Attack The Opponent: Brigham Young University Cougars

I’ve been trying to decide how to write this article for a while. If you follow me on Twitter, you will understand that I am not a fan of BYU. I take delight in the Cougar’s losses, and only root for them when it suits my interests, like for SOS purposes. Watching them lose to Nevada last Saturday night was a wonderful end to an evening. The message board meltdowns are just as amusing as Boise State’s, except much more hair-trigger. I encountered someone online once that referred to Bronco Mendenhall as “the worst man in Utah County.” That is literally the best praise this fan could come up with, and I LOVED the sentiment. Provo is a strange place that I have a complicated history with, and through all this, I realized that I wasn’t going to come to any conclusion about this match-up that is fair without looking at the data.

Boise State and BYU have only played 4 times in the history of both schools. In 2003 and 2004, Boise State won both match-ups. This displeased Cougar fans. Boise State won again in 2012, in a defensive struggle that gave the world this awesome GIF of Bacon running in a TD.

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BYU won last year’s affair, in a game that I have yet to watch all the way through but understand went poorly. (I’m also not willing to watch it for this article because I am a wuss who doesn’t wanna.)

Now, this isn’t to say BYU and BSU don’t have some things in common other than the letters B and LDS. Both schools have had great success in the past. BYU won a national championship in 1984, had a string of all-American quarterbacks who had success in the NFL, and both have rabid fan bases with lots of overlap due to both cities having an abundance of people who grew up in either Boise or Provo and then moved to the other city to go to school, or have extended family in the other area. Both teams are known for toughness and high-powered offenses. Both teams have hard-hitting, opportunistic defenses. BYU had christened themselves a “contender” until their Idaho bred QB Taysom Hill suffered a broken leg against Utah State a couple of weeks ago and the losses started.

This is all much too subjective.

(The data set used here is pulled from sportsreference.com. It’s a pretty nifty site to be able to grab a lot of data quickly, already formatted for Excel.)

I wanted to look at how the season was trending as well as the head to head numbers vs. Nevada, being the most recent common opponent.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 10.16.18 PMBoise State started out keeping their first four opponents well under 100 yards rushing. This was a spectacular performance, but as the season wore on the option teams hit the schedule, and injuries mounted, that total has increased threefold. However, BSU also isn’t giving up as many passing yards overall, even though in three games, teams have put 250+ yards on the Broncos through the air. Overall, the defense isn’t any worse than it started out, just different, and finding their balance.

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BYU’s defense is improving steadily, overall. Their run defense has held opponents under 100 yards 4 times this season as well, but nobody has put the kind of yards on the Cougars that Air Force put on Boise State. Nick Howell’s defense (whose head is the current subject of removal on Cougar boards everywhere) has allowed a bunch of passing yards, but at least their consistent about it. Boise State can expect to have a good day through the air, especially if Sanford keeps up his living on the edge ways and throws some trick plays at the Cougars.  Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 10.16.32 PM

Boise State has also been improving well since the Air Force game on the ground. If Jay goes mini-Beast Mode because he doesn’t like losing, and Jeremy McNichols can continue finding the corner, it might be too much for BYU. However, they do have a strong run defense and it is more likely that Boise State is going to have to be holy accurate through the air and not turn the ball over. Making the Cougars pay to the tune of over 350 yards will pay great dividends.

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BYU put a TON of yards on Nevada, which got them out of a yardage slump. It wasn’t enough to take down the Wolfpack, who had luck and momentum for a good chunk of the second half. For a team to shut up Lavell Edwards Stadium is quite the feat, and a rarity. This game being on The Blue might be the best thing that could happen for Boise State. Being able to get stops in the right part of the field will allow for good field position which will be necessary to outscoring an offense that can go for 601 yards. Granted, that was a huge performance from BYU, they had been averaging 427 yards prior. Teams that have beaten the Cougars have got them to give up a ton of penalties, as well as taking the ball away a substantial amount of times. Those are going to be keys for the Broncos.

