BOISE STATE AT UTAH STATE
Location: Logan, Utah (Maverik Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 18th at 5:00 p.m. (Mountain Time)
Television: CBS Sports Network (CBSSN)
Streaming: CBS Sports app
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KBOI 93.1 FM (Bronco Radio Network)
Head-to-Head: Boise State leads the all-time series 22-5. Last year, the Broncos defeated the Aggies on Senior Day, 42-23. The last win for Utah State came back in 2015 when they handled Bryan Harsin’s crew in Logan, 52-26.
Tale of the Tape
- It feels like an entire offseason has gone by in the span of a week.
First, Eric McAlister will not be allowed to rejoin the team according to Spencer Danielson. This isn’t a huge shock, but he did mention that the leadership team on the roster had sizable input on the decision.
We also received an update on Maddux Madsen and his timetable.
He is out for the rest of the season and will have surgery next week.
Unfortunate to say the least, but with Taylen Green able to step in, the Broncos have endured worse circumstances.
Finally, and, most importantly, Ashton Jeanty will return to the field Saturday.
He has been injured since the Wyoming contest, but there were murmurs and questions about whether he would sit the remainder of the season in anticipation of entering the transfer portal. That may still happen, but it’s good to see him put on the pads again.
- With all this in mind, Taylen Green was named a captain for tomorrow’s game and the dynamic underclassmen duo of Prince Strachan and Austin Bolt will be relied upon more with McAlister out of the fold. Both showed moxie in last week’s win against New Mexico and proved that they can certainly help this team win ball games.
- In the face of all this drama, one group has remained constant.
The offensive line.
This is one of the best and most consistent displays of play by a Bronco offensive line in years.
Little-to-no missed assignments and young guys proving their mettle in the trenches.
The security and confidence to not have to worry about how the o-line will hold up should not be taken for granted.
- For Utah State, the offense is led by senior QB Cooper Legas. In 2023, he has thrown for nearly 1,700 yards, 18 TDs, but has tossed eight interceptions. Legas plays similar to Andrew Peasley of Wyoming in that he is a gamer and can will his team down the field based on sheer effort and fortitude. However, Legas is more of an over-the-top threat with his arm.
- On the ground, the Aggies rely on a two-running back system made up of Rahsul Faison and Davon Booth. Combined, Faison and Booth have rushed for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
- Looking at the receivers, Utah State utilizes three guys for a vast majority of their yardage through the air (Jalen Royals, Terrell Vaughn and Micah Davis). The trio has accounted for 2,177 of out the Aggies 2,710 total receiving yards.
- The personnel on the defensive side of the ball is, to put it lightly, getting banged up.
Andrew Simpson is battling a hand injury, DJ Schramm is attempting to fight his way back onto the field, and Marco Notarainni won’t return until, at the earliest, the bowl game (if Boise State qualifies for one).
That leads us to this week’s Dan Paul Hammer honoree, Chase Martin. The true freshman continues the trend of young players being bestowed with a very high honor that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
- Seyi Oladipo has increased his production steadily, leading the Broncos in total tackles a week ago along with three tackles-for-loss.
- On the defensive line, Ahmed Hassenein has been tremendous, compiling two sacks against the Lobos. Overall, the Egyptian superstar leads the team by far with nine sacks and is beginning to cement himself as the pass rusher for Boise State.
- Flipping to Utah State, they are mediocre at defending the pass (71st in passing yards allowed) and even worse at limiting the run (98th in rushing yards allowed).
- Statistically, defensive end Paul Fitzgerald (native of Idaho Falls, Idaho) takes charge on the defensive line with a team-leading five sacks while safety Ike Larsen stands atop the interception column with four interceptions.
- When it comes to turnover margin, the Aggies are treading water with a +0 margin. However, they have forced 19 turnovers (nine fumbles and ten interceptions).
- No news is good news for the Broncos’ special teams unit. Jonah Dalmas continues extending his record-breaking career and James Ferguson-Reynolds manages to impress further and further as the season progresses.
It would be nice if there was more explosiveness in the return game, but beggars can’t be choosers.
- Utah State has a solid kicker in their own right via Elliott Nimrod. The junior followed Blake Anderson from Arkansas State and is 9-11 this season with a long of 45 yards.
At punter, the Aggies made a midseason change by going from fellow Aussie Stephen Kotsanlee to Ryan Marks. The latter averages a shade under 45 yards a punt, but has booted one for 75 yards this season.
Why Utah State Will Win
Even though fans were, for the most part, neutral or pleased with the decision to dismiss Andy Avalos, the decision is still a shock to the system.
It also forces everyone else on staff to step up in ways that they haven’t had to before. Yes, athletic director Jeramiah Dickey said that they would hire an additional staffer to fill the empty chain of command. However, Spencer Danielson is going to call plays on the defensive side of the ball while operating as the head coach.
That is easier said than done.
In terms of the Aggies winning and sending the Broncos back to Boise with a sixth loss, they will need to prevent the rejuvenated players in blue and orange from establishing momentum early and widening the gap in the first half. If Utah State is able to do that, then the crowd will believe more as the game goes on and despite the Aggies not having a tremendous year themselves, a tight game against Boise State will bring out the best in Blake Anderson’s crew.
Why Boise State Will Win
With Avalos not influencing offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan’s playcalling style, he may open it up more and play with more tempo. Andy always prioritized controlling the clock and limiting possessions for the opponent. Now, if Spencer Danielson is fine with it, he may let Bush cook.
On the field, Taylen Green is back to being QB1 and with Ashton Jeanty being able to suit up (in a limited role), this offense can get ignited quickly. Add into the gameplan the increased presence of Prince Strachan and Austin Bolt and this game could get ugly quickly.
With all the hype videos sent out this week and the players advocating for Danielson to get a shot at the permanent coaching vacancy, I can’t envision these guys not playing their guts out to get this win.
Spread: Boise State -4 (-110), Utah State +4 (—110)
Total: 64.5 points (-110 for the over and the under)
Straight Up Money Line: Boise State -198, Utah State +164
Even though the Broncos may appear in disarray, the climate and locker room culture seemed fractured based on reports.
A firing usually causes every man to fend for themselves.
But, this decision prior to the season essentially being over allows Spencer Danielson and company to start anew with Mountain West conference championship hopes still alive, if barely. These players will live and die with Danielson.
That’s been missing in 2023.
The talent is there for this team to finish this season 2-0 and salvage an eight or nine win season.
More importantly, I expect Boise State to walk out of Logan with a win to officially extend their bowl eligibility streak to 26 consecutive seasons.