BYU (5-2) will host Boise State (5-2) in the second match-up between these two teams in as many seasons. Boise State is a team that football fans in this state know all too well. They have a 17-2 record against teams from Utah which includes a 3-0 record vs BYU, a 4-0 record vs Utah, and a 10-2 record vs Utah State.
Overview of the Broncos
Since joining Division 1-A (FBS) football in 1996, Boise State has quickly established itself as one of the nation’s marquee programs. They are the winningest college football program of the 2000’s with a 112-17 record (.868). Boise State has finished 8 of the last 10 seasons in the Top 25. They have attended a total of 13 bowl games (including two BCS Bowls) with a 9-4 record.
The Boise State Broncos are coming off of a decisive victory over Nevada (the Cougar's last foe of the season on November 30), and will be travelling to Provo for the first time since 2003, where they dismantled the Cougars in a 50-12 victory on their way to what would be a 13 -1 season. Boise State entered this season ranked #19 in the country, but after getting destroyed 38-6 at Washington in their season opener, they were quickly dropped from the rankings. Their second loss of the season came in a 41-40 shootout loss to rival Fresno State.
Do the Broncos have what it takes to come into Provo and improve to 6-2 by knocking off the Cougars? Let’s take a look.
Senior quarterback Joe Southwick had a somewhat rocky start to the season, but had proven to be more consistent and accurate as the season has progressed, before going out in the first series of the Nevada game due to an ankle injury. Southwick was completing 72.3% of his passes and threw for 1,589 yards. Though accurate and efficient through the air, Southwick posed almost no danger as a dual threat quarterback. Before going down to injury, he had rushed for just 111 yards on the season, averaging just over 15 yards per game.
Back-up quarterback Grant Hedrick ended up with a solid game against Nevada, going 18-21 through the air and 115 rushing yards on just 8 carries. Before the Nevada game, Boise State had accumulated over 60% of their offensive production through the air, passing for 1,743 yards. They had rushed for only 1,161 yards, resulting in less than 40% of their offensive yardage production. The Nevada game proved to be one of Boise State's most impressive rushing games of the season, which balanced out the offensive yardage production between passing and rushing on the season.
Boise State has a deep and talented receiving corps. The offense has five receivers with 10+ receptions, two receivers with 400+ yards, and three more receivers with 200+ yards. Matt Miller has established himself as the team’s leading receiver. Seeing as BYU’s lone defensive weakness would be considered the secondary, (this was as evident as ever against Houston) keep a close eye on this potential mismatch which favors Boise State.
Boise State does boast one of the best running backs in the Mountain West Conference in Jay Ajayi. Ajayi is a 6’0” 215 lb sophomore from Plano, Texas, and has pounded his way to 766 yards on the ground this season, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and putting up 12 touchdowns.
The young Boise State defense has struggled at times this year, giving up 38 points on the road to Washington, 41 points at Fresno State, and then 23 points against a Chuckie Keeton-less and Joe Hill-less offense at Utah State (granted, not all of those points were the defense's fault). Coming off of the shoot-out loss to Fresno State, the Boise State defense was ranked towards the bottom in multiple defensive categories, including 100th in pass defense.
The reassuring sign for Bronco’s fans is that the defense looks a lot better today than it did through the first few weeks of the season, showing drastic improvement against Southern Miss, Utah State, and Nevada. In these last three games, the Broncos have recorded 13 sacks, six turnovers, and have allowed just 10 of 42 third down conversions.
One of the defensive standouts to keep an eye on for Boise State would be junior linebacker Corey Bell, a Boise native who has recorded 33 tackles and one sack on the season. Also watch for cornerbacks Donte Deayon and Bryan Douglas, who have combined for 49 tackles and six interceptions (including a pick six) so far this year.
Special Teams Note
Placekicker Dan Goodale has missed three extra points this season, and is 8 out of 9 on field goal attempts. His longest kick on the season is a 39 yarder against Utah State. For those who remember the Matt Payne days of the early 2000’s, as well as last year’s BYU vs Boise State game, the kicking game has played a significant role in the history of this series.
What are they expected to accomplish this season?
Early season losses to Washington and Fresno State destroyed any hopes the Broncos had of returning to their third BCS Bowl. Boise State is a MWC title contender, along with Fresno State and Utah State.
How do they match-up with BYU?
Most people expected BYU to be able to handle Houston much easier than what happened on Saturday. BYU had better talent and depth, and was favored on the road by over a touchdown, but it took a last minute interception in the fourth quarter by BYU to sneak away with a one point victory. A lot of credit should be given to BYU for being able to remain composed to come away with this win. A win is always impressive. But there are also some areas of concern looking forward.
Houston was able to expose the BYU secondary, throwing for 435 yards with their true freshman quarterback. Hopefully the BYU secondary will show improvement in this secondary this week, as Boise State's offense has been known to be able to do damage through the air.
Will Boise State's offensive line control the line of scrimmage, and be able to provide Hedrick with sufficient time to find his downfield targets? The offensive line will be up against Van Noy and one of the toughest defensive fronts in the country.
Can the BYU secondary make the necessary adjustments on this short week, and prevent the Broncos from doing what Houston did to them through the air? Let's hope so. We will find out on Friday night.
This game should feature more points than last year's 7-6 game in Boise.
Prediction: BYU wins 31-21
This game is a home game, and can be viewed on ESPN this Friday night at 6:00 pm MDT.