Predictions (my prediction can be found at the bottom of this article)
Jeremy Mauss (Mountain West Wire Manager): Boise State 38, Colorado State 13
Matt Kenerly (Mountain West Wire Editor): Boise State 42, Colorado State 21
Erik Smiley (Mountain West Wire Broncos Contributor): Boise State 58, Colorado State 16
Collin Clovis (Mountain West Wire Broncos Contributor): Boise State 42, Colorado State 17
Josh Fredlund (Mountain West Wire Rams Contributor): Boise State 52, Colorado State 24
Brad Hubbard (Mountain West Wire Rams Contributor): Boise State 38, Colorado State 17
Boise State Offense Update
While perhaps not as explosive as years past, the Bronco offense has once again been a strong force. Boise State has averaged 458 total yards a game on the year which is good for 22nd in the country and 1st in the conference. Boise State is averaging 28 points per game which is 12th in the country and again 1st in the conference. Despite using 3 different starting quarterbacks and 2 different starting running backs, the offense has kept on churning up yards and points. The Broncos have coughed up 15 turnovers in 11 games which is a bit high but did not have either an interception or fumble lost last week against Utah State.
Boise State Defense Update
The Boise State defense is middle of the pack nationally in most statistical categories and has given up an average of 346 yards and 21 points a game in 2019. Boise State comes up 3rd and 4th respectively in these categories within the conference. The Broncos do have 15 takeaways for the year.
Of note on the defense is the stellar play of Curtis Weaver. The 2020 NFL draft prospect has 44 tackles and 13.5 sacks on the year. His sack total is good enough for 3rd in the country. Weaver also has 34 sacks in his career and this gives the junior the most amongst active players along with the most in Mountain West history.
Rams’ Offense Update and Notables
Mike Bobo’s offense once again features a highly charged passing attack with talented wide receivers. The problem for the Rams is that they are only mildly successful with this strategy. Colorado State does gain a respectable 307 yards on average per game through the air which translates to approximately 29 points this year. Nineteen interceptions thrown for the year has not helped the cause and O’Brien is simply not as accurate as Colin Hill.
1) Patrick O’Brien, Junior Quarterback
The Nebraska transfer has certainly found himself in a groove in the last 5 games with 8 touchdowns against 3 interceptions with 1,560 yards in that time frame. O’Brien does have a 61% completion percentage which is acceptable but is not a threat with his legs. O’Brien has performed markedly worse against stiffer competition this season and the Broncos secondary will be the toughest coverage he has faced all year.
2) Jaylen Thomas, Freshman Running Back
The freshman running back has been gaining more and more touches as the year has gone along. This was forced upon Thomas as Marvin Kinsey, the team’s senior lead back, was suspended earlier in the year and was no longer with the Rams afterwards. Thomas was only able to gain 23 yards on 14 attempts last week against the tough defense of Wyoming.
3) Warren Jackson, Junior Wide Receiver
Tall, athletic, fast, and dangerous… those would all be appropriate adjectives to describe Warren Jackson. At 6 foot 6, Jackson is a big presence on the field. In his junior year, Jackson has really taken his game to the next level with 1,035 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns. O’Brien will need Jackson to get open and make plays to give the Rams hope to score the upset.
Rams’ Defense Update and Notables
Colorado State has given up an average of 381 yards a game with 175 of those through the air and 205 on the ground. Statically this makes the Rams the best team against the pass in the conference but this may be alluding to the fact that the Rams trail so frequently that opponents need not throw the ball often late in games. Colorado State’s defense has produced 13 turnovers in 11 games.
1) Dequan Jackson, Sophomore Linebacker
Jackson has really began to make an imprint on the Ram’s defense in his second year on the team and his first as a starter. For the season, Jackson has 81 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, and 1.5 sacks. Jackson does have a good sense of the ball and has come up with 2 fumble recoveries in 2019.
