BOISE STATE VS UT-MARTIN
Location: Boise, Idaho (Albertsons Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 17th at 2:00 p.m. (Mountain Time)
Television: Fox Sports 1 (FS1)
Streaming: Fox Sports app
Radio: Bronco Radio Network and KBOI/KTIK
Head-to-Head: These two have only played once back in 2013 when the Broncos trounced the Skyhawks 63-14. For reference, former quarterback Joe Southwick started that day.
- Can the offensive line have a dominant performance?
The push from the big guys up front was better last week, with the caveat that they were facing a less potent defensive line. Nevertheless, they looked better and they are already having to deal with missing personnel. Both right guards, Ben Dooley and Mason Randolph, missed the New Mexico game, but are still listed on the depth chart. Pass protection has been better for the Broncos through the first two games as the quarterbacks have only been sacked a total of four times.
The run game is where there needs to be a classic manhandling that we have not seen in years. We saw last week how once the running game was successful, that opened up opportunities through the air and allowed quarterback Hank Bachmeier to have more freedom within the pocket. Running backs Ashton Jeanty and George Holani ran for a combined 139 yards on 32 carries, equivalent to 4.34 yards per carry. Not bad, but not great either. The explosiveness was lacking though with Jeanty getting the longest run of the day for only 16 yards. That is what needs to change on Saturday as this is, typically, the type of opponent where you can enforce your will on the ground.
2. Will a wide receiver step up and be a difference maker?
We all knew that losing Khalil Shakir during the offseason was a tough blow and that it would be difficult, if not, impossible, to replace him. That is why offensive coordinator Tim Plough hammered home the idea that the collection of receivers as a whole have to produce rather than one specific guy.
While that is true, we haven’t seen anyone define themselves as WR #1. Stefan Cobbs didn’t register a catch last week and Billy Bowens is still getting a lot of love from Bachmeier despite what we have seen on the field. Cole Wright caught a deep ball from Bachmeier in the first quarter last week that went for 47 yards. That would be his only catch of the game. Out of all the players in the wide receiver group, Latrell Caples has shown his versatility and has been able to find open space during medium-yardage situations. Caples found the endzone twice in Albuquerque with the help of some creative playcalling towards the end of the game.
3. Will the Broncos slow down a potent Skyhawk offense?
The UT-Martin Skyhawks aren’t your run of the mill FCS team that you pay a million dollars to get clobbered. The squad out of western Tennessee boasts a FCS top-ten ranked offense in total yards per game, producing an average of 503 yards. In the air, UT-Martin ranks seventh in the FCS, averaging 330.5 yards per game. The run game is nothing to scoff at as they have a respectable 172.5 yard average.
In the first two games of the season, we have seen the Broncos get beat over the top and it burned them against Oregon State. While I do understand that comparing the Beavers to the Skyhawks is like comparing apples to oranges, teams all over the country have speed and UT-Martin has an identity of getting chunk plays. We do not know if JL Skinner is going to play this week after missing the UNM game, but Alexander Teubner and Kaonohi Kaniho both stepped up and did a good job of preventing any big plays.
The Broncos bounced back against New Mexico, but not in a fist-pumping manner that signified Oregon State was a one-off. We need to remember that the Lobos held Boise State to zero points through the first quarter and were only down ten at half. Defense and special teams led the way against a dismal Lobo offense.
This week’s game will be tougher than last week’s Mountain West matchup in Albuquerque.
The Broncos were able to suck the life out of New Mexico with their defensive performance and grind the game away. That is not going to happen against UT-Martin.
Their offense has enough pop to it that a few lackadaisical efforts by the secondary may make this game much closer than it should be. Skyhawk quarterback Dresser Winn has compiled 661 yards and six passing touchdowns through two games. Senior wide receiver Colton Dowell already has 17 catches for 259 yards and is a long body at 6’3”.
Oddsmakers have the Broncos favored by 21. Last week, Boise State hit the spread right on the money at 17. I would take UT-Martin to cover +21.
As for who wins, I am picking Boise State to win semi-comfortably. The defense will cause fits for the Skyhawks in the trenches, but, similar to the UNM game, the Broncos will give up a handful of big plays that will allow UT-Martin to hang around. The home crowd gets to enjoy a revamped gameday experience that includes a new tradition that has a notable community member or alumni raise a “Blue Chaos” flag prior to kickoff, similar to the Seattle Seahawks pregame ritual.
Boise State 35 - UT-Martin 17