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Boise State vs. Colorado State: Three Burning Questions and a Prediction

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Boise State looks to rebound from a week two disaster in their return to Mountain West Conference play

Hawaii v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

BOISE STATE VS Colorado State

Location: Boise, Idaho (Albertsons Stadium)

Date/Time: Thursday, November 12 at 6:00 p.m. (Mountain Time)

Television: FS1

Head-to-Head: Boise State leads the all-time series with nine wins and zero losses. The teams have played every year since 2011 with the Broncos coming out on top each time.

Betting Line: Boise State is a 14-point favorite with the over/under at 62 points. The betting markets suggest an outcome of Boise State 38, Colorado State 24.

Three Burning Questions:

Will the defense improve as the season progresses?

BYU v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

Coming into the 2020 season, the consensus thinking was that the Boise State defense had the horses to replace the talent they lost. It would be a smooth reload with little to no drop off in production. It’s starting to look like that assumption was wrong. The Bronco defense hasn’t been themselves to open the college football season. Can they turn it around as they get more experience and reps?

To answer that, let’s see where they stand as they near the halfway mark of their shortened season. Boise State is the 74th ranked defense, giving up 406 yards per game and 31.3 points per contest. They are the 117th ranked rush defense, surrendering an outrageous 246 yards per game and 5 yards per rush. Obviously playing Air Force affects that number, but it doesn’t look good if you break out the numbers BSU has allowed to their three opponents against the opponent’s averages:

USU Average: 101 passing yards; 108 rushing yards; 10 points

USU vs. BSU: 92 passing yards; 111 rushing yards; 13 points

AFA Average: 67 passing yards; 330 rushing yards; 25 points

AFA vs. BSU: 69 passing yards; 415 rushing yards; 30 points

BYU Average: 340 passing yards; 196 rushing yards; 45 points

BYU vs. BSU: 360 passing yards; 213 rushing yards; 51 points

In each game of the season the Bronco defense has allowed more points and rushing yards than the opposing team’s season average and, outside of the Utah State game, they have given up more passing yards as well. No matter how you slice it, the Boise State defense has not performed up to their high standards. The focus this week around the program has been on the lack of turnovers created (just one meaningless interception to close out the Utah State game), but the problems run deeper than that.

The drop off in production likely has a simple answer. Boise State replaced over half off their defensive starters between the 2019 and 2020 season including early entrants to the NFL Draft and unexpected transfers. Add in some injuries at key positions, and it’s a recipe for struggles.

A large chunk of the current starters are starting a year earlier than expected. They are taking their lumps in a year where preparation and development was put on the back burner due to a pandemic. They have the talent, let’s see if they show the improvement needed throughout the season to live up to the Boise State standard of excellence on defense.

Where does Boise State stand on injuries/COVID?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Boise State v Florida State Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Boise State offense was decimated by injuries/illness against BYU. They were down their top three quarterbacks, their starting running back as well as their third and fourth options at the position, one of their starting wide receivers, and another two of their other top seven pass catchers. The BYU game was ugly all around, but it’s fair to give the offense a pass. Will reinforcements arrive by Thursday night?

That is the burning question, for sure. The answer isn’t so clear. The Broncos keep a tighter lid on injuries than the goings on inside of Area 51. If you read the tea leaves, you can get a decent idea on who might be available, but it’s never more than a guess. Let’s speculate about three Bronco offensive stars:

Hank Bachmeier: QB1 will almost certainly be back on The Blue on Thursday night. It is all but a guarantee that the sophomore quarterback was out due to COVID. His return is the most important piece for Boise State with backup Jack Sears leaving Friday’s game with a concussion.

George Holani: Fans were hopeful that Holani would be available for the Colorado State game, but Idaho Press reporter BJ Rains put a damper on that optimism on Tuesday, tweeting that he’s hearing that “…George Holani is doubtful to play Thursday night against Colorado State.”

Octavius Evans: There were four players out with COVID last week. Who those players are is not something that the team announces. If, hypothetically, Evans was among those that tested positive then the short week could prevent the starting receiver from suiting up against Colorado State. However, a wide receiver needs less time to get ready to play than a quarterback, so there is still some hope that Evans can play.

How good are Colorado State’s Head Coach and QB?

Colorado State vs Wyoming

This off season, in a move nearly universally panned by Mountain West Conference football fans, Colorado State hired Head Coach Steve Addazio. The former Temple and Boston College coach had the odds further stacked against him with the condensed COVID-season preventing the usual Spring and Fall camps to install his offense.

Expectations were understandably muted for the first-year coach and, as expected, the Rams season got off to a rocky start. Their 38 – 17 loss to Fresno State wasn’t pretty, but they exited the game with one promising revelation. The Rams had chosen the wrong starting signal caller. Since they made the switch at quarterback the offense has come alive. Newly installed QB1 Patrick O’Brien ended the Fresno State game with a touchdown drive, and then led the Rams to their first victory of the season while putting up 34 points against Wyoming.

In a game and less than a quarter, O’Brien has completed 70% of his passes for 337 yards, four passing touchdowns, and zero interceptions. The redshirt senior might be turning a corner and paying dividends on the talent he promised out of high school. O’Brien was a top 10 quarterback recruit and signed with Nebraska in 2017. He sat out the 2018 season after transferring to Colorado State, and played nine games in 2019 (including a 26 – 40 loss against BSU). If the light is turning on for him, the talented senior will test the shaky Boise State defense on Thursday night.

Prediction:

There are a lot of things going against the Broncos heading into week four of the season. They are coming off back-to-back short weeks to prepare in a season where preparation has already been cut short, they are still recovering from injuries/illness, and they all but lose their home field advantage with just 1,000 fans in the stands. This game will be more of a struggle than would have been predicted before the season. With that said, Boise State will have Hank Bachmeier back and the defense should perform better than last week. The Broncos win a one score game. Boise State 35 – Colorado State 27