5 Keys & 1 Prediction: Boise State vs. Ole Miss

Logo_zps624b2167The season is here, and so are “5 Keys”. Except this season I am adding a little more to the fun. This year I will be giving the 5 keys to the game as well as 1 prediction I will make each week.

5 Keys to the game Boise State vs Ole Miss

1.) If you have been reading any of the preseason publications then one name is repeated when Boise State is talked about. That name is Jay Ajayi, and for all the right reasons. Jay is perhaps the most physically gifted RB to have ever played for Boise State. He has the size and speed of an “SEC” tailback. And that size and speed will be needed against Ole Miss. With Jay, I fully expect Boise State to get back to the “run the ball first” mentality.  Now Jay Ajayi doesn’t have to go all Ian Johnson vs Oregon State on Ole Miss for us to win (though that would be great). He does though need to keep the defense honest. 20+ carries for 80 yards and a touchdown would be a great start to the season. If Jay can have a steady game like that Boise State should be able to compete from start to finish.

2.) Grant Hedrick has to be more than just a serviceable QB. Last season Grant had solid numbers and managed the game. This year, he has to take a major step and be a play maker. Grant has the athleticism and the talent to be a star his senior year. His first step to doing that would be getting a huge win against Ole Miss. For this to happen, Grant has to make plays on 3rd down passing situations. It is easy to make the check down pass and punt. But as we have seen in the past, it takes a QB who can make the throw down the field in those situations to win the early tests to start the season. If Grant can start this season off converting on 3rd down, Boise State will win this game.

3.) Can we start fast might be the most important key/question of them all. I feel like this game, if nothing else gives us a strong advantage to start fast. We know Ole Miss has no idea what we are bringing to the table. Because of this we should have the opportunity to score some points and build momentum in our favor early. If this happens, I fully expect Ole Miss to fight back into the game. But putting the Rebels up against the wall early could go a long way for the Broncos on their way to a win.

4.) Boise State has to get pressure on the QB. If this does not happen, I can’t stress enough how ugly this game could get. I believe Yates will bring pressure with blitzes, specifically, I expect to see some corner-blitzes. But the pressure that is more important here is coming from the defensive line. With Demarcus Lawrence gone to the NFL the question is going to be who is our new premier pass-rusher? The first game of the season would not be a bad time for somebody to step into that role. If Boise State can get pressure on Wallace, it will go a long way in helping our secondary deal with threats like Laquon Treadwell.

5.) Here I am going with the X-factor, SWR, Shane Williams-Rhodes. Nobody on Boise State, or perhaps college football has a skill-set quite like SWR. Yes he is small, but he is also impossible to prepare for. The best part about this prediction, is Bryan Harsin loves to have unique weapons like Rhodes. I imagine we will see Rhodes in some fly-sweep situations, some slot-routes, and maybe even some old school Vinny Peretta like run/pass option stuff. Rhodes might not make or break this game, but he has to play a vital role for the Broncos to win. I said it last year plenty, Rhodes wasn’t used to his full skill-set. This year with Harsin back in town, I have no doubt Rhodes will be put into positions to make plays.

1 Prediction

If you follow me on Twitter you might have already seen me call my shot on this. But my prediction is on what we can expect to see from our offense. Now, I could be completely wrong on this, and I admit it is 100% a somewhat educated guess. But based on what we have heard, and seen in bits and pieces. I am starting to think the offense we see vs Ole Miss resembles what we saw against Georgia in 2011, a lot. We will see shifts, and motions, pistol reads, and power formations. However, we will also see a hybrid no-huddle/huddle offense. When the momentum is on our side, I can see us rushing to the line and calling plays. When the game needs to be slowed down and talked about, I can see us huddling. Staying unpredictable and dictating the way the game is played seems to fit this staff well.

Blog Swap – Ole Miss Style: Five Questions

Today I was able to talk with Acey Roberts and Jake Wimberly with MakeItRainSports.com about the upcoming game with Ole Miss.  I did an interview with them for their podcast which you can listen to here starting at about the 11:15 mark and in return they gave me some answers to all the questions (all = 5) that we had about Ole Miss:

1.  When an Ole Miss fan hears the name Boise State, what do they think of?

When I think of Boise State, I think of the ultimate example of team work.  A school that has a very small natural recruiting base but gets more out of their boys than schools that have better talented players.  I always have thought a group of guys playing for each other are capable of beating anyone, and that is certainly the case with Boise State football. 