Against Nevada, though, is interesting.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 10.17.01 PM Boise State didn’t have a great defensive game against Nevada, but the turnovers balanced it out. BYU could be coming into Albertsons Stadium with more defense than we’ve seen out of anybody since Ole Miss. BYU got a ton of penalties against Nevada, but since those guys are a pretty jumpy bunch of players, really, I would hope we wouldn’t see that type of performance from Boise State because that has been corrected finally, but who knows.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 10.16.45 PM   Nevada does have a pretty good defense, and both BYU and Boise seem to hang on to the ball equally well, but this whole game looks to come down to passing accuracy and turnovers. It would be nice for Boise’s running backs to go off, but shouldn’t be expected. Limiting turnovers is going to be key for keeping the crowd in it, and in Bronco Stadium, with the crowd roaring on national TV on a Friday night in the fall, the good guys seem to run a little faster, hit a little harder, and block a little better. Special Teams play is also huge, not only for the value of a good stop, but also for the crowd and momentum factors.

This game is winnable by both teams. If BYU gets Grant to start throwing picks and stops the run, Boise is in for a long night. BYU could also get a lot of yards through the air in a hurry. Boise State has momentum on their side. BYU has anger on theirs. Cougar fans are miserable right now and it won’t take much for a full on meltdown. If the Fightin’ Brighams start having things go wrong and lose their mojo, it will just make Bronco Nation louder.

So, best case scenario, BYU starts slow, the Jay Train starts rollin’ down that track early and often, the Cougs get desperate and start acquiring penalties and turn the ball over, and this thing snowballs out of Mendenhall’s control and his job flashes before his eyes.

Worst case? Boise State can’t move the ball and they turn the ball over in the red zone a lot. BYU gets their pass game going and all of a sudden Boise State is in real trouble. The crowd gets out of it and leaves in the 3rd quarter and we all get home to the inevitable Twitter freakout that BYU fans just experienced last week.

Let’s hope for the first option. Go Broncos. Attack The Future. We’ve got 9 more meetings with the Cougs on the schedule and I’d like each and every one of them to be the beat-down that program deserves.

This Week at the Diggity’s – Week 8 (Not Dogs, Just A Bunch of Bull)

Happy Friday! It’s an early edition of TWatDs. And you get it two weeks in a row thanks to our fine friends at the SEC NETWORK, umm, I mean World Sports Leader. I’m excited to see the Broncos back in action.  I’m also excited that I don’t have to wait through a ton of Saturday games to get to a late start.  After this week’s uniform combo, enjoy!

via @BSURecruits

via @BSURecruits

Bye weeks are so odd. I didn’t tweet as much this week. Good thing the Fresno game is on Friday….Here are the games that I watched at least some of this past week: BYU/UCF, Stanford/Wazzu, SDSU/New Mexico, UNLV/CSU-Fresno, Texas/Oklahoma, Florida State/Syracuse, Georgia/Mizzou, Cincinnati/Miami, Oregon/UCLA, Mississippi St./Auburn, Baylor/TCU, Arkansas/Alabama, Houston/Memphis, Ole Miss/Texas A&M, LSU/Florida, Michigan/Penn St., Arizona/USC, Colorado St./Nevada. It was a slow week for me. I’ll blame it on the bye…This week’s bowl predictions are in.  Brett McMurphy has Boise State vs. Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl while Mark Schlabach has the Broncos playing Washington in the Cactus Bowl. I think it’s a bit too early but both would be big matchups….I was thoroughly impressed by the season premiere of “The Walking Dead”. I can’t wait for the next episode already….As it is Hate Fresno/Beat Fresno Week for us, it’s the opposite for those Bulldogs from California’s taint. But, Beat Boise happens less often for them than presidential elections and just a bit more often than Haley’s Comet. So good luck with that, Fres-NOPE!…I watched Mike Tyson’s one-man show, “The Undisputed Truth” and was pretty impressed. It gives a bit of insight from Mike’s point of view. I loved him when he was the champ and was disappointed by his downfall. He’s the reason I don’t buy pay-per-views anymore….There is something out called the Fisher Price Smart Stages Chair. It’s an educational toy for kids but it’s also a chair. A CHAIR! There is nothing like saying to kids “Go ahead and become a couch potato.”….I’m a football fan through and through but I don’t know about showing Colorado School of Mines vs. Fort Lewis (CO) on CBS Sports Net. But, football is football….If the commercial starts “Don’t take painful sex lying down!” then you should probably press mute or change the channel. You’ve ventured into some uncomfortable territory….

