BYU at Boise State Preview
20 Thursday Oct 2016
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Boise State is 6-0. The Broncos deserve props for beating all the teams on their schedule, include two Power 5 schools. You can’t ask for more.
Or could you?
One of the P5 wins was against one of the worst teams in the nation, OSU. The Broncos looked vulnerable against both CSU (3-4) and USU (2-4), scoring only 21 and 28 points. The Bronco’s only quality win, WSU, was close and occurred when WSU may not have been a quality team yet, as they had just lost to an FCS school the weak prior.
The Broncos had a week three bye and haven’t played a team of note in the past four games. So despite having a short week, they should be rested.
Is Boise State’s undefeated season only the product of a strength of schedule ranked #83 in the nation? To prove otherwise, Boise State must beat BYU.
BYU has lost three times. However, the Cougars also won three times where they easily could have lost. So while BYU is close to being 7-0, they are just as close to being 1-6.
The Cougars have struggled to score against top defenses. However, they dropped 55 on Toledo, whose defense is ranked #37. They also put up more than thirty against Michigan State and West Virginia.
The Cougar defense has held all but top 10 offenses, Toledo is ranked #3 in total offense and West Virginia is ranked #7 in total offense, to 20 points of fewer.
BYU has gone 4-3 with a #18 ranked strength of schedule.
Comparing the teams
Don’t be fooled by the disparity in their records. These two teams are very even. If the schedules were reversed, the records would likely be the same. The way Boise State played against USU and CSU would have resulted in a blowout loss against any team BYU has played to date, as well as to BYU.
The difference in strength of schedule between the two schools isn’t even close. All seven of the Cougar’s games were the same quality or higher than than the only good team Boise State played. BYU’s schedule has been a gauntlet that few teams in the nation would be undefeated against, while Boise State’s schedule is one that any average P5 team would expect to go undefeated against. Unlike other years where the Broncos started 6-0, the Broncos have not looked dominant. Which means there is no evidence the Broncos are the better team.
Other than being 6-0, there isn’t much evidence statistically this season that points to the Broncos having any advantage over the Cougars.
Boise State’s offense is ranked #34, which considering they only played one top 50 defense, is not as good as it would seam. BYU has also exposed quality defenses for more than thirty points three times. They have also played four defenses ranked significantly higher than Boise States: Utah, UCLA, Toledo, Mississsippi State.
However, when a team is 6-0, close games don’t mean much. A close game could mean the team slowed up in the second half. Or played bored, waiting for a quality team. Be wary of Boise State not raising their level of play when they play better competition.
Against defenses like Boise State’s, BYU has scored over 30 points. Against offenses liked Boise State’s, BYU has held them under 20 points.
Against worse defenses than BYU’s, Boise State has been held in the twenties. Boise state hasn’t allowed a 30 point game all year.
The Broncos have won 4 out of 6 games against the Cougars, but the Cougars have won two out of the last three. Last year, the Broncos dominated the first half but the Cougars dominated the second half and won 35-24.
BYU has never beaten Boise State on the blue turf. But twice, Boise State only won by one on their blue turf. The Broncos survived a 7-6 loss in 2013 in which BYU shut out the Bronco offense but the Broncos scored on a pick six. And in 2004, a 28-27 nailbaiter in which BYU missed a 30 yard field goal attempt with time expiring.
What to watch for
Watch for Boise State to throw deep and complete those deep passes.
Watch for McNichols to break tackles and find a way to minimize TFLs and keep drives alive.
What for Boise State to score early and lead early.
Watch for BYU to dominates in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
Watch for BYU to ride Williams and Hill’s legs to multiple 6+ minute scoring drives.
Watch for BYU’s defense couple with offensive time of possession to hold Boise State to 7 second half points.
Keys to the game
The Cougars needs to match Boise State’s early scoring with long scoring drives. If the Cougars do this, they will wear down the Broncos defense in the 2nd half and win by 3 to 14 points.
Intercept at least one pass and capitalize on it with a touchdown.
The Broncos needs to score early and quickly to outscore BYU in the first half. If the Broncos do this, they will have the energy to match the Cougars score for score in the second half for a 14 to 17 point victory.
The Broncos need to be efficient with the pass and avoid interceptions to the defense with the player leading the NCAA in interceptions.
Turnovers and penalties
Mistake-free play by both teams could lead to a down-the-wire game with an overtime possibility. But big mistakes by either team could lead to a blow out. Boise State has a history of capitalizing on opposing teams mistakes. BYU couldn’t capitalize on Utah’s seven turnovers, but Boise State’s defense is not as formidable as Utah’s, so Bronco mistakes could lead to Cougar points.
BYU is #17 in the nation in turnover margin. Boise State is 105th.
BYU wins the turnover battle 3 – 1.
BYU 31- 21 Boise State