Boise State vs. UCF: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Broncos and Knights battle in one of college football’s biggest games. Here’s how to watch and what to watch for.
The showdown is finally here.
WEEK 1: Boise State Broncos vs. UCF Knights
WHEN: Thursday, September 2 — 5:00 PM MT/4:00 PM PT
WHERE: Bounce House; Orlando, FL
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes ESPN, by following this link.
You can also find the audio broadcast on Broncos All-Access.
RADIO: The Boise State broadcast can be found throughout Idaho on the affiliates of the Bronco Radio Network, including flagship 670 AM (KBOI) in Boise. The UCF broadcast can be found in Orlando on 740 AM or 96.9 FM The Game.
SERIES RECORD: This is the first meeting between Boise State and UCF.
ODDS (as of 8/31, via Vegas Insider): UCF -5
SP+ PROJECTION: UCF by 5.2
FEI PROJECTION: UCF by 4.0
The Boise State Broncos head to the Sunshine State to open the season for the second time in three years, set to clash with the UCF Knights in one of college football’s most highly anticipated games of the year.
Under new head coach Guz Malzahn, the expectations in Orlando remain as high as ever in spite of a down year in 2020. This game could do more to shape the Group of 5’s race to a New Year’s Six bowl bid than any other and both teams expect to be an ongoing part of that conversation. What will give?
Here’s how the Broncos can score a victory against the Knights.
Three Keys to a Boise State Victory
1. Get the defensive line to force Dillon Gabriel into potential mistakes.
In two years as UCF’s starter, Gabriel has established himself as one of the most dangerous quarterbacks anywhere in the country, with a career 59.7% completion rate, 8.9 yards per attempt, and 61 touchdowns to go with a 1.4% interception rate. If all of that makes him seem infallible, well… he’s not.
Good defensive game plans can beat Gabriel, as evidenced by some pretty drastic splits in games UCF has won and lost with him. Creating havoc is the best option though it may be easier said than done since UCF had an above-average 5.1% sack rate allowed in 2020, but even getting defenders in his face more often than not could stymie the powerful Knights offense. This will be a big game for Shane Irwin, Demitri Washington, and the rest of the men in the trenches.
2. Create explosive plays through the air.
Now that Hank Bachmeier is again entrenched as Boise State’s starting quarterback, he has to get back to pushing the ball down the field. Though he and Gabriel had the same 47% passing success rate in 2020, Bachmeier had a 20-yard passing play on just 8.3% of his attempts while UCF’s signal-caller was at 14%.
That difference in explosiveness could be a huge factor if Bachmeier can’t rediscover his downfield touch at least a little more consistently. He had a 16.9% rate back in 2019, so it’s not about a lack of ability. Someone like CT Thomas, who’s had a 20-yard catch on roughly one-in-five receptions over the last two years, could be a vital role player to keep the Knights from focusing solely on Khalil Shakir.
3. Be the more disciplined team.
This key should be much more attainable because when it comes to penalties, UCF hasn’t been very good at avoiding them for a while now. They’ve finished 99th or worse in flags per game every season since 2016, including three finishes in the bottom five overall, and that lack of discipline bit them hard at least once in the Knights’ disappointing 2020 (for instance, they had 13 penalties in the second half of their loss to Tulsa).
By contrast, Boise State averaged fewer than five per game last fall. UCF has been good enough against mediocre and bad teams to overcome their aggression, but the Broncos should be good enough to put themselves in a position to make the Knights pay for any less-than-ideal situations they play into.
Much of this game will depend on the Broncos and their ability to capitalize on whatever errors they can force UCF into. Does Boise State have the same caliber of defense that Tulsa or Cincinnati possessed in stopping the Knights cold a year ago? If they do, it’ll start up front and if it doesn’t, the Broncos secondary could be in for a long evening.
At any rate, it’ll be vital for Boise State to win the turnover battle, as well — UCF has lost seven of its last nine when their margin is zero or in the negative — but that’s a hard thing to predict in any given week. The Broncos have plenty to make it a game, I just doubt they can contain the Knights as much as they’ll need to for four quarters.
UCF 40, Boise State 31