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I usually don’t talk too much about politics but I couldn’t resist on this one.  Apparently, Conservative columnist Brittany Morgan says President Obama is orchestrating Ebola as a way to declare martial law to take away everyone’s guns. Yes. Obama and his cronies went to Africa on his hometown discount, planted the virus to kill thousands there, picked out a few strong candidates to bring it here, and flew them back to the states just to take away our 2nd Amendment rights. Seems pretty legit. /sarcasm….I’m not going to lie, I’ve been horrible at this (in case you haven’t noticed. So, I asked the Mrs. for her opinion this week.  We both agree that the Broncos will win this game. I am worried about WR Josh Harper but that’s really all.  Their run game won’t be able to muster anything.  If the Boise State offense gets going, will the Bulldogs be able to stop it with any regularity. FRES-NOPE.  Grant has a decent game and hits 2 deep balls. SWR will score once.  And Jay gets at least 2 scores.  I say the final will be 42-24.  In case you’re wondering, Mrs. Diggity said 42-31.

For this week’s song of the week, I couldn’t come up with anything the was anti-bulldog. I guess I could have emailed some of Michael Vick’s friends for suggestions (Too soon? Or horribly dated?).  I hope you like it!

Have a great day and a great week!  Here’s to safely destroying California State University at Fresno tonight. See you next Friday!

Attack the Opponent: Fresno State Bulldogs

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Fresno State and the Broncos have baggage and history. The series between the two teams started in 1977, with a 42-7 loss at Bulldog Stadium for Boise State. It took 2 more meetings and another 24 years for Boise to finally get a win against Fresno, and boy was it a glorious one. After eating losses in 1984 and again in 1996 (Harsin and Yate’s freshman season, incidentally), Boise State waltzed into Fresno with a 3-3 record and took down the mighty Dawgs, who had a #10 ranking after beating Oregon State and Wisconsin earlier in the season. (Guess who was around for that one? Only Coaches Sanford, Riddle, Huff, Avalos, and Pitman.) Since 2001, the series is 11-2, with Fresno stealing wins in 2005, and 2013.

The victory in Fresno in the 2001 season is definitely in the top 3 of best Bronco wins. It kicked off the modern era of beating the crap out of everybody.

The rivalry with FSU, while having a silly trophy that is a chromed out milk jug as the prize, commands respect from the conference and the fan bases. Sure, it’s 11-5 all time with Boise State firmly in control, but Fresno winning is happening more and more often. Fresno is now winning a game every 8 years, and well, that’s just far too close for comfort. Just because the match-up garners a healthy level of respect by both sides, doesn’t mean that the hate isn’t there. Boise State ruined what was a magical season for Fresno in 2001. Fresno kicked a team that was down with a terminally ill coach in their first season of 1A football in 1996. Both sets of coaches do a good job of staying classy, but the game can get chippy quite quickly. Fresno fans HATE losing to Boise just as much as Boise fans hate losing to Fresno, and both fan bases are vocal about it. Both teams are blue-collar, hard-working groups of guys who are known for killing giants and winning games they have no business competing in. Both teams are also currently in rebuilding phases.