2.  How good is the Ole Miss coaching staff at in-game adjustments?  Being that no one is quite sure what the Boise State offense will look like can they adjust on the fly?

I think the current Ole Miss staff has been good at adjustments but they also have a lot of options on the roster that make adjustments easier.  Quite a few kids can play several positions.  On defense, they have several  hybrid linebacker/safeties (Denzel Nkemdiche, Tony Conner) so it makes it easier to go to a 4-2 base defense or a 3-4.  On the dline they have several ends that can play tackle also and vice versa (Robert Nkemdiche, Issac Gross).  On offense they can go 5 wide and starting this year we are hoping some extra beef at tight end can help us run the ball in the red zone with a 2 tight end set (Jeremy Liggins).

3.  We all know about Laquon Treadwell but what are Bo Wallace’s other options at WR?

Ole Miss lost their best wide receiver last year in junior Donte Moncrief who elected to enter the NFL draft and looks to be making some noise with the Indianapolis Colts.  In his absence, Treadwell will move to the flanker and try to garner the same double teams down the field.  Senior Vince Sanders returns as the boundary receiver after an injury laden junior year and we expect him to be the second best receiver.  Sanders was the second best receiver as a sophomore behind Moncrief.  At the slot you have two guys in Cody Core and Quincy Adeboyejo.  Core is your typical sure handed possession receiver and Adeboyejo at is more explosive and at 6′-3″ can be a big mismatch.  Ole Miss also rotates in a smaller tight end (Evan Engram) that they like to throw to a lot.  He plays more like a slot receiver in this offense.  There is also a highly touted freshman that Ole Miss flipped from Florida State, Markell Pack, that could have a big impact.  Freeze is not afraid to play freshman as we saw with Treadwell last year.

4.  The Ole Miss tailgating scene is legendary.  Originally this game was scheduled for 2011 in Oxford.  What are we missing out on?

Tailgating at Ole Miss or as we call it “Groving” is more like a picnic than a tailgate.  There is a 10 acre grove of native oaks in the center of campus where everyone sets up tents and enjoys the day visiting with old friends and making new ones.  Lots of schools have a big tailgating crowd but what makes Ole Miss unique is that everyone is slammed together.  The tents literally touch each other spanning the entire 10 acres.  It can become rather overwhelming but everyone is very accommodating.  People offer food and seats to opposing fans and there are no fights even when hated LSU comes to town.  Tent owners try to out do each other on the food and the beverages available.  It’s not unusual to see decorative lighting, big screen TVs, floral displays, chandeliers and ice carvings all inside a 10′x10′ red or blue pop-up tent.  You may have heard that many Ole Miss fans dress business casual and women will often look like they are ready for the runway.

 

5. For the past few weeks we ave been hearing a lot of “Hotty Toddy”.  Where did this phrase come from and what exactly does it mean?

Hotty Toddy is our cheer or “battle cry.”  Like many old traditions, the origin is not concrete.  Some say it is a variation on the term Hoity-Toity (having a high opinion of yourself) or a combination of a good hot drink and beautiful women (which there is plenty of in Oxford) but for sure it was all put together in a military type cheer which was the norm back in the early days of college football.  The cheer was published in the school newspaper for the first time in 1926.  Now it’s used by fans and alumni as a term synonymous with Ole Miss.  You may see someone wearing an Ole Miss ball shirt in an airport and the appropriate greeting would be “Hotty Toddy!” 

Thanks again to Acey and Jake for having Blue Turf Nation on their show and for giving us answers to these hard-hitting questions!

Follow them on Twitter @aceyrob @Jakewim and @MakeItRainSport and check out MakeItRainSports.com

Attack The Opponent: Ole Miss Rebels

Researching Ole’ Miss is a bit like observing a distant planet. 1562 miles, two time zones, a bunch of humidity, almost zero history, and a complete lifestyle difference are between Boise and Oxford. get some!

The old (probably) drunk guy dancing though, that is universal.

