Key #1: Continued Offensive Line Improvement
The changes Boise State made to the offensive line in while in Reno continue to pay dividends. John Ojukwu and Donte Harrington once again got the start at right tackle and right guard respectively and showed further improvement. The entire offense was a benefactor last week against Air Force, gaining 530 yards of total offense and scoring 48 points.
The main difference with their performance against the Falcons was the resurgence of running back Alexander Mattison. Prior to the game, Mattison had only one 100 yard rushing performance, after running for over 1,000 yards last year. This accomplishment was even more impressive considering Air Force has the #16 ranked rush defense in the nation, allowing just over 108 yards per game. If Boise State can continue the momentum they have built around improved offensive line play to ensure a balanced offensive attack, their probability increases substantially.
Key #2: Contain and Pressure Zach Wilson
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson was committed to the Broncos for 6 months before he decommitted just 8 days before the early National Signing Day. This was an obvious shock to Bronco coaches, players, and fans. Coach Bryan Harsin has dismissed this topic as ‘simply how recruiting is.’
Despite this politically correct answer, it would seem believable that the Broncos might be extra inspired to welcome him back to Albertsons Stadium. Throwing his whole backstory aside, Wilson is a true freshman quarterback who has only played in 4 total games this season.
A year ago he was under center at Corner Canyon High School in Utah. Despite the young man’s talent, Boise State would greatly benefit from putting consistent pressure on Wilson through delayed or disguised blitz packages. In his limited playing time this year, Wilson has yet to throw an interception, but that could change if Boise State is able to disrupt his progression and rush his decisions.
Wilson is a dual threat quarterback, but has only registered 48 yards rushing in his 4 games this season. Despite this, the Broncos might need to provide a spy to ensure he does not escape the pocket and make big plays on the ground.
Key #3: Limit Big Plays
Limiting big plays is an obvious way to be successful in college football. Boise State struggled a bit against Air Force to limit these plays and gave up three scoring plays of 15 yards or more to the Falcons. While some halftime adjustments help prevent any of those long scoring plays from occurring in the second half, the Broncos can ill afford to give up any big plays to BYU.
The Cougars utilized two big plays (including a 32-yard halfback pass for a touchdown) against Wisconsin to score 10 of the 24 points they needed to hold off the Badgers. The last time the BYU visited Boise, quarterback Brett Rypien threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns to go along with the Broncos 3 other turnovers. Boise State will have to limit both big plays and turnovers in order to walk off the Blue Turf victorious on Saturday.
ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) gives the Broncos an 83.9% chance to beat the Cougars on Saturday. Despite the Cougar’s 4-4 record, BYU nearly always provides a close game when they play the Broncos.
Due to BYU’s offensive struggles and the momentum the Broncos took home from Colorado Springs last weekend, I see the Boise State winning comfortably in this matchup. Boise State 38 BYU 17