Losing quarterback Derek Carr was painful for the Bulldogs. The 2014 team is an almost respectable 3-4, coming off a rather pathetic loss to UNLV. They are not strong at the quarterback position. If history teaches anything, it’s that once Fresno gets embarrassed, they are not good at bouncing back and getting wins. That’s always been Fresno’s issue, really. They’re tough, sure. But they don’t have that same magical, indescribable quality that has confounded the programs that came up against Boise State. The will to win that separates Boise from nearly every other program in the country and what keeps a lot of fans bleeding blue. Fresno likes to collapse. In 2001, they lost their next game to Hawaii after the fateful night they lost to Boise. In 2002, Boise curb-stomped the Bulldogs 67-21, and they immediately turned around and lost to Hawaii for the second year in a row. In 2006, after beating Boise State, they very nearly lost to New Mexico State. Almost losing to New Mexico State is 99.9999999% as bad as actually losing to them. The more emotion filled the game against Boise is, the worse Fresno does both in their next game and the next time they face Boise.

The Bronco’s coaching staff seems to understand this tendency. Fresno is missing Carr like Boise was missing Kellen Moore last year. They’re off to a rough start this season, and they just lost to UNLV for the first time in thirty years. Who better to come along and rub salt in an open wound than Coach Harsin and Coach Yates and a team who is bitter and probably pissed off at losing to them in 2013? Yes, there’s an overarching theme to the whole “Respect the Past” idea. It’s a brilliant opportunity to educate the team on exactly what each of these games, each of these rivalries means to the program, the university, to the city of Boise itself. That’s why Harsin banned the color red from practice. A move like that drives emotion, and making sure that emotion and intensity are there each week is on the coaches as much as the players. There is urgency to stay sharp after beating Nevada, to always be ready because the Mountain West of 2014 is unpredictable at best.

It feels like Boise State is on the verge of truly putting together a great game on both sides of the ball. It also feels like the coaches have some animosity toward Fresno that needs exorcised. In an old skool, Coach Hawk style beatdown kinda way. The guys put 51 on Nevada last week, but we haven’t seen a good ol’ fashioned 2003 style butt kicking on anybody in a while. Hey Broncos! Let’s see if you guys can put 80 on Fresno, just for funsies. It will make Bronco fans happy because there were a lot of Bulldog people jawing about owning the Broncos now after squeaking past for a win in 2013.

Fresno did not have a good time against UNLV on Saturday, even if it was an OT game. Fresno got down big, early (because whoa, hideous defense allowing UNLV 478 yards) managed to mount a sad little comeback on the Rebs’s terrible defense, only to minicoug it and get #collegekicker-ed into OT by missing a PAT. UNLV then put the game away on a made FG. Since the Mountain West is reflecting in fun house mirrors this season, the Dawgs managed to beat New Mexico and SDSU, but turned around and lost to the 2-5 Rebels.

Sleepy-bulldog-falls-asleepWay to snatch that defeat from the jaws of victory there, boy.

Of course, it’s not like Boise looked much better against Air Force recently…

rollersk8horsefailThe AFA/Boise State game, as acted out by someone trying to roller skate over a brick wall wearing a racehorse costume on bbq wheels.

Look, there isn’t a team in the MWC this season that is highly ranked or even threatening for a playoff spot at this point. This conference is doing well at cannibalizing itself though, and for the first time in a long time, it’s consistently entertaining. Boise State has a nice home stand coming up, with a lineup of conference foes to make any fan drool a little. Fresno kicks us off next week with a game that is meaningful to not only the teams and schools but the fan bases and cities involved. California’s Central Valley is having a rough go of it right now as a whole, while the Treasure Valley grows and fights its own battles. Football is a great distraction from what goes on in the serious world and for a few hours next weekend, we can get together and watch these teams, trash talk each other in good fun, and Fresno can show Reno how to have a rivalry with at least a little mutual respect.

