BOISE STATE AT MEMPHIS
Location: Memphis, Tennessee (Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 30th at 2:00 p.m. (Mountain Time)
Streaming: ESPN App
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KBOI 93.1 FM (Bronco Radio Network)
Head-to-Head: This is the first-ever matchup between the Broncos and Tigers. However, these two teams did meet on the hardwood in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
Tale of the Tape
- The Ashton Jeanty train has officially left the station and shows no signs of slowing down. The sophomore running back has been the catalyst for any success on offense for Boise State. He leads the nation in all-purpose yards per game, total points scored and total touchdowns.
With George Holani still out and not expected to return this week, Jeanty, along with freshman Breezy Dubar, will continue to be the engines that drive this offense.
- Through Boise State’s first four games, QB Taylen Green has had a meandering start. He’s thrown for four TDs, but has been intercepted four times. With a 53% completion rate and 738 passing yards to his name, Green is on pace to fall just shy of 3,000 yards passing in the regular season.
The last time that a Boise State quarterback who was a full-time starter finished below a 60% completion percentage?
Jared Zabransky in 2005 with a 59%.
- At receiver, the Broncos only have Eric McAlister to look to as a true weapon. Everyone else is either missing in action or having a subpar beginning to the season. Even when young bucks such as Prince Strachan get a chance to show their moxie, they hardly get any opportunity to maintain that rhythm on the field.
Stefan Cobbs has shown blips of positive play, but for a COVID super senior, he needs to step up if the passing game is going to improve starting Saturday.
- The tight ends haven’t done anything wrong...but they have had a minimal impact thus far. This has been repeated in recent years and it still rings true; the Broncos don’t use their tight ends.
- On the offensive line, the headline last week was sophomore Mason Randolph returning into the fold. He is a massive player in the trenches and is one of Boise State’s best o-lineman. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows as Ethan Carde and Ben Dooley were out against the Aztecs. We will see if either of the two dress in Memphis.
- On the other side of the coin, the Memphis Tigers have a veteran quarterback in Seth Henigan and an explosive running back in Blake Watson. Henigan operates more as a pocket passer, but is willing to use his legs to extend plays and move the chains. In the Tigers’ most recent game against Missouri, Henigan threw for 316 yds and three TDs.
If the 6-3 native of Denton, TX, can sling it against a nationally-ranked SEC team, I fear for the day that the Bronco secondary might have.
- RB Blake Watson actually mirrors Boise State’s Jeanty with how he is used both in the ground game and through the air. This season, Watson has gained 555 all-purpose yards and is responsible for five TDs altogether.
- When it comes to receiving, the Tigers have a handful of guys that they distribute the ball to . Beyond Watson performing is multiple duties, Roc Taylor, Demeer Blankumsee and Tauskie Dove all have over 100 yards receiving and each have a receiving touchdown in 2023.
- The Tiger offensive line has done a nice job protecting their QB this season, only allowing eight sacks to date. There is a veteran presence from left guard to right guard, but both tackle positions are occupied by redshirt sophomores.
- Despite finding a way to win last week against San Diego State, Boise State’s defense still allowed a porous Aztec offense to put up 31 points. Simply put, the defense is doing just enough to keep the Broncos in the game.
- It should be pointed out that the Broncos have had some major turnover luck this season that has either kept them in games they shouldn’t have or prevented an opponent from sending a message early in the game (examples include the two INTs vs. UCF and the goal line fumble against SDSU).
- Linebacker Marco Notarainni has been the star on defense, leading the team in total tackles (28), sacks (2) and total tackles for loss with Ahmed Hassanein (3). With DJ Schramm fighting a lingering shoulder injury, Notarainni needs to keep playing at this high level if the Broncos want to maintain integrity in the second level.
It was just announced that freshman Chase Martin will be bringing the Dan Paul Hammer out of the tunnel on Saturday.
Don’t mistake these decisions as coincidences.
- The Bronco secondary needs to stiffen up this weekend if it wants to limit the aerial assault that Memphis is capable of. More importantly, if the starters begin to get burned early on, the Boise State coaching staff needs to be able and willing to put in the young thoroughbreds (Zion Washington, Ty Benefield and Dionte Thornton).