The year that Idaho became a state, Ole’ Miss was just forming their first athletic department. Boise wouldn’t field a football team for another 39 years after Mississippi boys first touched toe to grass in 1893. A storied program for sure, but the game coming up next Thursday has nothing to do with pedigree, conference affiliation, tenure, recruiting rankings, political leanings, or anything else outside of the 2014 Broncos and Rebels. The only people who know exactly who that is are with the programs, and the rest of us are left to wonder, wait, and fret. The Rebels are counting on tempo and speed to win this game. They love to throw nice little short passes, and a whole lot of them. Here’s their returning QB Bo Wallace’s stats from last season:

Set school records for total offense (3,701 yards) and completions (283) in a season … Completed 283 of 437 passes for 3,346 yards (third-most in school history) with 18 TDs and 10 INTs … Ranked third in the SEC and 26th nationally in both total offense (284.7 ypg) and passing (257.4 ypg) …

Yanno, just setting school records for total offense and completions, completing a good-but-not-that-good 65% of his passes for 18 TD’s. This is 7 yd per attempt though. They also scored 30 ppg last season. So, Boise’s D must be ready to defend the corner and not be afraid to hit somebody or fight for position coming over the middle to be able to intercept a few of those passes. The Rebel’s defense could be ridiculous, or it could be overblown SEC hype. There are 5 Rebel’s defenders on the All SEC watch-lists, the most notable being Pre-Season 2nd team All American Robert Nkemdiche. Or, as Broncos fans have seen before, this could be a bunch of SEC bluster and hype and the boys in orange could run them ragged and confused before halftime.

All of this remains to be seen, and exactly what we’ve all been waiting an entire off-season for. Rebels fans are apparently excited for the match-up, but talking a great big game as well. Both teams have pros and cons. Ole Miss has had strong recruiting classes recently and is coming off a reasonable performance last season, and Boise’s team is an unproven commodity with all the uncertainty in the program. Everything changed for the Broncos in December, and while those inside the program are telling us all the correct things it’s scary to not know what to expect. On the other hand,  Ole Miss has some questions in their run game – the guy listed at the top of the depth chart, I’Tavius Mathers, started exactly one game for the Rebels last season. Boise State will likely be deepest on defense, with a ton of experience in the secondary and a whole bunch of big, strong defensive linemen who are learning from what might be the best combo of knowledge, personality, and moustache on the coaching staff, Steve Caldwell. Boise State is of course going to live and die on the legs and ball control of Jay Ajayi and Grant Hedrick, but with the return of a fast paced, extend the field throwing game, this whole thing is going to be about which team can exploit the other’s weaknesses and really control the time of possession. Both teams can score prolifically in the correct defensive conditions, and both defenses look like they could be tough, at least on paper. Dead Center Dan Goodale needs to be as accurate as ever, and special teams had better be ready to go right off the bat. We might have a track meet on our hands next Thursday. We might also have a defensive battle.

I don’t doubt that Boise can put at least 28 points on the board, but can the guys hold the Rebels under that total? Vegas has Boise as ten point dogs, and while there are a few outlets calling for a return to the kind of winning everyone remembers out of Boise, most of the national consensus is that Boise is going to fall back to obscurity very quickly due to a whole bevy of excuses that Boise State fans are dutifully slicing and frying into Bronco Nation Brand Shoulder Chips. Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 7.59.24 PM

Now available in Dill Pickle flavor.

There are a few things I need to see out of this game to be happy. First, I need to know that the Boise offense is unpredictable, prolific, and accurate. I would like to see a working, nasty blitz. Would love to see lots of tight end participation in the offense, and just one nice deep ball to a flying orange blur of Dallas Burroughs. I need Matt Miller to make a one handed catch in the back corner of the end zone. I need interceptions from the safeties and jarring hits from Jeremy Ioane. Antoine Turner needs to get a sack so I can be irrationally happy for him for a while.

This game could be the return of the sense of balance in the universe that Bronco Nation has been missing, or a tipping point where the bandwagon gets much lighter. Ole Miss has a lot to prove too. Recruiting rankings and conference affiliation can only carry a team so far, eventually the wins have to come or Coach Freeze is going to have to answer some questions. Their team seems like the type that could have discipline issues and leave a mass of flags and fan’s broken dreams in their wake. While this may not be the marquee game of the night, it certainly is the most intriguing. Hotty Toddy indeed, Rebels. Put on your blazers, ties, and sundresses, sip your bourbon, and get ready to watch that cute little team out of the Mountain West give you the fight of your team’s figurative lives opening weekend. Oh, and if Ole Miss happens to lose? It would be nice if they wouldn’t turn around and lose horribly to Vandy the week after. Strength of Schedule and all that.