Or, yanno, Boise can just put 90 points on the Dogs and we can make this turn from a nice little mid-major rivalry to a Vandal-style hate inferno with just a little fuel. It’s going to be the Bronco’s choice, because Fresno isn’t going to be able to do a thing about what is going to happen to them this weekend.

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Makin’ this look good since 2001.

This Week at the Diggity’s – Bye Week Edition (Relax, Recover, Refocus)

So it’s Bye Week at the Diggity’s.  This is a good thing for two reasons: I was so stressed out that I broke into tears after the Nevada game and my daughter’s birthday is this weekend.  I won’t miss a thing.  I guess I’m making Chicken Kiev for dinner tonight.  Now, onto the fun!

Watching Tennessee play Florida was almost as bad as watching an Idaho scrimmage. Will Muschamp did say that he loved disappointing the Volunteers’ crowd so that was awesome….Waiting all day to watch a Boise State game is such a horrible way to spend the day. Especially when it’s a rivalry game coming off a crappy game….So this weekend, Oregon, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Stanford, UCLA, LSU, USC, Wisconsin, BYU, and Nebraska have lost. That’s numbers 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, & 19, respectively. I like the uncertainty of this season….Loving the offense at the start of the game.  Need to fix kicking and defense….This game has gone from ridiculous to ludicrous. Grant and Jay are playing out of their minds. Our defense has 4 picks. We can’t make the Wolfpack go away. My heart is horribly weak….That game took a lot out of me. I literally had tears in my eyes at the end. The bye week is here. We, team and fan base, need it….

Already hearing about the classy Nevada fans. Spitting on our cheerleaders and apparently pulling knives on people. Stay classy, Re-NOPE. Biggest Little Craphole in the West….So SyFy now has a zombie show called “Z Nation”. DJ Qualls is in it. It can’t be good. Judging by the previews, I’m gonna have to say NOPE….Usher, oh and Nelly, is life so bad that you’re now dancing with an animated bee and hawking Cheerios? Should have stayed another season of The Voice, huh?…A blonde, blue-eyed woman with a British accent is TONS better than finding an alternate way to get your truck and horse trailer out of the mud. Good job, Viagra!…Does the world need another movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel? Even Tyler Perry says “No Please!”….We were watching an episode of “Food Factories” and the owner of a company said “I think I was born with a cannoli in my mouth”. The 12-year old in me laughed….I’m always that guy that has to pull forward at fast forwards. You should have my chicken nuggets ready. I don’t care if you know I’m coming or not. Damn you fried foods!…I annoyed myself. I deleted my list of games that I watched last week. Now you’ll never know.  Just know that I did enjoy 14 hours of football fun!

You had to know this song was coming…

Enjoy the bye week.  I predict we win this weekend (a prediction I can’t fail at. WOOT!). Remember to start hating Fresno as soon as possible.  Go Broncos!

Fresno

BTN Predictions – Week 6: At Nevada

Derek

After the Louisiana game a couple of weeks ago, it appeared that Boise State was starting to put it all together.  The defense continued to dominate, Grant Hedrick had a solid game, and we were seeing signs of the ball being spread around to more than just the “Big Three”.  There were definitely reasons to be optimistic heading into the Air Force game.  I expected a tough, close game – especially considering how the Broncos have fared on the road recently – but was not expecting to be dominated like we were by the Falcons.  Many people used the word “debacle”, and it truly was.  The results of the past two games truly make it hard to predict this one.  Was the Air Force game an anomaly? Was it just some growing pains of a new staff and the players continuing to learn together?  Or was that what this team is – average at best – going to win some and lose some?  If you know me, read my writings, or follow me on Twitter, you know that I am an optimist – to a fault maybe – and that will not change.   I see no reason to think negatively or doubt what myself, others, or this football team are capable of.  I am concerned about going on the road still, however this game typically has more Bronco fans attending than any other road trip.  I also think the Air Force game was a wake up call to both the coaches and the team.  I am not going to go into specifics about what players are key, which sides of the ball have the advantage, or how this game goes.  This game will be an emotional one, both because of who and where we are playing, and what happened last week, so this is a purely emotional pick.  Boise State bounces back, and continues to grow under Harsin and staff.  Boise State 31 – Nevada 21.

