will be the running game. That leaves a rather large onus on quarterback Joe Southwick to make plays when plays are needed.
Defensively, whoever is responsible for keeping tabs on Riley Nelson (maybe nickel Dextrell Simmons or corner Jamar Taylor or linebackers J.C. Percy/Blake Renaud) will have one of the most important jobs of the night.
3. Educate BYU fans on one or two Broncos who are, at least to some degree, newcomers making an impact this season.
True freshman WR Shane Williams-Rhodes is a very small, very slippery playmaker who Boise State likes to give the ball and let him do his thing. His thing hasn't resulted in any huge plays yet, but he's bound to get one sooner or later.
DE Demarcus Lawrence has been a bright spot on the rebuilt defensive line.
4. With all of the departures on the Boise defensive line, how is this year's unit performing, and who looks to be stepping up?
The defensive line has exceeded expectations in that it is actually one of the strengths of the team. Inside, Mike Atkinson has been solid, and the other four guys who rotate at the tackle spots are each more-than-capable fill-ins. At defensive end, Demarcus Lawrence and Sam Ukwuachu have been very pleasant surprises. Lawrence, a JUCO transfer, has stepped right in and made an immediate impact. Ukwuachu, a redshirt freshman, is playing the Shea McClellin role on defense, which means coaches can put him anywhere (even over a slot receiver, as happened last week).
5. If you haven't addressed him enough to your liking in any of the previous questions, address Joe Southwick's performance so far this season.
I could write pages and pages on Joe Southwick and still not say everything I want to say about him. He is a fascinating case study in not only quarterbacking but also all the intangibles and pressures and perceptions of a quarterback. His play on the field has been good. He failed to make plays in the Michigan State game, and he made one or two against Miami (OH). The biggest concern I have for him is his turnovers in the red zone. Other than that, he is accurate enough and smart enough to lead this offense. It is not the 50-points-per-game offense of Kellen Moore, but with Southwick, it can be 30-points-and-that's-good-enough.
For Southwick's impact on Bronco Nation, go find two random Bronco fans and you are likely to get two wildly different opinions on him. He is either a quality starter or the worthy of a benching.
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Much thanks to Kevan for helping us out.
We do also have a blog bet with OBNUG. The winning team's blogger gets to write a post for the losing team's site. I think Michigan State might have been the first time OBNUG was on the losing end of a blog bet. Here's to a second!
We also answered five questions for them. Read our responses:
Five questions and a blog bet with BYU blog Vanquish The Foe