BOISE STATE VS. UCF
Location: Boise, Idaho (Albertsons Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 9th at 5:00 p.m. (Mountain Time)
Television: FS1 (Fox Sports 1)
Streaming: Fox Sports App
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KBOI 93.1 FM (Bronco Radio Network)
Head-to-Head: This is only the second time that these two programs have faced off. The first came back in 2021 when Boise State traveled to Orlando and had to endure a multiple-hour lightning delay. The Broncos wound up losing that contest 36-31 despite leading 21-0 in head coach Andy Avalos’ debut.
Tale of the Tape
- Each team is coming off of very different results in week one. Boise State was trounced in Seattle by Washington, 56-19. UCF, meanwhile, smacked Kent State at home in their first official game as a member of the Big 12. Opening weekend always leads to overreactions, but the best rule of thumb to follow is that your team is probably not as good or bad as they appeared.
- Both the Broncos and Knights have tremendous, dual-threat quarterbacks that can light up the stat sheet. UCF’s John Rhys Plumlee passed for 281 yards and 3 TDs while rushing for 90 yards on eight carries in last week’s win. The potential for Boise State’s Taylen Green is off the charts, but his performance against Washington was a bit lackluster. Yes, he threw for 244 yards, but he only ran for 31 yards. The defensive coordinators of both teams will have a devil of a time scheming ways to limit both quarterbacks, forcing them to move the chains via the air.
- UCF bullied the Golden Flashes in the trenches, totaling 389 yards on the ground with three players having more than 80 (Johnny Richardson - 100, John Rhys Plumlee - 90, RJ Harvey - 84). Boise State was expected to rely on the ground and pound attack a week ago. However, the offensive philosophy put on display was anything but that. An early deficit in the second quarter forced offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan’s hand, but the Broncos did have success when they ran it, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. With George Holani getting banged up, expect to see Ashton Jeanty receive a majority of the snaps.
- This is the position group on the offensive side of the ball that will dictate whether this game is close or not.
Boise State’s wideouts came out of the gates very slow last week and just didn’t seem ready for primetime. Drops, limited separation...drops. If you’re electing to pass often, you need your receivers to make plays. Without that, and you are a one-dimensional offense. To put a pin in it, running back Ashton Jeanty led the Broncos with 109 receiving yards, 50 more than any receiver.
As for UCF, they spread the rock around as ten different players recorded a reception last week. The Knights have two seniors leading the position group, Javon Baker and Kobe Hudson. Sophomore Xavier Townsend takes up the third starting spot, but keep an eye out for Florida transfer Trent Whittemore. The former Gator stands at 6-4 and is listed as a co-starter on the UCF depth chart alongside Hudson.
- At tight end, Gus Malzahn was able to distribute the ball to his big guys. Starter Alec Holler had two catches for 21 yards and a touchdown while backup Randy Pittman Jr. hauled in three receptions for the same amount of yardage. For Boise State, neither Riley Smith or Matt Lauter were able to impact the stat sheet, recording zero receptions between the two of them.
- The offensive line battle looks even as both programs showed out well in week one. Despite Boise State’s lack of substantial rushing yards, two young men showed out in their starting roles against a top PAC-12 defensive line - left tackle Kage Casey (sophomore) and right guard Roger Carreon (redshirt freshman). Both were composed and did a tremendous job considering the circumstances. The UCF o-line is full of veteran players as all five starters are at least in their redshirt junior year. I will say that the Broncos have a narrow edge when it comes to the average weight of each team’s starting offensive lineman (298.2 for UCF vs. 304.6 for BSU).
- On the defensive line, the Knights have a redshirt sophomore starting at defensive tackle named Lee Hunter that led the team in total tackles versus Kent State and managed to record a sack. Overall, UCF was able to get to the quarterback four times and make the opposing offense uncomfortable. Boise State’s defense did get to Heisman candidate Michael Penix Jr. early in the first quarter via linebacker Andrew Simpson, but that was the only sack that was recorded against the lefty gunslinger all game. In terms of the defensive line, defensive end Ahmed Hassenein and nose tackle Herbert Gums’ names were hardly mentioned, if at all. The Broncos need the front four to make themselves known for the defense to have a shot at getting off the field.
- At linebacker, both teams have great leadership commanding the rest of the defense. For Boise State, DJ Schramm is the guy. He led the team in tackles a year ago after waiting for his moment in the spotlight and continues to be a great run-stuffer within the gaps. Andrew Simpson has the potential to be a game-wreaker, but he still is getting his feet wet as a full-time starter. UCF has two guys, WILL Jason Johnson and MIKE Walter Yates III, that are seasoned players having been through the ringer. The heart of the Knights defense will not be lost in the hostile environment of The Blue, that I can assure you.