Isn’t football great? I missed football. Let’s never have an off-season like that again. Attack_hug

Boise State Track Has An Image Problem

A former Women’s Track and Field athlete at BSU has filed a lawsuit accusing the University of being in violation of Title IX because they took no action after two complaints of harassment and rape had been made against a male athlete by two different women.

Here comes the nauseating part:

“Coach Hardy said that he could not help her because she had consumed a minor amount of alcohol before the rape,” Allred wrote in the lawsuit. “He failed to inform her of her right to file a criminal complaint against the BSU perpetrator, and even failed to provide her with information regarding available mental health services.”

This is the second woman that former coach J.W. Hardy gave this line to in response to them telling him that another member of their team wouldn’t listen to the word no and raped them.  The lawsuit also claims that the male athlete would often slap them on the butt, make lewd faces, and generally make practice a hellacious environment for his victims.

Some might believe that it couldn’t be that bad to be raped and then have to face the guy every day; that victims must “want it” somehow. She was drinking at the time of the assault. Not too much of a stretch to think they both were. Maybe she was wearing a short skirt or a low cut top. Maybe both! And lipstick! She was probably talking to her teammates, having a good time. Maybe she liked her attacker. Maybe they were flirting. None of those things are of any consequence whatsoever in this case. This case is about a woman going to her coach who she most likely trusts, opening up and saying out loud that someone took advantage of her and is now being an antagonistic jerk about it, and being told that because she was drinking, the university couldn’t help. He couldn’t help.

Hardy’s contract was not renewed in 2013. That means that he knew for over a year and did nothing. My question, and the one that Boise State is going to have to answer, is who knew? Who else looked around the track program and saw nothing wrong? How many assistant coaches? How many graduate assistants?  How many assumed that this behavior was okay? Because the lady is about to get her and her high powered lawyer very paid if that number is more than 4 – the perpetrator, the victims, and Coach Hardy.

Boise State Track and Field has an image problem. This isn’t the first lawsuit BSU is going to have to settle on their behalf. In 2008, Amy Christoffersen, an assistant (in fact the only female) coach sued because she was being paid roughly $15,000 a year less than male assistants with less experience. The difference between twenty thousand dollars a year and thirty five thousand dollars a year is the poverty line. She got tasked with anything deemed secretarial, like booking travel, keeping track of meal money, and keeping financial records. She was also demoted after 9 years from assistant coach to insurance coordinator. Of course, this was under Head Coach Mike Maynard, but this was the lawsuit that launched the NCAA investigation that would take both the coach’s job, as well as the AD who built the joint, Gene Bleymeyer, now the AD at SJSU. It would also find violations in Tennis, Track, and Football. (Admittedly, football’s violations were the ridiculous Cheeseburger and Couchgate.)

Boise State is going to have to answer some questions before the image issue corrects. Is this just leftover misogynistic residue from the previous AD? Has everyone associated with the Boise State Track Program who let this go on been disciplined and up-trained or just fired? Can we hear from someone who isn’t a man who works inside the Athletic Department truthfully discuss the current state of that office? Because if this ass patting testosterone fest is still the daily, there is a big issue that has to be resolved before Boise State can call itself “a metropolitan university of distinction.”

The Spring Game Has Sprung

For over 8 months, Bronco Nation weathered the harshness of an unprecedented frosty year that we hadn’t seen in almost a decade.  With matching opening losses to Washington and dual “Aloha means goodbye” bowl game losses in Hawaii, it seemed like we’d gone back to 2007.  That’s where the similarities end though.  We’d just finished our first, and until 2013, our worst year in the Coach Pete era.  This April brings a renewal.  The Bryan Harsin-Era brings a rebirth.  And, on April 12, 2014, me and 13,821 Bronco fanatics got our first look at it.