- For Memphis, linebacker Chandler Martin is their go-to guy. Martin leads the team in total tackles with 26 and 3.5 tackles for loss. As for getting to the QB, the defense has combined for ten sacks, led by Andres Fox and Derick Hunter Jr. with 1.5 sacks each.
- The Tigers have caused a sizable nine turnovers in 2023, yet, seven of those have been forced fumbles. They are looking to punch, rip and yank the ball out of opponent’s hands.
Looks like they are doing a pretty good job at that.
- Even though defensive back DeAgo Brumfield hasn’t registered an interception this season, he leads the team by a country mile in pass breakups with six to his name.
- I sound like a broken record, but Jonah Dalmas and James Ferguson-Reynolds continue to be superstars on special teams. In last week’s contest with SDSU, Dalmas was perfect with both field goal attempts and PATs while JFR averaged nearly 51 yards on five punts with a long of 67.
- However, on kick return coverage, the Aztecs were able to break a few long returns that set themselves up around midfield. With the defense not being stellar this season, Boise State’s kick and punt return coverage needs to prevent any leaks in the dam.
- Memphis has a bit of a situation at kicker as they used backup punter Tanner Gillis to take over kicking duties last week against Missouri due to an injury to Seth Morgan. Gillis did perform well, converting both field goal attempts that included a 43-yard attempt.
- For Boise State, it seems as if when they get one player back, someone immediately replaces their spot on the injury report. Mason Randolph is back and playing, but Ben Dooley and Ethan Carde are, as of now, out. The timeline for George Holani’s return is unknown and we have received not much of an update on his status.
- For Memphis, the only two injury concerns are to both of their primary kickers. If both remain out, expect to see punter Tanner Gillis step in.
Why Memphis Will Win
Seth Henigan and the Memphis passing attack are able to overpower Boise State’s secondary. It’s not hard to see that the Broncos are easily attackable on the perimeter and down the field. With Memphis’ size at receiver, one-on-one battles will favor the Tigers.
On defense, they are able to slow down Ashton Jeanty and force Taylen Green to either beat them via the air or utilize his legs to extend plays. In games where Green is forced to be “the guy”, he hasn’t performed terribly well.
Take Ashton Jeanty out of the game the best that you can and make Taylen beat you.
Why Boise State Will Win
Speaking of Mr. Jeanty, he will have to carry the Broncos on the ground and through the air if they are going to keep up with the Memphis offense. It feels like Boise State can’t keep relying on Jeanty as much as they are, but who am I to say what Jeanty is and isn’t capable of.
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos need to stymy Blake Watson in order to make the Tigers one-dimensional. If they allow him to run rampant, allowing passing lanes to widen, then it will be a long day for Boise State’s defense.
3 Players to Watch
Eric McAlister (Wide Receiver - Boise State)
- Leading all Bronco receivers, the aerial assault schemed by offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan is, right now, largely dependent on what kind of separation McAlister can create outside the numbers.
Tauskie Dove (Wide Receiver - Memphis)
- At 6-2, Dove has been on the receiving end of the longest reception of the season for the Tigers (52 yds). With the varying speedsters that surround Dove, don’t be shocked to see plenty of jump balls lobbed his way.
Geoffrey Cantin-Arku (Linebacker - Memphis)
- The Canadian native is second on the team in tackles and leads the Tigers in forced fumbles (2) this season. At 6-3 and 240 lbs, those running between the tackles will be met with a thunderous tackle by way of Cantin-Arku.
Spread: Boise State +3 (-115), Memphis -3 (-105)
Total: 59 points (-110 odds for both the over and under)
Straight Up Money Line: Boise State +124, Memphis -148
After traveling to San Diego in their Mountain West opener, the Broncos are on the road again.
Memphis is coming off of a one-possession loss to now-ranked Missouri.
Despite the calendar saying it’s late September, the temperature in Memphis on Saturday is supposed to hit 92 degrees (not including humidity).
I don’t feel great about this game considering the pieces that Memphis has at its disposal on offense.
Ashton Jeanty can do a lot, but he can’t do everything.