2) Jamal Hicks, Senior Safety
The Senior Hicks is the captain and leader of this defensive unit. Hicks leads the team with 102 tackles and has 1.5 sacks for the year with 5.5 tackles for a loss. For his career, Hicks has 3 interceptions and a forced fumble as well on his resume.
3) Logan Stewart, Junior Safety
Hicks’ partner in crime in the secondary is Logan Stewart. Stewart has 71 tackles and 2 interceptions for the year. Boise State likes to take deep shots to their receivers and Stewart must be there if the Bronco wideouts can beat the Rams’ cornerbacks.
Broncos to Keep an Eye On
Here are some Boise State players to watch out for in this contest:
1) Jaylon Henderson, Senior Quarterback
Until told differently, Bronco Nation should expect Henderson to make his 3rd straight start for Boise State. After appearing sporadically in his first two years, Henderson has had two very good games for the Broncos and racked up 479 yards and 6 touchdowns against one interception in those two contests to go along with 53 yards gained with his legs. While maybe not a superstar, Henderson has been a steadying force and has helped Boise State to 2 straight wins in which the team has had arguably their best performances of the year.
2) George Holani, Freshman Running Back
Boise State appears to have another superstar running back in their hands with this true freshman. Holani has 870 yards for the year on a 5.9 yards per carry average and seven touchdowns while also hauling in 18 receptions for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns. Holani had a coming out game last week against Utah State with 192 total yards and two touchdowns.
3) John Hightower, Senior Wide Receiver
The multi-talented senior wideout has been creeping up draft boards as his terrific season continues. Hightower has returned kicks, completed a pass, and has rushed for 141 yards on 13 attempts in 2019. But where John Hightower does his most damage is when he is catching the ball. Hightower has 40 receptions for 810 yards to go along with 7 touchdowns this year.
4) Riley Whimpey, Junior Defensive End
Whimpey seems to have fully recovered from a serious knee injury he suffered in late 2018 and now leads the team in tackles in 2019. Whimpey has 59 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks for the year. Whimpey is capable of dropping into coverage as well as stopping the run and has also forced a fumble and recovered a loose ball on the year.
5) Avery Williams, Junior Cornerback
Coach Bryan Harsin called Avery Williams ‘a coach on the field’ recently and the veteran cornerback will be called upon to help stymie the Rams’ passing attack. Williams is also a special teams super weapon and has blocked a kick and returned two punts for touchdowns for the year.
Boise State Game Plan for Victory
Here are the keys for a Broncos victory in Fort Collins:
1) Win the Turnover Battle
The Broncos are the heavy favorites in this road contest against a team with nothing to lose. The quickest way to inspire confidence in the Rams is turning the ball over. If Boise State can play it a bit safe and hold on to the ball, they should be able to grind out a victory and move to 11-1.
2) Strong Offensive Line Play
The Broncos offensive line has taken criticism over the year whether it be warranted or not. With the insertion of sophomore Jake Stetz, the line has looked a lot stronger last week in both keeping Henderson upright and opening holes for Holani. In potentially cold and wet conditions, the Broncos will need their big men up front to hold off the Rams rush and win the battle in the trenches.
3) Stay Disciplined on Defense
The Broncos defense showed their mettle in all three lines of the defense in the last 2 games. The defensive line has been disrupting the run and getting pressure on the quarterback while the secondary has been locking up the receivers while the linebackers have been creating disruption all over the field. The Broncos can use this game to continue to focus on sticking to their assignments before a more threatening challenge against the Rainbow Warriors the following week.
I am not going to sit here and build any faux drama for this game. I like Boise State to win this contest handily. The most advantageous things going in the Rams favor is that this is a short week for both teams, they have the home field advantage, and the weather calls for potential snow showers. All of these factors should not matter too much in this contest.
Colorado State is currently at 4-7 for the year and not looking especially inspiring on either side of the ball. Meanwhile, Boise State is a top 25 team and has played 2 of their best games in the last two weeks. I like the Broncos to grind out a victory on Friday and be ready for the Mountain West Conference Championship game the following week.
Boise State 34, Colorado State 17