There is a buzz around the Boise State football program that is noticeably different that it’s been in recent years.  Coach Harsin has done that by being the opposite of what Coach Pete was (this isn’t an indictment on Coach Pete.  To each his own.).  He’s accessible and he makes sure that his staff is. He lets us in on the program in ways that we haven’t been used to.  Coach Harsin is an Idaho boy and most of us can identify with his mannerisms and the way he speaks his mind.  I only bring this up because the electricity around Bronco Stadium was palpable.  The last time I felt that personally was when College Game Day was on campus.  And it wasn’t just a grown up event. It was a family event. Bring Dad Bronco, Mom Bronco, Brother, Sister, & Baby Bronco down and get some sunshine and football in your Saturday. It was a perfect day weather-wise.

Inside Bronco Stadium, the crowd was amazing. The goal was to get 20,000 fans out.  It was a lofty goal and I was pretty sure by the way people were filing in that we’d get close.  Obviously, I was a little incorrect as to my estimation but I think that it the Nation showed good form.  In comparison, the University of Michigan only had just over 15,000 fans at their Spring Game in a stadium that holds 109,901. I say we shoot for a sellout streak that starts with our first home game and goes on in perpetuity.

As far as the Spring Game is concerned, I’ll give you the laymen’s analysis. I am in no way an expert in college football and I can only give you my opinion on what I saw. A good friend once said “I’m not a reporter, I’m a writer.” and I fully identify with that statement.  Also, I do realize that Coach Harsin and his staff have not fully installed their playbooks, we have plenty of people learning new schemes, and there are some players that didn’t participate for various reasons.  This is in no way representative of what this Bronco team is fully capable of.

What is better than starting a “game” off than a kickoff return for a touchdown?  Not really anything, I’m quite sure.  Ask Devin Hester.  Sure – it was the scout team that covering the kick and it didn’t seem full speed but the crowd seemed to enjoy Bryan Douglas taking it back for 100 yards. I know I did.  After that, special teams was pretty much an afterthought. No field goals were attempted.  The PATs were all made.  The punting was made interesting by the wind but the return game wasn’t really a focus.

The two teams were “Boise State” and “Broncos”.  Boise State was made up of the first team offense and defense and Broncos were the 2nd team.  Everyone else filled in.  In the beginning, it seemed like a huge mismatch.  The Boise State offense had the ball moving really well on the first drive with the big play coming on a 52 yard run by Shane Williams-Rhodes.  Jay Ajayi punched it in from one yard out two plays later.  That, and the kickoff return, was the only scoring of the first half.  The defense for Boise State dominated Broncos and Broncos settled in and held Boise State after the first drive (the names make it confusing, right?).  The second half was basically more of the same.  Defense dominated.   Boise State’s first drive ended with Dionza Blue picking off Grant Hedrick and Broncos were moving the ball with Tommy Stuart at the helm but a fumble stopped that drive.  The Broncos team did get their only score on a wheel route from Ryan Finley to Devan Demas for 82 yards while the Boise State team topped off their scoring on a 13 yard run by Shane Williams-Rhodes. We were treated to a bit of excitement with a final score of Boise State 21, Broncos 7.

So here are some observations/predictions:

-The offense still needs some work.

-Grant Hedrick is well ahead of Ryan Finley and Tommy Stuart.

-I think Finley will be #2 although Stuart looked more “on-point” to me yesterday.

-Jay Ajayi will get 75%-80% of the carries this year. Maybe more.

-Derrick Thomas will get more carries than Jack Fields and Devan Demas.

-Matt Miller will never have a regular game that resembles this Spring Game.

-Shane Williams-Rhodes will be utilized like no other Bronco ever.

-The future is bright on both offense and defense.

-Sometimes I state the most obvious things.

-Our defense will be better than expected.

-Statue Left will always-ALWAYS-be the greatest play ever called in history.

We, as fans of this great program, are lucky enough to be here for the rebirth.  We are in for something special I believe.  Does that translate into a perfect season in 2014? Most likely not.  Does it translate into great expectations?  Yes and that’s not a bad thing.  Judging on the way things went yesterday and the excitement of every fan that I know, the annual Blue and Orange Spring Game was everything that we hoped it would be.  Welcome back, football.  Welcome back, Bronco Nation.  Only 137 days until Ole Miss.

Next Gen Bronco Fans