BOISE STATE AT UTEP
Location: El Paso, Texas (Sun Bowl)
Date/Time: Friday, September 23rd at 7:00 p.m. (Mountain Time)
Television: CBS Sports Network (CBSSN)
Streaming: CBS Sports app
Radio: Bronco Radio Network and KBOI/KTIK
Head-to-Head: Boise State is 6-0 against the Miners and won last year’s matchup in Boise 54-13. The closest margin of victory in the series was in the 2000 Humanitarian Bowl where UTEP fell 38-23.
- Is this new offensive mindset here to stay?
Boise State has prided itself on offensive creativity and exposing weaknesses in their opponent’s scheme. This is what led to Boise State being must-watch TV against anyone at any given time. The points-per-game stat has trickled downward in recent years and hit a low point in 2021 when the Broncos averaged less than 30 points. Many of us, including myself, thought that this was a product of lackluster playcalling and ineffective scheming.
Turn back the clock to the UT-Martin game and listen to a soundbite from Fox Sports play-by-play man Alex Faust. He and color analyst Petros Papadakis discussed how in their meetings with the Bronco coaching staff, Andy Avalos and Tim Plough had a serious sit-down in the offseason to discuss the offense’s role in their mission to win football games. Later in the week, Plough met with the media and went further into what was mentioned on the broadcast. Essentially, he described how the offense is there to support the defense by not turning the ball over and managing the clock.
A rock fight isn’t appealing to a majority of Bronco nation, but it may be the best course of action for 2022. Us college football sickos revel in the games where the likes of Iowa, Wisconsin, and fellow Mountain West foe San Diego State struggle to even find the endzone once. Yet, they still find a way to win at the end of the day.
This game against UTEP is not a great barometer of this philosophy, but the following three weeks will.
2. Will the running attack be as productive this week?
The offensive philosophy in place shines a brighter light on the run game and how effective it needs to be. If you can’t run the ball, then problems begin bubbling up and impacting the rest of the team.
George Holani looked like the George of 2019 where he burst onto the scene and made his mark as a freshman. Running for 110 yards on 24 carries, he averaged nearly five yards per carry and showed some burst with a 34-yard gain. He doesn’t need to produce gaudy stats to impact the game, but the running back stable and the offensive line need to establish the run game for the Broncos to execute their preferred style of winning.
UTEP should provide ample opportunities as they are one of the worst teams in the FBS in defending the run. The Miners give up 199 rushing yards per game on 4.86 yards per carry.
We still haven’t seen right guard Ben Dooley suit up for the Broncos in 2022 and there has not been an update on his status.
3. Will the injury bug plague Boise State?
Even in a comfortable win on The Blue, the Broncos dealt with a handful of injuries and have lost multiple guys for the season. Linebacker Marco Notarainni is officially done with a torn ACL and both Markel Reed and Austin Bolt are out as well. Cortez Hogans has not played a snap yet after coming in as a Juco transfer.
The defense has enough depth to circumvent the losses already suffered, but the offense needs to maintain its health. Namely, George Holani and Ashton Jeanty need to stay active throughout the course of this season. If any one of those two gets sidelined, the offense will be on pins and needles.
Similar to last week, this should be a stress-free game that allows the Broncos to work on fine-tuning their operation prior to facing San Diego State next week. UTEP is coming off of a double-digit loss to New Mexico as they committed seven turnovers, four of those being interceptions. Their only win this season came against lowly New Mexico State 20-13.
Spencer Danielson and the Bronco defense will clog up any lanes and prevent the Miners from getting into any semblance of a rhythm. The secondary will force at least two interceptions, giving the offense the chance to break the game open early and salt the game away.
The offense will capitalize if given good field position, but will still punt a handful of times. Both Holani and Jeanty will find the endzone on the ground and show how good of a tandem they are.
DraftKings has the Broncos favored by sixteen points as of Thursday afternoon. I expect the Broncos to cover with relative ease and come back to Boise 3-1.
Boise State 38 - UTEP 10
A special shout out to Boise State athletic director Jeramiah Dickey as he returns to his old stomping grounds in El Paso, Texas. Not only is he from “The Sun City”, but he also began his career in athletic administration at UTEP.