BTN Predictions: Week 9 vs. BYU

Logo1Derek

I am pretty bad at predicting.  I am really good, however, at being an optimist.  Each week I predict impending doom for our opponent – our Broncos will finally put together a complete game, completely dominate, and the result will be a blowout of epic proportions.  Each week, we show flashes of brilliance. Sometimes it is on defense.  Sometimes it is on offense.  It has yet to be both same time for an entire game yet.  The Fresno State game was about as close as we have come, but a fumble in our own red zone by Dallas Burroughs changed the flow and made the game closer than it should be.  A young team, a new coaching staff with new schemes  -we are bound to have some growing pains.

If you tried to predict this game a few weeks ago, you might have predicted a blowout, but by the wrong team.  Things sure have changed.  Taysom Hill goes down, and what do you know BYU is on a three game losing streak.  It feels like Boise State is slowly trending up while BYU is in a complete nose-dive down.  This game should be a close one (Vegas says it is a seven point win for the Broncos), but I can’t change my ways now, right?  After weeks of having faith that my team is going to go #HAMPlanet on a team I can’t say we are going to play a tight game against a wounded animal.  So here it is – we FINALLY put it all together – our offensive line lays down the tracks for the J-Train, Grant Hedrick has another solid game passing, our defensive line sacks Christian Stewart six times, and Jeremy McNichols takes one to the house on a kick return. It wont be a blow-out of epic proportions, but this game will never feel close.  Boise State 42 BYU 23.

Noel

I’m a homer.  I always will be.  I have no problem always picking the Broncos.  If we were habitually on the losing side of games, I might change my tune. But, this isn’t the University of Idaho (I had to get a dig in.) and we are home favorites for a reason.   The Blue Turf is despised by everyone outside the program.  Haters give a plethora of explanations like “camouflage” and “ugliness”.  I say because it has an aura around it.  It feeds the Broncos.  It gives an extra glue between the fans and the team.  Boise State needs that atmosphere to win this game.  Grant is efficient, our defense gets a score, the crowd creates dumb penalties for the Cougars, and the Broncos win, 38-24.  #HAMPlanet

Tami

I really hope this game is a blowout, for a myriad of reasons. I want to see all too smug, local BYU fans in their Bronco gear the rest of the season, after Boise destroys them. I want Coach Mendenhall to again throw his team under the bus in the media in the postgame. Sad BYU fans throwing a fit after a week of borderline nasty smack talk would be stuff that legends are made of. I want to see a systematic dementing of BYU’s entire offensive and defensive schemes. A truly raucous Bronco Albertson’s Stadium will be required because the Cougars, despite all the underdog talk of a program at the brink, will most certainly bring their A game. It’s going to be a fight and since I have to pick, I guess BSU wins, 28-21.

Gage

The Broncos are at home, yes, stating the obvious, but thus far on the season that means one thing…. one. very. important. thing. Jay Ajayi balls out at home. He’s averaging 5.9 YPC with 7 TD’s. Jay is the Broncos rock, period. He is NUMBER ONE in the country for total touches; we go as he goes. *On pins & needles every time he fights for extra yards and takes a big hit* … ‘Get up baby, get up’

Going off what Derek mentioned above, I am also waiting for a week where the Broncos piece it all together. Could it happen this week, maybe. But my sloppy, unreliable, and usually wrong intuition has me feeling otherwise… I think the Taysom Hill-less Cougars will put up a good fight, preventing a lopsided Bronco victory – hang around for 3 quarters or so and make the final score look closer than it actually was. Broncos 31 BYU 17

Heath

I am not exactly sure how to look at this game. BYU has not been great without Hill and if Nevada can beat them, so can we, right? Boise State doesn’t lose at home, Jay Ajayi is a different person on “The Blue” and yet I find myself worried. I guess that basically sums up this season though. The crowd should be intense tonight and I think that gives us a big boost. This game is quietly becoming a solid rivalry that could be great for years to come. Rivalry games however tend to be close, at least the better rivalries do. Because of that, I going to say Boise State 34, BYU 28. As great as the Cougars defense has been against the run Jay Ajayi is going to get his tonight. I also trust Hedrick at home much more than I do on the road. The question of this game will be our defense against BYU’s offense. In a weird turn of events from the start of the season I know. But BYU is going to air it out against us tonight. If our defense can  step up, I am confident we can win this game.

Also of note, I hate BYU, and I just wanted to end on this. Few schools get my blood boiling the way BYU does. Idaho and Nevada probably hold a higher rating in the overall “hate” index, but BYU and their fans do everything they can yearly it seems to pass them. Go Broncos!

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.

BTN Predictions: Week 8 vs. Cal State – Fresno

Derek

We are half way through the season and we have certainly seen some ups and downs from this team.  It certainly makes it tough for us to predict.  Last time I did not really predict how the game would go – just that emotion alone would win.  I was right. It was a tough game, going back and forth with lots of scoring, but ultimately emotion won out, and you could tell by the post-game celebration.