- Ah. This last defensive group received the most flak from Bronco Nation when the clock hit zeroes six days ago. Despite knowing that Washington has three wide receivers that could start nearly anywhere in the nation, the secondary of Boise State was burned consistently over the top and couldn’t do anything about it. The Huskies targeted certain cornerbacks and safeties (Alexander Teubner, Rodney Robinson and Kaonohi Kaniho) and had immense success doing so. I don’t know what can be solved in a week, but not playing one of the top-five offenses in the country might just help temper those secondary concerns (for now). UCF has great length at both of their corner spots (6-3 and 6-1), but the one potential break in the dam may come at safety. Sophomore Nikai Martinez (5-11, 170 lbs) holds down the starting spot, but his backup is also a fellow sophomore. When combining inexperience with a near-sold out Albertsons Stadium, Boise State could take advantage of Martinez and his understudy, Demari Henderson.
- The UCF Knights dominated to such an extent that we hardly got a look at their special teams unit. Sophomore kicker Colton Boomer was only called on for PATs, converting all eight of his attempts. Punter Mitch McCarthy trotted onto the field once, sending a ball 42 yards.
- Bronco kicker Jonah Dalmas and punter James Ferguson-Reynolds had a few more reps in Seattle to say the least. Dalmas went 2/2 on his field goal attempts, nailing a game-long of 39 yards. However, he did miss one of his two PAT attempts via a doink off the left upright. The Aussie punter was sent out seven times, averaging 52.1 yards a punt. That number doesn’t include a ball that was nearly downed at the one, but a miscommunication let the pigskin trickle into the endzone for a touchback.
- For Boise State, no changes came in the updated depth chart for this week. The only injury that we didn’t get clarification on was running back George Holani’s minor scare against Washington. He returned to action in that game, but the Broncos have put a pitch count on him before.
- Aside from the depth chart, offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan did say that wide receiver Prince Strachan may get some touches Saturday. Whether or not he was just trying to quell the press, we will have to wait and see.
- According to various UCF reporters, there are no depth chart modifications from last week to this week.
Why UCF Will Win
The Knights are able to reveal the truth about Boise State’s secondary.
It is just not good.
Gus Malzahn loves to play a high-tempo style that forces defenses to be on their heels. That’s how UCF came back to beat BSU in Orlando two years ago. John Rhys Plumlee has ample time in the pocket to find his receivers, and if that fails, he will scramble his way for multiple big gains that deflate the Broncos. Defensively, the Knight secondary is able to suffocate Boise State’s receivers, forcing Boise State to grind their way to points. A turnover or two through the air seals the deal as Plumlee and company leave The Blue with a win and a series sweep as both a G5 member and a P5 member.
Why Boise State Will Win
Bush Hamdan maximizes the three-headed monster that is Taylen Green, Ashton Jeanty and George Holani. Even though Green may have made the right read on a handful of options a week ago, he needs to be selfish and show that he can make you pay via his scramble ability. The wide receivers clean up the drops from last week and are able to consistently move the chains with reliable 10-15 yard gains. The big play deep ball is nice, but this offense doesn’t have to rely on that.
The defensive front finds a way to pressure Plumlee in the pocket without letting him navigate his way into the second level. That allows Schramm and Simpson to do what they do best...meeting runners in their tracks.
Most importantly, defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson and the secondary rectify the tactical mistakes made against Washington. This Bronco backline will take a bit of time to be cohesive, leaving Danielson to put his players in the best position to succeed based on where they are now.
3 Players to Watch
Everyone knows the QBs in this matchup, but there are some sneaky under-the-radar players that could swing this game one way or the other.
Zion Washington (Boundary Safety - Boise State)
- With the struggles of Alexander Teubner on display last week, Washington may get some reps filling in for Teubner from time to time. At worst, it gives a young guy a chance to energize the third level defenders and a chance to make a play.
Shea Whiting (Wide Receiver - Boise State)
- Starter Billy Bowens is a high character player within the Bronco locker room, but he had some troublesome drops against Washington. Whiting is a redshirt senior and has patiently bided his time behind other receivers. If last week wasn’t an impetus for Hamdan to give some other wideouts an opportunity, then things could turn south.
Trent Whittemore (Wide Receiver - UCF)
- I mentioned him earlier in this piece, but when you get a transfer from the Florida Gators that is 6-4, there is something there. Even though Whittemore didn’t tally any receptions against Kent State, he can be a piece that separates the Knights from the Broncos.
Spread: Boise State +3.5 (-112), UCF -3.5 (-108)
Total: 60.5 points (Over -112, Under -108)
Straight Up Money Line: Boise State +145, UCF -175
Optimism can be a cruel thing if it shoots back right in your face. I know that Boise State just played one of the best teams they have faced in the last decade, but it just didn’t look...right.
UCF has a cupcake against Villanova after Saturday’s game, allowing all of the focus to be directly aimed at the Broncos. I want to believe that Bush Hamdan and Spencer Danielson will make tangible adjustments that turn the tide for this season.
I need to see it to believe it.
Show me the money.