BOISE STATE AT SAN DIEGO STATE
Location: San Diego, California (Snapdragon Stadium)
Date/Time: Friday, September 22nd at 8:30 p.m. (Mountain Time)
Television: CBS Sports Network (CBBSN)
Streaming: CBS Sports App
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KBOI 93.1 FM (Bronco Radio Network)
Head-to-Head: Boise State and San Diego State are even in this matchup all-time, going 4-4 against one another. Last year’s matchup in Boise went in favor of the Broncos as Dirk Koetter orchestrated the offense to a 35-13 win.
Tale of the Tape
- It would be far-fetched to say that Boise State showed substantial growth against FCS opponent North Dakota. However, there were moments that made you think that this offense still has a ton of potential in 2023.
- Boise State’s Taylen Green looked more comfortable and free-flowing within the offense. A few more scramble opportunities were taken advantage of and for the first time this season, Green was able to find playmaker Eric McAlister over the top. We will see how well the Broncos are able to establish the run against the Aztecs, but offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan may have to rely on the arm of TG10 to keep the opposition honest.
- San Diego State’s offense has been a mixed bag to say the least. Yes, they have played two P5 teams in their first four games (UCLA and Oregon State), but QB Jalen Mayden has not been consistent and accurate enough to keep the Aztecs in striking distance during these games. A year ago, Mayden was an emergency option after the starting quarterback went down with an injury and Brady Hoke elected to bring Mayden in from the cornerback position.
After a year of reps at QB1, it doesn’t appear that situation has gotten much better in San Diego.
- The running game for Boise State had its highs and lows last week. While Jambres Dubar’s performance exceeded expectations, two fumbles by Ashton Jeanty threw a wrench into things. Without any updates or new pieces of information, it appears that George Holani will be out for a third-straight week.
The running back depth that was lauded in the preseason is now being tested before we even hit Boise State’s bye week.
- San Diego State relies on two backs to carry the load, Jaylon Armstead and Kenan Christon. The two have combined for 321 yards on the ground this season and fit the mold that has defined San Diego State’s offense for years. Mayden has been largely inefficient using his legs to gain yardage, only rushing for over 34 yards in a game once this season against Idaho State.
- The wide receiver room for the Broncos is now in a different place with Eric McAlister popping off last week for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Also, freshman freak Prince Strachan made his awaited debut last week and was able to wrangle in a catch for over 20 yards. However, when asked about Strachan in his weekly presser, Andy Avalos elected to pivot towards celebrating the veterans that are on the roster.
Is he supposed to say anything negative towards his upperclassmen?
But could he have praised the development of Strachan and showcased his excitement for his potential impact this season.
- In accordance with Aztec tradition, the leading receiver for San Diego State is...the tight end! Mark Redman leads the way with 179 yards and two touchdowns while Mekhi Shaw is the only true receiver to have eclipsed 100 yards through the air this season.
- The Boise State defense finally got some pressure on the quarterback with six sacks against North Dakota. If anything, it serves as a building block and a confidence-booster as the Broncos prepare to face some stout offensive lines in Mountain West play.
- On the defensive line, Ahmed Hassenein and Demitri Washington are key players that can make or break how the rest of the defense performs.
- Linebacker Marco Notarainni has been the star of the season so far on defense, leading the team in total tackles and total sacks. Starter DJ Schramm was out for last week’s game, so we will see if he is back in action Friday.
- The secondary is where things get really interesting.
True freshman Ty Benefield has been making waves in the last seven days with him being selected to carry out the Dan Paul Hammer and having a great performance against the Fighting Hawks. Add to him Zion Washington and Dionte Thornton playing better than expected and spots may be loosening in the starting eleven. This isn’t to say that an overhaul of Boise State’s secondary depth chart is to be expected, but if certain players are getting burned time and time again, I would expect to see one of those three come in as a relief option.
- For San Diego State, two guys jump off the screen that could stifle the Broncos’ offense. Zyrus Fiaseu leads the team in total tackles and tackles for loss by a wide margin while Cedarious Barfield has already managed three interceptions in their first four games.
- As a whole, the Aztec defense has been immensely better at defending the run than the pass. Defensive coordinator Kurt Mattix’s unit is only allowing an average of 144 yards per game on the ground, but through the air, opponents are throwing for 295 yards a game.
- Boise State continues to have a dynamic kicker/punter duo in Jonah Dalmas and James Ferguson-Reynolds. Both have done great and have been tremendous assets in flipping the field and salvaging drives with three points instead of zero.
- San Diego State relies on Jack Browning to take on kicking and punting duties. Browning’s longest field goal of 2023 comes from 52 yards out, but he has missed three field goals from 30-49 yards out.
- For Boise State, the injuries are beginning to pile up as conference play arrives. George Holani, DJ Schramm, Cortez Hogans, Ben Dooley and Mason Randolph are the five players that either missed all of the UND game or exited and weren’t able to return. The youth of the Broncos may need to step up once again if there are no positive updates to report.
- Mekhi Shaw is the only Aztec that possibly may not go Friday night. Otherwise, Brady Hoke’s squad looks near 100%.
Why San Diego State Will Win
In true Aztec fashion, they are able to grind Boise State’s offense to a halt and force Taylen Green to beat them through the air. A turnover or two gives the SDSU offense free points that make Bush Hamdan and company feel pressed to answer quickly. We have seen the Bronco offense stall this season and despite an improved showing against North Dakota, San Diego State is a different animal.
If they can run the ball effectively between the tackles and control the clock, San Diego State can turn this game into a barfight that ends with both teams in the teens.
In that case, I like the Aztec’s chances.
Why Boise State Will Win
Running back Ashton Jeanty rectifies his fumbling issues and has a dominate performance considering the defensive line he is facing. This allows Taylen Green to use his legs and extend plays for big gains through the air. Another electric outing by Eric McAlister is crucial as he is the only receiver that has shown any signs of being a “dude”.
On defense, the front four plugs the gaps and prevents the Aztec running game from finding much footing. In doing so, Jalen Mayden is also forced to throw for substantial gains in order to extend drives.
Really, each team is wanting to make the other’s quarterback beat them with their arm and not their legs.
3 Players to Watch
Ty Benefield (Safety - Boise State)
- The true freshman out of Irvine, California, has jumped onto the Bronco scene and has earned rave reviews from many folks on the coaching staff, including Andy Avalos. At 6-2, he has the frame to be a disrupter and help fill a void left by current Denver Bronco JL Skinner.
Ethan Carde (Left Guard - Boise State)
- The backup left guard took the place of Ben Dooley last week and did a good job of not making us notice. If Dooley is out again, expect Carde to return to the starting lineup.
Noah Tumblin (Cornerback - San Diego State)
- A local senior, Tumblin has been a force in the secondary alongside Cedarious Barfield. He has five pass breakups this year with two interceptions to his name.
Spread: Boise State -6.5 (-108), San Diego State +6.5 (-112)
Total: 46 points (-110 odds for both the over and under)
Straight Up Money Line: Boise State -250, San Diego State +205
This game means a lot for both teams in their hopes to reach the Mountain West championship.
A win against either program is no small feat, even in years where they may be “down”.
In games where San Diego State was even talent-wise or at a disadvantage, they have only won once (a one-score win against Ohio and their backup QB).
San Diego State’s defense will keep them in it, but Boise State’s trio of running threats will wear down the Aztecs.
It won’t be pretty, but the Broncos will start Mountain West play 1-0.