Tami

Nevada is a pretty good team. The Wolf Pack’s only loss so far came at the hands of Arizona, the team that beat Oregon at Autzen on Thursday night. Boise is a very talented team who is still trying to find consistency. The performance last week at Air Force makes this game quite hard to predict – I know what I want to see out of the Broncos, but a big run game, some nice deep throws to open up the field for Jay, and a shut-down defense may be more than we can hope for. The X factor is the fact that Nevada is the closest thing we have to a rivalry, and the hate is palpable. Losing to them would be a tremendous blow. So, assuming that Grant has his confidence back, the coaches are on and have everybody ready, and that some of the guys that have been out injured are able to come back (hi there defense), Boise should be able to make this a game. I’m homering it up and calling for a win for the good guys: Boise State 28 – Nevada 24. 

Dan Goodale, please be ready. We’re going to need Dead Center Dan to go to Reno and kick a ball just to watch a man and his middle fingers die.

Noel

I’m on the fence about this one. Last week was a horrid week on the field for Grant Hedrick and, if he paid any attention to the fan base, he didn’t have a good time post-game either.  His mindset is one of the keys to the game.  If his head is on straight, the offense will be sufficient. The other key is the defense. Coach Harsin and CoachYates can take some cues from Arizona’s defense on gap-integrity. and how to contain a “running” quarterback. Fajardo can eat teams up on the ground. Here’s how I see it – Broncos offense performs and the defense destroys the Nevada running game.  Broncos win 35-20 and I lob double-birds at Nevada fan on the TV.

Gage

This game might be a defining point in an already up and down season. As Derek pointed out – after beating the Ragin’ Cajuns – Boise State fans felt like the Broncos might have their mojo back, potentially leading to a chain of W’s. I felt this way myself. Short lived serenity to say the least. Air Force kindly provided a needle to Boise State’s balloon of confidence and the Broncos offense inserted it for them; with not 1.. not 2.. not 3.. but 7 turnovers.

I’ve tossed and turned all week about this game. My stabbing paranoia has me thinking the Broncos will under perform again and Nevada will win – allowing their egotistical fans to boast it in the Broncos face 2010 style. Then, on the other hand, my usual homerism has me thinking the Broncos will storm into Reno with a “F this” mentality – F last week, F the season opener, and F you Nevada. Checks to make sure I’m not a 13-year-old girl. 

I’m so atrocious at predicting final scores or even coming close (check out my previous predictions) therefore I’m going to plead the 5th on guessing this weeks final score and do so because of my superstitious nature. I will predict a close game though. Maybe even OT? Yikes. I don’t know if my heart can handle OT. But… if there are more than three “wtf Grant?” moments, prepare for another sad week in Bronco land.

Heath

I am not sure what to even say here honestly. I look at the Air Force game and then I look at the this game and I get worried. When you watch the turnovers of Hedrick my concern was a lot of throws were just inaccurate. Going into Reno the pressure on him is going to be a lot, can he handle it? I guess we will find out, but I don’t have a great feeling about it. Even with all that though, I have to remind myself I trust Harsin when it comes to the QB position and this can be no different. My other major concern going into Reno is looking at Jay Ajayi’s stat line on the road this year. If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen it, but if not here is what you need to know.

Jay Ajayi at home averages 6.1 yards per carry this season – on the road this season, 3.4.

So for us to win, Jay has to break this bad start to the road this season, and Hedrick has to be a completely different QB. Oh and I can’t forget the defense has to continue to dominate at an incredible level… Yeah, I think you guys know where I am going with this…And that is despite all this, Boise State thrives in positions like this, this is what makes BSU great. Broncos win 34 – 17.