BOISE STATE VS UTEP
Location: Boise, Idaho (Albertsons Stadium)
Date/Time: Friday, September 10 at 7:30 p.m. (Mountain Time)
Television: Fox Sports 1
Point Spread: Boise State -26 – Over/Under 56.5
Head-to-Head: This will be the sixth matchup between the Broncos and Miners. Boise State is 5 – 0 with the last game being played in 2004. The Broncos have outscored the Miners 236 – 95 in the series for an average score of 47 – 19.
The 2021 Boise State Broncos football season got off to a bit of a rocky start. After shooting out to a 21 – 0 lead against UCF in the season opener, the Broncos went cold and lost a thriller 31 – 36 to start the season 0 – 1. Boise State looks to bounce back in the home-opener Friday night against Conference USA’s UTEP Miners.
The Miners are in year four of what head coach Dana Dimel calls a five year rebuild. The team may be a year early. The Miners return all 11 starters on offense and nine on the defensive side of the ball. Coming off a 3 – 5 campaign in 2020, the Miners are looking to take a leap in 2021.
UTEP is 2 – 0 on the season with a 30 – 3 win over New Mexico State and a 38 – 28 victory over Bethune-Cookman. The Miners have used a run heavy attack and are equipped with a three-headed monster at running back to wear opponents down. Solid, if not exciting, quarterback play will keep the Miners in a lot of games this Fall.
Unfortunately for UTEP, injuries to the backfield aren’t limited to Boise State. RB Deion Hankins is out on Friday night and RB Quadraiz Wadley’s status is up in the air. The miners are hoping for a program defining win on The Blue tomorrow night, but with their injuries, and the sting of opening weekend for the Broncos, they may just run into a buzzsaw.
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS
Can Boise State Run the Ball?
If something doesn’t give soon, at some point the answer to this question will have to be a definitive “no.” As has been repeated ad nauseum, the Broncos were dead last in rushing in the Mountain West in 2020. The team ran for 20 yards last Thursday in Orlando. George Holani’s absence is certainly a factor in the anemic run game, but it doesn’t explain the depth of the problem.
From the offensive line getting pushed around, to scheme, to personnel issues and injuries, the Bronco run game is broken. To get back on track, Boise State coaches have stressed the need to get creative with “rush yards” by using screens, fly sweeps, and a quick passing game to supplement a traditional ground game. This should be the week that the Broncos explode on offense, including on the ground. If there are struggles this week, get ready for a long season.
Is Health or the Scoreboard More Important?
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Boise State has injuries at key positions. Bronco fans were shocked on gameday after learning that George Holani would not play against UCF. Worse still, Khalil Shakir was limited to 21 snaps, Holomalia-Gonzalez was out, and Jake Stetz was unable to finish the game. That’s two starting linemen and two of the most talented and electric skill position players on the roster limited or out already this season.
Boise State is a four-possession favorite at home this Friday but struggled in their home opener. Will they rest guys in anticipation of next week’s Oklahoma State game or push players back for more reps and success against an inferior UTEP team? It will likely be decided on a case-by-case and injury-by-injury basis. As a prediction, expect Stetz and Shakir back in the lineup with Holomalia-Gonzalez and Holani waiting one more week to make their debut (or used on a very limited basis).
Will Albertsons Stadium Be Full?
AD Jeremiah Dickey and his team has made a major push to sell out all six home games in the 2021 season. That starts on Friday night. As of Wednesday, there are around 4,000 unsold tickets. While a sellout seems like a stretch at this point, a crowd of 34,000 would be a step in the right direction after the last few years of declining ticket sales. With Oklahoma State coming to town in week three, it’s a great start for Dickey and his team.
A near capacity full-throated crowd will be music to the ears of Boise State players. After a season of deafening silence in Albertsons Stadium, players and coaches alike have expressed their excitement about fans returning to The Blue to reclaim one of the biggest homefield advantages in college football.
This shouldn’t be a close contest. UTEP is making progress towards competing for Conference USA titles, but they aren’t on Boise State’s level. Even if early season growing pains continue for the new Boise State staff, the talent gap up and down the roster will be enough for the Broncos to win in comfortable fashion. Boise State should flirt with the mythical #HalfAHundred points, and the defensive line should get back to their dominant ways. Final score: Boise State 52 UTEP 14.