UTAH STATE VS. BOISE STATE
Location: Boise, Idaho (Albertsons Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, October 24 at 5:00 p.m. (Mountain Time)
Head-to-Head: Boise State leads the all-time series with 19 wins against five losses. The Broncos have won the last four matchups. Boise State’s last loss to the Aggies was in 2015. The series was competitive from 1975 to 1997 with Utah State holding a slim series lead of four wins and three losses. Since then, Boise State has won 16 of the last 17 contests.
Betting Line: Boise State is a 16.5-point favorite with the over/under at 58 points. The betting markets suggest an outcome of Boise State 37, Utah State 21.
Three things to look for:
1. Expect the unexpected
Season opening games are always difficult to predict. Even, if this year were identical to every other year there would be a lot of unanswerable questions heading into the first game of a new season.
For Boise State the burning question would be how the offensive line would fare after replacing four of five starters. For Utah State, there would be concerns about returning just five defensive starters to squad that finished in the middle of the Mountain West pack in 2019.
While fans would be nervous and excited to start answering those questions, they wouldn’t be as in the dark as they are heading into this bizarre conference-only (mostly) 2020 campaign.
As with everything in the world right now, COVID19 has affected the information we have going into Saturday’s Broncos vs. Aggies tilt. Those unanswerable questions posed above wouldn’t be solved going into a normal season, but there would be hints of an outcome during Fall camp. This year? Not so much.
Media reports from practice and just being around the athletic facility are almost nonexistent in this pandemic world we find ourselves in. Additionally, due to state, local, and team protocols, every team has had to practice and prepare differently. On top of the logistical issues, nobody can predict how the drastic changes to ordinary routines will affect the mental and physical preparedness of each player and coach heading into Saturday.
Just look around the college football landscape at all the head scratching scores and rollercoaster performances from week to week; this year, more than any other, expect the unexpected.
2. The unanswerable question: what will the Boise State Offensive Line look like?
As noted in any preview covering Boise State in this elongated offseason, Boise State returns only one starter along the offensive line. This was a line that struggled at times in 2019 that now must do the important work of protecting Hank Bachmeier and provide running room for George Holani and company without a ton of experience to fall back on.
While there are no practice or scrimmage reports to provide clues about the starting rotation or who has progressed, there is at least one known for Bronco fans. The lone returning starter is a good one.
Redshirt Junior John Ojukwu moves to Left Tackle to protect Hurricane Hank’s blindside. Presumedly (if you trust the depth chart), he will be joined by redshirt Senior Jake Stetz, redshirt Sophomore Kekaniokoa Holomalia-Gonzalez, redshirt Sophomore Garrett Curan, and redshirt Senior Nick Crabtree.
Whoever ultimately starts (and rotates in), the play of the offensive line is going to foretell how the season opener unfolds. Can the new look Bronco offensive line hit the ground running or will it take a few weeks to gel? That’s the unanswerable question until Saturday at 5:00 p.m.
3. The unanswerable question: will the new look defensive line continue the Bronco tradition of domination?
As is the case with the offensive line, Boise State must replace four starters along the defensive line (that’s all of them). Unlike the offensive line, it’s clear what new names will be the starters up front for the Bronco defense.
The depth chart was released on Monday morning, and all four starters were the players that most Bronco fans had been anticipating. The big surprise was that standout STUD Demetri Washington was listed at Defensive End and 6th-Year Senior Sam Whitney locked up the STUD position.
Whitney and Washington are joined by Junior Scale Igiehon and redshirt Sophomore Scott Matlock at Nose and defensive tackle respectively. With what Boise State fans have seen out of the new starters throughout their careers, it’s easy to be optimistic that the defensive line will pick up where they left off in 2019.
It’s likely that the defensive line's reign of terror over the Mountain West will continue, but until they show it on the field fans are left to stress over the what-ifs. Fortunately (and finally), the answer to the unanswerable questions will start to reveal themselves as football returns this weekend.
Even with the uncertainty surrounding this season opener, a prediction still must be made. Boise State is a 16-point favorite, and that feels about right. The Broncos return all their skill position players and their quarterback. In 2019, Boise State trounced the Aggies 56-21 and there’s no reason not to expect a similar outcome on Saturday.
The offensive line exodus from 2019 is a concern, but Utah State returns just five defensive starters and must replace a first round NFL draft pick at quarterback. Of all years to break in a new quarterback that is new on campus, this Coronavirus year has to be the worst. Add it all up and Boise State rolls. Boise State 36 Utah State 17