Date/Time: Saturday, October 2, 1:30 pm MST
Location: Boise, Idaho (Albertsons Stadium)
Television: Fox Sports One
Point Spread: Boise State -6.5 – O/U 58.5
Head-to-Head: Boise State leads the all-time series with 30 wins against 13 losses. The Broncos have won the last six contests and 16 of the last 17 games between the two programs. 15 of the 43 games have finished with the victor winning by one possession.
Boise State is back in action on Saturday afternoon to square off with the 2- 1 Nevada Wolfpack. Nevada opened the season 2 – 0 with a five-point road win at Cal and a home win against FCS opponent Idaho State. The Wolfpack lost 38 – 17 on the road to Kansas State and were off last week. Boise State rebounded from a tough home loss against Oklahoma State to beat Utah State 27 – 3 and bring their record to .500.
Heading into week five of the college football season, neither team is where they wanted to be or expected to be coming into the season. In many ways the two teams mirror each other. Both teams expected to dominate up front on defense while protecting an inexperienced secondary. Both teams expected to light up the scoreboard early and often on offense. Both teams expected to be in the hunt for a New Year’s Six game. Both teams are where they are. This should be an exciting game that will go a long way to deciding Mountain West supremacy.
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS
How bad does a rush defense have to be for Boise State’s running game to explode?
It is no secret that the Broncos have struggled to run the ball. It is also no secret that Nevada can’t stop the run. Something has to give. Saturday’s game will be, by far, the best opportunity for Boise State to explode for big yardage in the run game. Here are the defensive run game stats for all the Bronco’s opponents so far:
- UCF: 15th ranked rush defense (78 yards/game)
- UTEP: 43rd ranked rush defense (114 yards/game)
- Oklahoma State: 19th ranked rush defense (87 yards/game)
- Utah State: 112th ranked rush defense (200 yard/game – played Air Force)
- Nevada: 105th ranked rush defense (187 yards/game)
Except for Utah State, who played Air Force which will always skew the stats, Nevada offers the weakest run defense that the Broncos will see on their schedule for the entire season. There are other reason for optimism as well. Boise State had their best rushing performance of the season last Saturday, and there looked to be flashes of the pre-injury George Holani late in the game against Utah State. If the Boise State run game goes off on Saturday, then the Broncos will move to 2 – 0 in the Mountain West.
Can the Nevada secondary pass a real test?
The Wolfpack entered the season with question marks in the secondary. So far in the young season, Nevada has answered those questions satisfactorily. Nevada sits at number 14 in the NCAA in pass defense, allowing just 149 yards per game. On the surface that seems absolutely frightening for a Boise State team that can not run the ball, but the Wolfpack haven’t faced a passing game on the same level as Boise State.
Idaho State is an FCS team and Kansas State had such a field day running the ball that they barely even bothered attempting a pass and finished the day with just 13 drop backs. Cal has had some success passing on teams not named Nevada, but nobody would confuse the Cal passing attack with the Broncos. If Nevada slows down the Boise State passing game, it could be a rough afternoon on The Blue.
Who looks closer to preseason expectations?
Nevada and Boise State came into the season with high expectations. They have each shown flashes of their potential, but it hasn’t been there consistently to open the season. Nevada has averaged 310 passing yards per game against FBS opponents but are averaging just 20 points a game. The Wolfpack offense needs to match their preseason expectations if they want to steal a win on the road at Boise.
Conversely, the Boise State defensive line was expected to have dependable depth to stop the run and get after the quarterback. Through four games, the Broncos are near the bottom of the NCAA in rushing yards allowed and have just two sacks a game. If Boise State wants to win on Saturday, their best bet is to make Carson Strong uncomfortable. Preseason Bronco fans would have confidence in that answer. So far this season, it’s a burning question that will play a huge part in the outcome of the game.
Boise State fans should be excited that this game will be played on The Blue in front of 36,000+ fans. That will be the real difference in this game. The other factor will be injuries. The Wolfpack enter the game down a key secondary player in Tyson Williams and a key wide receiver in Elijah Cooks. Carson Strong is still recovering from offseason surgery as well. All told, the Wolfpack will have to face a Bronco team that is starting to put it all together, as well as a raucous crowd of fans desperate to will the Broncos to a 2 – 0 start in the Mountain West Conference. Boise State 37 Nevada 28.