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

Boise State travels to Hawaii battling COVID-19 and the Rainbow Warriors

NCAA Football: Portland State at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

BOISE STATE VS AIR FORCE

Location: Halawa, Hawaii (Aloha Stadium)

Date/Time: Saturday November 21 at 9:00 p.m. (Mountain Time)

Television: CBS Sports

Head-to-Head: Boise State leads the all-time series with 14 wins against three losses. The Broncos have won the last eight matchups including the 2019 Mountain West Conference Championship game. Hawaii won the first two contests in the series (in 1996 and 1999). Boise State has won 14 of the last 15 games with the sole loss coming in 2007.

Betting Line: Boise State is a 14-point favorite with the over/under at 58 points. The betting markets suggest an outcome of Boise State 36, Hawaii 22.

Three Burning Questions:

1. Can Boise State field a team?

It’s no secret that Boise State has been hammered with injury and illness in the 2020 football season. Each week of the season the Broncos have had an increasing number of players unavailable. Last Thursday against Colorado State, Boise State was dangerously close to having to cancel the game.

The Broncos had 14 players unavailable due to a positive COVID test or quarantine. The offensive and defensive line was hit particularly hard. Boise State has already lost defensive linemen Demitri Washington, Keeghan Freeborn, and Herbert Gums for the year, and had to play offensive lineman Ben Dooley on defense in order to make it through the week four game. The offensive line started the game with 10 available players but lost starting left tackle John Ojukwu early in the game.

The Broncos need at least 53 players available to play Saturday’s game. That won’t be an issue, but they also need at least four interior defensive linemen and at least eight offensive linemen dressed, or the game must be canceled. Boise State has already shown creativity in shuffling players around to reach those benchmarks, but if things continue to get worse, a cancelation seems inevitable at some point this season.

2. How high does Hawaii’s scoreboard go?

Hawaii’s defense has not been good. The Bronco offense has been very good. Saturday’s game could test the technology of the Warriors scoreboard. After opening the season giving up a respectable 19 points to Fresno State, Hawaii has given up over 30 points in each of their last three games. The Warriors run defense is particularly poor.

Hawaii is the 121st ranked defense against the run, giving up over 250 yards per game (and they haven’t played Air Force). They allow over five yards per rush attempt. They give up around 165 passing yards per game and are the 65th ranked defense overall.

Boise State hasn’t compiled dazzling rushing numbers through four weeks of the season, but they have been an offensive powerhouse when relatively healthy. The Broncos average 40 points per game and 48 points per game when they aren’t playing their fourth and fifth string quarterbacks. Boise State might flirt with the 58 point Over/Under all by themselves.

3. Will Boise State ever not score a touchdown in the Red Zone?

A fun thing to watch this weekend will be when Boise State has the ball inside Hawaii’s 20-yard line. The Broncos have been in the Red Zone 12 times this season and have scored a touchdown each time. They have nine rushing touchdowns and three passing touchdowns in those scenarios.

Boise State’s 100% touchdown conversion rate is obviously tops in the country. Only Northern Illinois (perfect on seven Red Zone trips) and Massachusetts (scoring a touchdown on their only Red Zone visit of the season) join Boise State in scoring touchdowns every time they reach the opponents 20-yard line this season.

Off topic, but another thing to watch for is field goals and extra points. Jonah Dalmas is 25/25 on extra points and 2/2 on field goals.

Prediction:

Predictions have been wild in 2020. I’ve been dead wrong often this season. BYU game going to a close one? Uh, no. Broncos will at least contain the Air Force rushing attack? Big fat L. Colorado State is starting to turn the corner on offense? Not a great call. So, take my prediction with a grain of salt.

Boise State is going to win in a blowout. The Broncos are the better team and with no fans in the stands, Hawaii won’t get a spark from the late-night atmosphere. Also, we don’t really know the impact that COVID will have on the Boise State roster. The virus sidelined 14 players for the Colorado State game, but some of them will likely return this week. If the Broncos can get a handle on the coronavirus, this game won’t be close. Boise State 52 Hawaii 20