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Boise State vs BYU: showdown on The Blue

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The Broncos host the BYU Cougars in their final non-conference action for the year

BOISE, ID - SEPTEMBER 20: Taysom Hill #4 of the BYU Cougars is brought down by the Boise State Broncos at Bronco Stadium on September 20, 2012 in Boise, Idaho.
BOISE, ID - SEPTEMBER 20: Taysom Hill #4 of the BYU Cougars is brought down by the Boise State Broncos at Bronco Stadium on September 20, 2012 in Boise, Idaho.
Otto Kitsinger III

WEEK 9: Boise State Broncos vs. Brigham Young Cougars

WHEN: Friday, October 24, 7:00 PM MST

WHERE: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, ID (37,000)

CONFERENCES: Mountain West Conference vs Independent

2014 SEASON: Boise State, 5-2, 3-1 (MW); BYU, 4- 3

COACHES: Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin (11-7); BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall (86-37)

TV: ESPN

WEB STREAMING: Watch ESPN

RADIO: Bronco Radio Network: KBOI (670 AM) and KKGL (96.9 FM) in the Boise area; Cougar Sports Network: KSL (1160 AM and 102.7 FM) in the Salt Lake City area

SERIES RECORD: Boise State leads, 3-1

LAST MEETING: 2012, in LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT, Boise State 20, BYU, 37

WEB SITES: Boise State official | Brigham Young official

This is only the fourth time that BYU and Boise State have met on the gridiron and this game promises to have plenty of explosive action. The Broncos are at home riding a wave of momentum after a pair of wins over MW rivals Nevada and Frenso State while the Cougars are nursing a three-game losing streak to Utah State, UCF and Nevada. The last time BYU lost three games in a row was a decade ago in 2004. A fourth loss in Boise on Friday evening could send the BYU 2014 season into a whole new era, one the Cougars are determined to avoid.  The Broncos want to avoid another loss as well, in a struggle to regain revelancy and return to a top-25 ranking, something they have a chance to do by winning out the rest of the 2014 season.

What to expect when BYU has the ball: In spite of losing their starting quarterback two weeks ago the Cougars are still a formidable force on the field. QB Christian Stewart, 6-2, 208 lbs, is just getting used to his new role as starter and is proving that he is more than capable of taking over the BYU offense. In last week’s loss to Nevada he was 39 of 63 pass attempts for 408 yards and four touchdowns. Handling the running duties out in the backfield during that game was RB Nate Carter, 5-9, 181 lbs, who carried 7 times and averaged 12.4 yards a carry. Running back Jamaal Williams, 6-1, 206 lbs, did not play last week but is probable for Friday's game.  But even without Williams, the Cougars put up 602 yards of total offense to Nevada’s 411 and had it not been for two fumbles by Stewart in the fourth quarter, BYU might have won that game.

That is why you shouldn't be surprised to see BYU use much of that same game plan this week against the Broncos. The fact is that while Boise State is strong up front, last week the defense gave up 186 yards to the rush and almost all it to one player (Waller). Surely BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall will want to see if Carter can also punch holes in the Broncos front line. Mendenhall will also want to take advantage of the Broncos mediocre pass defense and he won’t be afraid to let Stewart mount an aerial attack. The Cougars have the tools to get it done through the air. Besides Stewart, several receivers have been making real nuisances out of themselves against opposing defenders. Last week for instance, Stewart threw 16 passes to wide receiver Mitch Mathews, 6-6, 215 lbs, who alone accounted for 182 yards and two touchdowns.

It's possible that all the speculation about BYU’s offensive capabilities only reinforces the resolve of Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin. "When our defense is firing on all cylinders, we're hard to move the ball against," Harsin said last week. "Great defenses finish and we've been able to finish the past two games with our defense on the field."

What to expect when Boise State has the ball: Broncos star RB Jay Ajayi, 6-1, 215 lbs, continues to be just an ugly brute in the backfield. Last week against Fresno State he romped for 195 yards and two touchdowns, grinding out 158 of those yards on the ground. But his performance could change dramatically this game going up against a very stingy, very mean BYU defense that is ranked as the 5th best rushing offense is the nation.

That could be one reason the Broncos might be airing it out just a little more than usual on Friday night if the Cougar run defense shows up. Last week QB Grant Hedrick, 6-1, 195 lbs, completed 21 of 30 pass attempts for 190 yards and a touchdown against Fresno State. And although he was sacked a couple of times Hedrick did not throw an interception. He could have an even better outing against BYU if he stays on target. The Cougar pass defense is ranked #120 in the nation, much lower than the Bulldogs, and they are giving up an average of 290 yards through the air per game. Furthermore, the loss of Hedrick’s favorite target, wide receiver Matt Miller, has not been a significant blow to the offense as Hedrick has been finding other targets to throw to. Wide receivers Troy Ware, 6-2, 183 lbs, and Thomas Sperbeck, 6-0, 173 lbs are two of those stepping up and suddenly getting more action over the middle.

Special Teams: BYU kicker Trevor Samson, 5-11, 183 lbs, has made 8 of 10 field goals attempts this season, and is 100 percent inside of 40 yards. He is also 100 percent in booting 29 extra points.  If the game comes down to his foot, the Broncos are going to in trouble.  Running back Adam Hine, 6-1, 208 lbs, is officially out for Friday's contest.  He is the Cougar kickoff return specialist and ranked fourth in the nation.  Whoever replaces him will be going against a Boise State team that is giving up an average of just 16.17 yards per kickoff return and ranked 11th in the nation in kickoff defense.  BYU punter Scott Arellano, 6-1, 187 lbs, is averaging 43.66 yards per punt.

At Boise State the special teams have continued to improve. Kicker Dan Goodale, 5-10, 185 lbs, is only 10 of 14 field goal attempts and has booted 26 of 28 extra points through the uprights. But last week against Fresno State he was good for all three field goal attempts and all four extra points. Wide out Dallas Burroughs, 5-9, 169 lbs, handles kickoff returns and averaging 20.41 yards per return with his longest kickoff return of the year being for 47 yards. Punter Sean Wale, 6-2, 186 lbs, also continues to improve and now averages 40.03 yards per punt.

The Bottom Line: Las Vegas has Boise State as a 6.5-point favorite, but wins sometimes breeds overconfidence and losses often breed determination.  It is bound to be close, but In the nature of things I think the Broncos walk away with the win and BYU continues down that skid toward that place they hope to avoid.