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Five Questions With Vandal Nation

Vandal Nation and I got together to ask each other some questions about the Idaho vs. San Diego State matchup.  Yes, this game is against two teams that are not great.  Even with that said here are some questions to get a better idea of this matchup.

1. How is it that Boise State is able to be as good as they are and Idaho has been unable to really be all that competitive?

It's complicated, but a lot of it boils down to 1. a smaller market and 2. bad decisionmaking by Idaho administrators.

Boise State is located in the state's largest metropolitan area. The University of Idaho is in Moscow, a college town of about 20,000 people in the state's far northern reaches, closer to Spokane than anything big in Idaho. Not only that, but Washington State University and its Pac-10 draw is just 9 miles to the west. That means it's a lot harder for us to bring in the kind of crowds that fund an athletic program.

On the other hand, past UI administrators have really not cared very much about athletics, and our facilities showed it. We're stuck in what is far and away the smallest stadium in FBS football, the 16,000-seat Kibbie Dome. It was new and spiffy and an engineering marvel back in the early 1970s when it opened, but it's seen zero expansion and few upgrades since then. In fact, we don't even have a dedicated basketball arena — after football season is over, they set up a court in the Dome! Until just a couple years ago, our locker rooms and training facilities were woefully inadequate. What football talent is going to want to play in a tiny stadium in a backwater market with terrible facilities? The answer was, none.

The good news is that progress is being made on the facilities front — we now have all-new locker rooms and conditioning facilities that are second to none in the WAC. Current AD Rob Spear seems committed to building quality athletic programs, and his hoops hire (Don Verlin) turned that team around overnight, from doormat to conference contender. But It's going to take a lot longer to rebuild football. Fans currently have confidence in Robb Akey, but the SDSU game is really going to tell a lot about how far the Vandals have really come.

2.  Who are some playmakers that San Diego State should know about?

For the passing game, we have a good spread-out package of receivers this year. Daniel Hardy and Max Komar (who began as a walk-on!) are the go-to guys right now, but Preston Davis and Eric Greenwood are also capable wideouts. Komar has serious speed and big yards-after-catch capability, with 179 yards in just 7 receptions.

On the ground, again the Vandals have depth. Princeton McCarty is the leading option, but look for WSU transfer DeMaundray Woolridge to see some serious action — he's got 59 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 12 carries.

Our kicking unit is stellar — Trey Farquhar is 3-for-3 on field goals so far and Bobby Cowan averages 45 yards a punt.

On defense, Shiloh Keo is the playmaker in the secondary, but Jeromy Jones is showing some capable skills at the other safety spot. Our linebacking corps is somewhat suspect — not so much at the front line, but there's very little depth. Paul Senescall is the best there.
3.  Have the Vandals turned the corner they beat New Mexico State and were able to score some points against an improved Washington school?

Tomorrow's game will tell the tale.

We beat up on a questionable NMSU team, and we survived a rebuilt and talented Washington Huskies team. Now we're at home against a team that also went 2-10 last year. Yes, the Aztecs beat up on us in their house, but they also lost, badly, to the FCS Cal Poly Mustangs. We feel like we should be able to return the favor on our turf, and a win in the home opener would fire Vandal fans back up pretty nicely.

If we win tomorrow, it says we've made strides from where we were last year, and maybe turned that corner. That's all Vandal fans want — nobody's expecting a miracle season, but things have to just keep getting better. If we lose, it says that a lot of the progress we thought we'd made, was more or less a mirage.

4. Does Idaho have the ability to slow down the Aztec passing game?

Huge question mark. THE question mark of the game. If we can do this (and we did it pretty well against New Mexico State), we'll probably win.

I don't think we expect to shut down Ryan Lindley, but we'd like to force him into making mistakes and throwing picks.

Based on the UCLA game, it looks like the Aztecs are vulnerable when you force them to become a one-dimensional throwing team. That plays right into our hands — the Vandals D-line has been fairly effective stopping the run so far, allowing just 112.5 rushing yards per game.

5. Who wins this game and why?

I think the Kibbie Dome is going to be packed, and Akey's Army isn't going to disappoint their loyal fans. Nate Enderle will throw for 300+ yards and three TDs, while Shiloh Keo grabs a pick-six off Lindley to bring the house down. It won't be as lopsided a game as last year (Lindley's too good at scoring for that), but the Vandals will prevail in a high-scoring shootout, 41-31.