Location: Boise, Idaho (Albertsons Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 18 at 7:00 p.m. (Mountain Time)
Television: Fox Sports One
Point Spread: Boise State -4 - O/U 54.5
Head-to-Head: Oklahoma State leads the series 1 - 0 after defeating the Broncos 44 - 21 in Stillwater in 2018
Boise State is back on The Blue this Saturday night to battle it out with Oklahoma State. This is the first time in Bronco history that they’ll host a Big 12 school in the regular season. Oklahoma State enters week three with an unbeaten 2 – 0 record, but the offense has struggled to run the ball and light up the scoreboard against relatively weak opponents. Similarly, the Broncos continue to search for a dynamic running game and have shown some inconsistency on defense. Add it all up and fans can expect an electric game in an electric atmosphere on Saturday night.
The burning questions this week are broad. There is so much uncertainty after two weeks of the season for the Broncos. Boise State has put up points (42 total points/game), but they’ve been gifted some advantageous field position from the ball hog defense. Alternatively, the defense has been a highlight machine, but they’ve given up a massive number of yards and haven’t been nearly as dominate up front as expected going into the season.
The story is the same for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have been inconsistent on offense. A lot of that has to do with inexperience. As they gain experience the scoreboard will start lighting up. On defense the experienced group has looked incredibly solid, but they haven’t faced anyone with near the offensive firepower as the Broncos. So, are these teams any good?
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS
Is the Boise State Offense Good?
Tim Plough and the new-look offense got off to a terrific start to begin the season. The Broncos first three drives of the Plough era resulted in 27 plays, 165 yards and two touchdowns. Bachmeier hit nine different receivers on 18 drop backs and Boise State could seemingly do whatever they wanted. Then the switch got flipped and the Broncos couldn’t do anything on offense.
The next seven drives resulted in 29 plays for a paltry 19 yards (including a 25-yard loss for a safety). In the middle third of the opener, Boise State could only muster a lone field goal. The Broncos snapped out of it at the end of the game, but it was too little, too late. They retook the lead off a short field, but a costly interception led to a devastating loss on the road.
Week two almost exclusively featured the unstoppable version of the offense. Boise State scored on seven of their first eight drives (a fumble prevented the 8-for-8) and didn’t punt the ball until the scoreboard read 48 – 13. While impressive, there are a few reasons to be a little hesitant to crown the Bronco offense as elite
- The Broncos can not run the ball. Boise State is averaging just 70 rushing yards per game. That number includes the Broncos running it on 24 of 25 plays to close out UTEP. It is somehow worse than the numbers indicate. Boise State ran for just 28 yards in the first half last Friday night. The coaching staff can talk about counting certain pass plays as run game yards, and to a certain extent that is logical, but Boise State will have to at least get serviceable production on actual handoffs if they want to get where they want to go in the 2021 season.
- Boise State needs to get and stay healthy. There is little argument among Boise State fans that George Holani and Khalil Shakir are the most dynamic offensive weapons on the Bronco roster. The team is noticeably different when the pair of superstars are on the field. So far in 2021 we have barely seen a glimpse of that version of the offense. Week one saw Shakir limited to 21 snaps with Holani being held out of the game. In week two it was Holani’s turn to be on a snap count, and he received just five carries. Add the injury to Cobbs and several offensive linemen being dinged up, and the Boise State offense hasn’t been anywhere near full strength this season.
- The Bronco offense has had it easy. Be it defensive turnovers or electric special teams plays; the Boise State offense has had an unreal amount of help in field position and on the scoreboard. The Broncos average field position against UTEP was just shy of midfield, and the defense and special teams have provided two touchdowns in two games. That advantage is not likely sustainable, so it will be a little more challenging for the offense going forward. How they respond will decide the burning question, “is the Boise State offense good.”
Is the Boise State Defense Good?
The Bronco defense is giving up a respectable 24 points/game after two weeks of football. The squad has a ridiculous eight turnovers in eight quarters of football and have parlayed the takeaways into great field position for the offense. On the other hand, the defense has been generous; allowing 455 yards per game including 180 on the ground and 275 through the air.
Results are results, and the “bend-don’t-break” mentality has worked for the Broncos in the past, but Boise State is on pace to create 56 turnovers over a 14-game season. That is not sustainable. The defense will have to tighten up if they want to be a dominate unit in 2021.
The areas for improvement are obvious. Tackling has been subpar, and the Broncos aren’t being disruptive upfront. Boise State has four sacks in two games, but often the front four are being pushed around at the point of attack. The Broncos have the talent to correct the issues in the trenches, and Oklahoma State enters Albertsons Stadium with concerns about their offensive line play. Tackling and winning the line of scrimmage will likely decide the game. Saturday’s performance will go a long way towards answering the question “is the Boise State defense good.”
Is Oklahoma State Good?
This question is easily answerable at first glance. No, Oklahoma State has not been good in 2021. The Cowboys have won home games against Missouri State (23 – 16) and Tulsa (28 – 23) for an average of 25.5 points/game scored and 20 points per game allowed. Oklahoma State averages 341 yards a game including just 97 yards/game on the ground. They’ve given up an equal number of yards as they’ve gained, and it is not like they have played a daunting schedule either.
On paper, Oklahoma State is not good, but there is reason to believe they will improve as the year goes along. For starters, their defense has looked solid early into the football season, and there is no reason to believe the seasoned group won’t stay stout all season long. Ten of the 11 starters are seniors or super seniors and the 11th is a redshirt junior.
Beyond the defensive success, Oklahoma State is among the national leaders in special teams production. Boise State fans know all too well how impactful special teams can be, particularly against the Cowboys. This area of the game will likely play a big part in Saturday’s contest.
Then there is the offense. The Cowboys offense has scored just six touchdowns in eight quarters of football. They have looked terrible. However, there is reason for optimism. First, after missing week one, Cowboy’s starting QB Spencer Sanders returned in week two and ran for 61 yards on 10 carries. Also, the three leading wide receivers for Oklahoma State have very little game experience and will get more comfortable as the season goes along. Ultimately, the Cowboys have not been good, but they may well be on their way to coming together as a team. Will it be enough to win on The Blue? Let’s move on to the prediction.
This is a monster game for the Broncos. Boise State has made its name by beating Power Five teams and this is an opportunity to make a statement after missing out on a Big 12 invite and watching four Group of Five teams party with their new Big 12 banners last week. This is a game the Broncos should win. They have key players returning in Holani and (likely) Jake Stetz, and they have the advantage of playing in front of a sold-out crowd.
Oklahoma State has not played well this season and even with the struggles that Boise State has had, they simply look to be the better team. This game could end up being a nail-biter anyway. Oklahoma State has talent and at some point it will start to click for them. If it starts coming together in week three, we may have an instant classic on our hands. Ultimately, Boise State will tackle better, and the offense will score against the stingy Cowboy defense. Boise State 34 – Oklahoma State 27