WHEN: Saturday, November 8, 5:00 PM MST
WHERE: University Stadium, Albuquerque, NM (39,224)
CONFERENCES: Mountain West Conference
2014 SEASON: Boise State, 6-2, 3-1 (MW); New Mexico, 3-5, 1-3 (MW)
COACHES: Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin (13-7); New Mexico head Bob Davie, (10-23)
TV: CBS Sports Network
RADIO: Bronco Radio Network: KBOI (670 AM) and KKGL (96.9 FM) in the Boise area; Lobo Radio Network: KKOB (770 AM) and KNML (610 AM) in the Albuquerque area
SERIES RECORD: Boise State leads, 5-0
It will be Lobos Football Heroes Day in Albuquerque this Saturday, and hot dogs will only be two bucks. But don’t expect New Mexico head coach Bob Davie to be gobbling down many on the sidelines when his team faces off against the Boise State Broncos. While a lot of pundits compare the triple option attack of Air Force with New Mexico’s, Davie is not under any illusions. "They [Boise State] just didn’t throw the ball to Air Force," he said Tuesday. "Air Force made some plays. But the point is we all know what the challenge is. They come off a game, an open date, I think they had 680 yards on Brigham Young. They had 660 yards on Nevada two weeks before that. Fresno hung in there with him but they beat them 37-27. They're on a roll."
First year Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin might agree that the Broncos are on a roll, but if so he isn’t saying so. Right now he is just concerned about winning this game and winning it decisively. The Broncos need to win their final four conference games in order to continue their march toward the Mountain West title and a possible shot at the access bowl. A win in New Mexico will help, giving Boise State a 4-1 record in the Mountain Division and setting the team up to host the 2014 conference championship game in Albertsons Stadium in Boise.
Here are three good reasons Boise State will pull off the win:
(1) Boise State is returning to the field after a bye and a decisive 55-30 win over non-conference rival BYU two weeks ago. The Broncos are rested, reinvigorated, full of confidence, and rearing to go.
(2) QB Grant Hedrick,6-0, 198 lbs, seems to have put two disastrous games earlier this season in his rear view mirror and is now ranked the best passing quarterback in league. He has completed 190 of 262 pass attempts (72.5 percent) and is averaging 280 yards per game through the air. In his last three outings he has tossed 7 touchdowns versus 2 interceptions.
(3) Boise State’s RB Jay Ajayi, 6-0, 216 lbs, is a monster in the backfield. He is the 12th best running back in the nation and averaging over 123 yards per game. And he is not alone back there. In their last outing, the Broncos took the leash off sophomore RB Devan Demas, 5-8, 174 lbs, who showed he could carry some of the load. And guess which team is last in the league in rushing defense? You guessed it: New Mexico.
What to expect when New Mexico has the ball: At first glance it seems the Lobos have all but abandoned any kind of passing attack this season in favor of a running game built around the triple option. With Cole Gautsche out with a foot injury, redshirt freshman QB Lamar Jordan, 5-10, 183 lbs, will get the start at quarterback. He’s the team's top passer and is not afraid to run. In last weeks game against UNLV, he was 2 of 7 passing for only 5 total yards and that is not a fair assessment of his passing abilities. He also scrambled 15 times for 60 more, averaging 4 yards a carry. As a whole, the team had just Jordan's 5 passing yards and 306 yards on the ground. Contrast that with UNLV’s 485 total yards that were pretty well spread around on the ground and through the air. Still, New Mexico’s lower yardage was offset by ball control and in eating up the clock, all of which was good enough to walk away with the win. As for Boise State, the Lobos know what weaknesses Air Force was able to exploit with the option attack and will seek to do the same on Saturday. As the #5 rushing offense in the nation, you can expect for the Lobo’s to run the option against the Broncos for as long as it works.
The Lobos offense might be in for a surprise from the #14 ranked rushing defense in the nation. The Broncos give up just 113.25 yards per game on the ground. While the option has always been Boise State’s Achilles heel, they have been preparing extra hard this week as a critical area they need to defend against. One Lobo who could give the Broncos defenders problems is junior RB Jhurell Pressley, 5-10, 200 lbs, a big-play specialist who has rushed for 286 yards and 5 TD’s in just the past two games. "You have to be sound on defense … not be out of place," Boise State defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said in summing up a defense strategy against the Lobos. "If you have a guy out of place, you can get hit for a big one."
What to expect when Boise State has the ball: We already know that the Lobos will be faced with a quarterback that is suddenly feeling pretty good about himself. But several of his receivers will be posing a threat on the field as well. Sophomore WR Thomas Sperbeck, 6-0, 173 lbs, caught 6 passes against BYU for 148 yards, averaging 24.7 yards per reception. One was a 78 yard bomb and another was for a touchdown. The other wide receiver standout from the BYU outing was WR Shane Williams-Rhodes, 5-6, 158 lbs. He caught 6 passes for 89 yards averaging 14.8 yards per catch that also included a touchdown.
But the Boise State air attack is facing the #2 pass defense in the Mountain West Conference. They give up an average of just 212 yards a game. That is why if the Broncos fail to mount an aerial attack they will have to be ready to turn this game into a ground offensive behind the abilities of RB Jay Ajayi. But any running game has to dodge the likes of Lobo LB Dakota Cox, 6-1,m230 lbs, who leads the conference with a whopping 102 tackles, with 37 solo and 65 assisted.
Special Teams: Boise State kicker Dan Goodale, 5-10, 185 lbs, is 12 of 16 attempts on field goals making 75% of them and is 33 of 35 extra points. Broncos punter Sean Wale, 6-2, 186 lbs, continues to improve and is averaging 40.65 yards per punt.
For New Mexico, kicker Zack Rodgers, 5-9, 190 lbs, has made five of six field goal attempts and has made all 27 on extra point attempts. Freshman kickoff specialist Jason Sanders, 5-10, 170 lbs, is 12th nationally by sending 62.5 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.
Both teams are ranked at the bottom of the conference in kickoff returns.
The Bottom Line: The Broncos have been the highest scoring offense in college football since 2000. Maybe that is why they are about an 18-point favorite going into Saturday’s contest. But with the action being slowed by the expected ground game do not be too surprised if the Lobos cover the spread.