Aztecs travel to Boise for the conference opener. The Broncos have changed offensive coordinators and have lost their starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier. What to expect.
The conference opener between the Aztecs and Broncos was highly anticipated since the beginning of the season. Recent events this last week have heightened issues and raised questions as to how the Broncos will respond. On Saturday, head coach Andy Avalos relieved offensive coordinator Tim Plough of his duties and replaced him with former Bronco head coach Dirk Koetter. On Tuesday, starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier announced he was leaving the team. Whether he entered a transfer portal is unknown at this time. Why would he do this midseason? Speculation is rampant, but it is obvious that fans were disgruntled with his play and many took to social media to air their frustrations. In this day and age, it’s not sticks and stones that hurt you, it’s the viciousness of words. One can only take so much criticism before they decide that a change is in order. It’s possible this is what finally broke the proverbial camel’s back. So how will Boise State handle this weeks practice and which team will show up for the game on Friday night. Waiting in the wings is redshirt freshman Taylen Green. He is a 6’6” signal caller from Lewisville Texas. He was just tabbed as Friday’s starter. He has a limited body of work, but if his one game is any indication, he may show the talent to be a star. Earlier this year, Bachmeier was benched during the Oregon State game and Green was called on to play. His performance gave many Bronco fans hope, and perhaps gave them license to unleash their unfiltered wrath. Green ran for 102 yards and was 19/28 passing for 155 yards. That’s quite a coming out party, and if the Broncos are able to support him and provide an adequate offensive scheme, the Broncos may be well off moving forward without Bachmeier. But how will Green react to being the announced starter? More importantly, from this perspective, what will the Aztecs do differently to contain an obvious mobile quarterback?
San Diego State Aztecs (2-2) vs. Boise State Broncos (2-2)
Location: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho
Line: Boise State -6 (Provided by DraftKingsSportsbooks) Over/Under 39 points. It will be interesting to see how this changes with the departure of Bachmeier.
Date/Time: Friday, September 30th at 5:00 PM PST/6:00 PM MST
TV: Fox Sports 1
History: This is the eighth meeting between the Aztecs and the Broncos. SDSU owns a 4-3 record Boise State. The last meeting between the teams was in 2021 and resulted in a 27-16 Aztec win. The Aztecs outgained Boise State 408-319 and intercepted Bronco quarterbacks three times.
Keys to the Game
- How will the Broncos handle the sweeping changes to their offense? This week's practice will be an indicator of things to come for Boise State. New Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter will be in charge of the offense. How he changes or retools in a short week will soon be seen. Throw a new quarterback into the mix and it's certain that the offense will probably see limited set plays. Koetter will be called on to pull his varied experience as a head coach and coordinator to try and right this leaking ship called Broncos football. Of largest concern is his relationship with potentially heir apparent Taylen Green. How quickly will Green pick up on what Koetter would like to implement? How patient will Koetter be, stepping into a familiar position, but with renewed expectations? Fans are trying to catch glimpses of the two to see how they interact with each other. How good of a pupil is Green and how quick will he be able to expand his knowledge of the playbook. Serious questions, all begging for some answers. The Broncos will obviously try to make it simple for Green at the start to get him into a groove. His athletic ability has tremendous potential and it's possible that this will be on display Friday night. Green will be trying to improve upon the Bronco's offensive numbers. They have averaged 283 yards of offense a game, 120 on the ground and 163 through the air. These are certainly not your father's Boise State Broncos. These results so far are extremely anemic, and as such, precipitated the necessary changes at the coaching level. The Aztecs will be well aware of the potential unrest happening in the land of Blue Turf and will be strategizing how best to take advantage of this situation. “In the midst of chaos, there is also an opportunity,” said Sun Tzu. Every situation provides the means for exploitation. The Aztecs will need to remain focused on their strengths, which is their defense. Again, simple strategies of basic execution should provide these opportunities for the Aztecs. Defensive line integrity, outside containment to keep Green in the pocket. Quick and early pressure to force him into making a decision, sooner than he would like. These are all basic concepts of the defense. They would do well to avoid changing for changing sake. The execution implemented against Toledo’s quarterback Dequan Finn proved effective through most of the game. If they can avoid Boise State gaining momentum and focus on their defensive attack, they may be able to contain Green, George Holani and others.
