San Jose State vs. Boise State: Three Keys to a Spartans Win
The Spartans and Broncos clash in a crucial Mountain West football tilt. Here’s our preview of how SJSU can topple Boise State.
Can the Spartans break through?
WEEK 13: San Jose State Spartans (4-0) vs. Boise State Broncos (4-1, 4-0 Mountain West)
WHEN: Saturday, November 28 — 1:00 PM PT/2:00 PM MT
WHERE: Albertsons Stadium; Boise, ID
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes FOX, by following this link.
You can also find the audio broadcast on TuneIn.
RADIO: The San Jose State broadcast can be found on 1220 AM out of Palo Alto and 95.3 FM in San Francisco. The Boise State broadcast can be found throughout Idaho on the affiliates of the Bronco Radio Network, including flagship 670 AM (KBOI) in Boise.
SERIES RECORD: Boise State leads the series 14-0. In the last meeting on November 2, 2019, the Broncos defeated the Spartans, 52-42, in San Jose State.
LAST WEEK: San Jose State had its game against Fresno State canceled because of COVID-19 concerns, while Boise State defeated Hawaii on the road, 40-32.
ODDS (as of 11/24, via Vegas Insider): Boise State -11
SP+ PROJECTION: Boise State by 9.8 (71% win probability)
FEI PROJECTION: to be determined
It may not be hyperbole to suggest that when the San Jose State Spartans take the field on Saturday afternoon, it will be for the biggest game in program history.
At a minimum, the stakes haven’t been this high for the program since 2012, when the Spartans lost what would eventually become the head-to-head tiebreaker with Utah State that September. The Boise State Broncos won’t make it easy, however, having averaged 45.8 points in four conference games thus far and winning every previous matchup between these two teams.
Here’s how San Jose State can shock the college football world and claim their first win ever against the Broncos.
Three Keys to a San Jose State Victory
1. Bring your A-game in the red zone.
One thing both teams in this game have in common is that they’ve been very proficient about getting points when venturing into the red zone, but the Broncos have operated at another level through five games in that regard. Not only are they one of 11 FBS teams with a 100% conversion rate there, they’ve scored a touchdown on 15-of-16 such possessions.
The running game has done most of the heavy lifting in that regard with 11 red zone touchdowns, but the Boise State passing game literally has not missed, either: Quarterback Hank Bachmeier is 8-for-8 with three touchdowns inside the 20. Keeping them from stepping into the end zone at will, obviously, is paramount.
2. Get to Hank Bachmeier by any means necessary.
Speaking of Boise State’s super sophomore, Mountain West defenses haven’t had much success forcing him into mistakes so far. With just one interception in 87 attempts, he’s had a lot more opportunity to get comfortable and take shots down the field against lackluster defensive lines… but San Jose State could flip that script.
Defensive ends Cade Hall and Viliami Fehoko account for a huge chunk of the Spartans’ 10.9% sack rate, which still ranks 9th nationally despite last week’s canceled game, but coordinator Derrick Odum might consider bringing more than four a little more often to keep the Broncos from doubling one or the other along the edge. This is where linebacker play could be crucial, since their ability to get home or not could stop the Broncos in their tracks or open up more deep shots to Khalil Shakir, who has seven catches of 30-plus yards, and company against man coverage. It’s a perilous path to tread, for sure, but pulling out all the stops to win may be necessary.
3. Don’t give away any field position advantages.
Avery Williams has been the big headliner in their wins over the last couple of weeks, but Boise State has benefitted from sensational special teams performances all season long. Not only is he averaging 13.3 yards per punt return, the element for which he’s best known, Williams has also averaged 29.6 yards per kick return. That is far and away the best such figure by any Broncos kick returner of the past decade; both numbers go a long way toward explaining how they have won the field position game virtually every week.
Like the red zone, this game could be won or lost based on who wins if Boise State begins their drives between their own 20- and 40-yard lines. On a per-drive basis, the Broncos have averaged 2.68 points in those situations, which ranks 28th nationally, while the Spartans have allowed just 1.19 PPD on defense (12th overall).
Keeping Williams contained is just one angle, though. What this also means is finding a way to win the turnover battle, which the Spartans have done just three times in the history of this series (and not since 2010).
The Mountain West hasn’t offered much resistance to Boise State at this point, but San Jose State is far and away the best conference opponent they have faced in 2020. A lot will hinge on how well the Spartans can hold up on defense, which has been the hindrance for them in their entire history against the Broncos. They’ve allowed fewer than 33 points just once and more than 40 in six of the last seven matchups dating back to 2007.
This game should be as good as advertised, but Boise State’s slight edges on special teams and offense will be enough to keep the Spartans from notching that elusive W on the blue.
Boise State 31, San Jose State 30