Emotion will play a part in this weeks match-up against Fresno State as well. I am sure that losing by one point left a bad taste in the mouths of the players, on top of the fact that Fresno seems to think it is a new era in the rivalry.  Unlike last weeks game however, we are at home on the Blue, and do not have to deal with the opposing team’s emotion of protecting their home field.  I also feel like this is the week that the Broncos finally put together a complete game.  Fresno has had an ugly season up to this point. On Friday night, it will get uglier.  Boise State 56 Fresno 12

Tami

Boise State appears to be on the verge of their first truly complete game of the season. Like, any minute now. (I’ve been calling for this since UConn, so ¯_(ツ)_/¯.) I think the boys in blue will be sufficiently hyped after last season, and in an emotionally and physically good state coming off a bye. The game is in the friendly confines of Bronco Stadium, and Fresno is not a good football team. The Bulldogs are coming off a rather sad loss to UNLV in OT and I’m guessing the crowd and the lights and Boise State’s level of execution will mess with them. Boise’s stout defense should bother QB Brian Burrell into coughing up some turnovers. They also must contain Fresno’s RB Marteze Waller and dangerous WR Josh Harper, but Fresno isn’t exactly Ole Miss and it’s hard to be really concerned. The Broncos offense has been more consistent in the red zone since Air Force, and shouldn’t have an issue putting points on the board against the Dog’s porous D. Of course, it’s just as possible that Fresno plays outta their mind, but even then I think the crowd will help swing momentum Boise’s way when they really need it. BSU wins by a bunch. Broncos 48 – Fresno 10.

Heath

Being at home gives me all the confidence in the world. There is just something special about Boise State when they play Fresno in Boise. And because of that, I don’t see any scenario where Boise State loses their first time ever to Fresno on “The Blue”. Jay Ajayi is positioned to have another massive game, and the Fresno State offense is going to serve up big chances for our defense to make plays. That being said, I am leaning towards a convincing win in the range of 42-20 Boise State.

Noel

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. H said 42-31.

Gage

Fresno, Fresno, Fresno… I love you so. Some of the most prolific — high-scoring — nail-biting — gut-wrenching  games have taken place between these two teams. One being last year. Which unfortunately reminds me Fresno squeaked out a 41-40 victory. I happen to break my phone that night… coincidence….?

This year should be a different story. Derek Carr gone – Fresno’s potency gone with. Their defense is dismal at best … giving up 50+ points in four of their seven games so far. YIKES. Somewhat like the Broncos … Fresno’s offense is struggling to achieve consistency. Already mentioned by everyone above, Fresno has one serious threat — Josh Harper. If Cleshawn Page and the rest of the Broncos secondary are able to contain him, the Milk Can shall belong to the Broncos once again. Boise State 49 Fresno 17

 

 

5 Keys – 1 Prediction

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1.) Keep Finding New Targets: No Matt Miller, no problem right? If Boise State can keep up the Nevada trend of getting everybody involved that might be the case. Matt Miller is an exceptional talent, that will be deeply missed. But if Boise State can spread the ball around then this could become addition by subtraction. Hedrick seemed to lock on to Matt early and often and the offense seemed to be built around 3 guys. Now with Miller gone it looks to be forcing BSU to become more diverse and in someways more dangerous. If BSU keeps up the new, more diverse offense, Boise State could give the Fresno defense fits all night long on “The Blue”.

2.) Jay Ajayi Keeps up Home Success: Jay Ajayi is a beast, but he is an absolute freak at home this season. So far in 2 games he has 369 yards and is averaging over 6 yards per carry. If Jay keeps this up, nobody will beat Boise State at home. If Jay even comes close to this kind of production against Fresno State, they should win the game. Fresno’s defense has struggled this season, and they haven given up a tons of yards per carry this season against solid opponents. Mix this with Jay Ajayi at home and Fresno State could be in for another embarrassing trip to Boise.
3:) Defend the Bubble-Screen: If you hated Robert Prince and the bubble-screen passes then you will really enjoy rooting against Fresno State. Just like last season Fresno is going to try and get the ball on the edge and win in space. One of the ways they do this is getting their best player Josh Harper the ball on bubble-screens and letting him work. For Boise State to win this game they will need to continue their success defending and often times blowing this play up. Cleshawn Page against Ole Miss and before he got injured showed he can be a monster on this particular play. If he can show that again against Fresno it could lead to some big hits and turnovers. More importantly if Boise State as a whole can defend this play, they will win the game.

4.) Remember Last Season: No sport is more emotional in my opinion than football. Boise State does not like Fresno, Fresno does not like Boise State. Add to that mix a little revenge and then sprinkle in some blue turf and Boise State has a recipe for a beat down. Many of the guys on this team now know what it felt like last season to lose to Fresno on national TV. They need to use this emotion and payback factor to teach Fresno who owns this rivalry.

5.) No Big Plays: When you look Fresno the biggest stat that stands out to me is their lack of big-plays. Specifically when you look at their first 3 beat downs they were averaging around 4.5 yards per PASS.  Once again, Jay Ajayi at home this year is averaging more per carry than Fresno was in some of their games in the passing game. With this, Boise State can’t allow Fresno to get any confidence with any big plays down the field. If they can keep Fresno in front of them all game long, I fully expect Fresno to struggle to score points.

1 Prediction: My prediction for this game is that a new star will rise for Boise State. Who that is, I am not sure. Right now though,  I would put my money on McNichols if he gets the chances. Few players have looked as good as McNichols did in his first game against Nevada. If he gets touches against Fresno I expect that trend to continue. If it is not him however, somebody else will step up big not named Rhodes or Ajayi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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.

ponymoonwalkshore

Makin’ this look good since 2001.