- How will the Aztecs adept to a frenzied cry for offensive improvement? The Broncos are not the only ones with offensive outcry. Offensive Coordinator Jeff Hecklinski is on the hot seat if one were to listen to fans. Coach Hoke is attempting to downplay any concerns but may be forced to make some decisions if the offensive direction does not change. The offense at this point, could certainly be called offensive. Note that the Aztecs average 294 yards per game in total offense, with 220 yards on the ground and 74 through the air. Unfortunately, they are coming up against a Boise State team that is strong against the run, yielding only 107 yards per game. Something will need to give. If the Aztecs struggle with the rush, will they be able to open up a passing game? Will Burmeister continue upon the momentum of the game-winning drive last weekend? Continuity has been lacking this year and Boise State is probably not the team to expect huge opportunities to succeed through the air as the Broncos give up only 160 yards per game. Jack Browning is keeping the Aztecs in games with his placekicking and punting. He is considered by some in the media to be the league's best player at this position.
- Conference implications. Boise and Wyoming are at the top of the Mountain division with 1-0 records. Wyoming is 3-2 overall and has a more impressive body of work. They are also 3-0 at home and host the upstart San Jose State Spartans in a very important key game. Could this game be a forerunner of the conference finals? Perhaps for the winner, not so much for the loser. In the West, UNLV is at the top so far. They have been the surprise team with no one in the preseason media giving the Rebels any chance. The Aztecs have yet to establish consistency but do have time and opportunity in their schedule. After Boise, they play Hawaii, then have a bye and then play at Nevada. This is followed by the huge key matchup against Fresno State and then back-to-back games against UNLV and SJSU, both at home. This schedule, on review, provides opportunities for the Aztecs to fine-tune their performances for three weeks heading into that key three game stretch. This season so far has not lived up to any preseason anticipation, turning the Mountain West into a mundane, second tier conference instead of one that had early discussions of a possible New Years game. They truly have met with lowered expectations so far into the season.
Analysis/Prediction: My initial preseason pick of this game was an Aztec win, 32-24. This was before the early season implosion, injuries, departures, and overall offensive cluster. The experts in Las Vegas utilize an extensive algorithm to place Boise State a 27-24 winner. Based on both of these teams poor performances, that might be too many points. I’d made a comment earlier that 21 might be the over/under. I think a more realistic score will be 14-10. I think it is a toss-up as to who wins, so my prediction for the week is a score. It is a very important conference showdown for both of these teams. Boise State hopes to go to 2-0 and the Aztecs hope to be 1-0. For Boise State to have any hope of winning the game, it will be establishing a running game behind George Holani. His numbers on the year reflect the overall downturn of the Bronco offense with 286 rushing yards and 96 receiving yards. He has also accounted for 3 scores. Green will rely on Holani, as well as another pair of hopefully go to receivers. Latrell Caples (14 receptions, 125 yards) and Stefan Cobbs with 12 catches for 103 yards. They are capable receivers for Green if he can manage his progressions behind anticipated Aztec pressure. Coach Avalos will be hard pressed to ensure the offense outperforms their previous bodies of work. If this lack of production continues, it could be Avalos on the hot seat next. All is not rosy yet with San Diego State. Coach Hoke is under pressure to have Hecklinski perform instead of accepting the responsibility of poor performances. While his shoulders may be broad, there may not be much room for error. Fans want to see results, something to show that the team still has a light at the end of the tunnel. A win over Boise, even an ugly one, will show that the Aztecs still have life in their season.