1.) Disarm the Pistol: I am sure most of you have heard about Nevada’s Pistol Offense. This option based, run oriented offense, as we all know, can cause plenty of problems for the Broncos. What is even more concerning now is that our big wall in the middle is no longer with the team due to injury (Michael Atkinson). With that, it is going to be up to the likes of Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Darren Koontz, Tyler Horn, and Greg Grimes to own the middle of line, forcing the pistol to move to the outside where Boise State has some favorable match ups with the speed of Demarcus Lawrence and Sam Ukwuachu. Sounds like quite the task right? Well that is not all. Even if this can all be accomplished, tackling will still the be the key in this game, and at times this season it has looked shaky. Teams have shown the ability to run the ball on Boise State. Most notable to this match-up might be New Mexico, and Colorado State games. Both ran option style run schemes against Boise State, and in those two games Boise State gave up a total of 487 rushing yards, often because of missed tackles in the open field, or on the outside. For Boise State to win this game they are going to have to fill their gaps in the middle, and tackle well on the outside – something that cause most teams issues – and when it comes to Nevada vs Boise State, is often a match-up problem.
2.) Contain Fajardo: Quarterback Cody Fajardo of Nevada is a problem for teams who have to face him. He passes with efficiency, and runs as well as any quarterback in the country. That being said Boise State’s success is going to be determined by how well they can stop him. Fajardo has scored 27 touchdowns this season -17 in the air and 10 on the ground. He averages 6 yards a carry, and has only thrown 7 interceptions. Boise State needs to find a way to limit Fajardo on the ground and in the air. But more importantly they need to make him press. Get at him early and force him into stressful situations. Much like Kaepernick before, him Fajardo does his best when his confidence gets going. If Boise State can rattle him early with pressure and some turnovers it will go a long way toward beating Nevada.
3.) Don’t let the emotions get the best of you: This is a rivalry game. The fans hate us, we hate them. We will never forget the missed field goal that ended our Rose Bowl dreams. However, that doesn’t mean this team needs to live in the past as well. Nevada’s future has already been decided, they have their bowl game picked and all they are playing for now is another chance to knock off Boise State and stop them from winning a conference title. This means Nevada has room for error, that frankly Boise State does not. The players will need to stay focused on the task at hand in this game. They can’t afford to get baited into the antics that some Nevada players and fans will surely try to get them to engage in. Emotions can be a good thing if used correctly. It will be up to this young team to make sure they can keep their emotions in check to win this game.
4.) Be the more physical team: You have a rivalry, you have a title on the line for one team, you have a national audience on ABC, and you have a football game. And in the end much of this game will likely come down to which team can be physical the longest. Nevada is going to run the ball downhill all game. Boise State will have to match the intensity in the trenches for a chance to win this game. Stopping the run will be key for Boise State, but it will be key for Nevada as well. Both teams this year depend on the run to set up everything else around them. This means the team that controls the line of scrimmage is going to have a major advantage in this game, and will likely win it.
5.) No interceptions: Joe has played much better as of late. He hasn’t thrown an interception in 2 games, and his completion percentage is up. However, the questions still remain about whether he can deliver a big game against top-notch competition. Can he play like he did versus Colorado State against Nevada? That is the question, and that question might be more important than any other. Nevada has lost 4 times this year, and in all 4 of those loses one stat stuck out to me more than the others. In each loss the opposing QB didn’t throw an interception. And even Air Force threw for 2 touchdowns. In fact in the 4 loses Nevada has this year, quarterbacks have thrown 10 touchdowns to no interceptions. This puts the emphasis on Joe Southwick – he has to protect the ball. Nevada struggles on defense, giving up 33 points a game. If Joe can protect the ball and score some points while doing it, Boise State should win this game.