Idaho is the worst.
And while I think that is probably all that needs to be said in a preview of the Vandals, I went ahead and wrote a couple hundred words after the jump going over matchups, storylines, and keys to Friday's game. Take a read and let me know what you think in the comments.
No. 4 Boise State vs. Idaho
- When to watch: Friday, November 12, 7:00 MT kickoff
- Where to watch: Kibbie Dome, Moscow, Ida. (Capacity: 16,000)
- How to watch: Live on ESPN2 with Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore; also on ESPN3.com and ESPN3D
- What to wager: Boise State by 35 points
- What to wear: Domed stadium, forecast calls for rednecks, low IQs, and the stench of losing
Three matchups to watch
LB Robert Siavii, LB Homer Mauga, and SS Shiloh Keo vs. WR Tyler Shoemaker
Like all good things with the Boise State offense, Shoemaker's recent success (100 yards receiving in the first half of the last two games) has come from mismatches. Get Shoemaker on a linebacker, and he's likely to be open. Idaho will need to account for him in their gameplan this week, and it will be interesting to note whether Siavii, Mauga, Keo, or a nickelback gets the call in coverage.
OT Matt Cleveland and OT Tyrone Novikoff vs. DE Shea McClellin and DE Ryan Winterswyk
Here's a stat that I like a whole lot: The Vandals are 117th out of 120 teams in sacks allowed this season. Yikes! Cleveland and Novikoff will have to play the game of their lives to keep McClellin and Wintersywk at bay. Either that, or the Vandals will have to keep seven or eight men in to protect pretty much all the time.
WR Justin Veltung vs. CB Brandyn Thompson
Veltung is the Vandals' big-play receiver, averaging a nation's-best 23 yards per catch. Big plays may be Idaho's best chance at winning this one, so the matchup of Veltung and Thompson (or Jamar Taylor, depending on BSU's preference) will be a big one.
For Boise State:
- RB D.J. Harper out for season with ACL injury
- TE Tommy Gallarda out for regular season with broken foot
- OG Joe Kellogg questionable with lower body injury
- TE Chandler Koch questionable with unknown
- TE Daniel Hardy out for regular season with broken arm
- RB Princeton McCarty questionable with knee injury
- S Gary Walker questionable (suspension)
What Idaho can do to win
I think we all learned two years ago what a little early momentum can do for the Vandals when they are playing at home. If Idaho can score early and keep the crowd in the game, they will have a better chance of staying close to the Broncos. And in rivalry games, when it's close, anything can happen. Except maybe Deonte Jackson being a gentleman.
The only thing keeping the Broncos from dropping a 50 burger on Hawaii was turnovers. The Vandals need to win the turnover battle by at least +3. And even then, there's no guarantee it will be close.
What Idaho can do to lose
The Vandals will lose if they cannot get Boise State's defensive line under control. Whether that's quick screens, draws, counters, extra blockers, whatever - Idaho has to account for that first level before even thinking about how to attack the rest of the Boise D.
Failing to get pressure on Kellen Moore will be a game-ender for the Vandals. Idaho's secondary is not nearly good enough to stick with the Boise State receivers, and Moore has proven week after week that he can pick apart a defense no matter the coverage. Pressure is the only way to limit Moore's efficiency. Or you could just wait for him to complete 19 passes in a row and get greedy. That seems to work, too.
What Boise State can do to win
Score early, score often. The worst part about rivalry games is that they even the playing field when teams are obviously not on the same level. I'm not sure that applies to this year's Boise State team (they seem to be rivalry-blind and as good on the road as they are at home), but just to be safe, let's hope the Broncos get a 21-0 first quarter lead and put this one away.
Is it true that the only person on the Idaho offense who can beat the Broncos is Nathan Enderle? I may not go that far, but a rotten, no good, very bad Enderle would sure make things easier on Friday night. If Boise State's defense can make Enderle pull a Moniz - let's say less than 250 yards passing and a couple turnovers - this one won't be close.
What Boise State can do to lose
Red zone turnovers, like the two against Hawaii, would be killers against the Vandals, especially if they come early. There is no way that Idaho can stay with Boise State in a high-scoring game, so Boise State needs to make sure the score gets high by punching it in for six every chance they get.
Thankfully, Boise State missed very few tackles last week, so hopefully that is a sign that things have been fixed. The Broncos could probably get away with missing tackles against Idaho, but there's no reason to let the Vandals extend plays and extend drives by not bringing down the ballcarrier when you have the chance.
Field goals. Boise State has not made a field goal since the New Mexico State game, which is kind of a misleading stat (they're only 0-for-2 during that time) but also a curious one (can Kyle Brotzman or Jimmy Pavel or Trevor Harman be counted on when needed?).
Vandals lose leading receiver. The Vandal offense will be without Daniel Hardy (broken arm) for the rest of the regular season. It will be interesting to watch how the Idaho offense evolves without Hardy, who did his damage as a tight end.
- Coin toss. If the first quarter is as important as I think it is (and I must think it is important since I mentioned it about 10 times up above), then the result of the coin toss could be pretty big. I would hope that Boise State would receive if they win it so that they can get the ball first and get on the scoreboard.
Homefield advantage. The Vandals had not lost at home this season until Nevada beat them big-time last weekend. If you figure Boise State > Nevada (and that's just plain good math right there), then the Kibbie Dome shouldn't be too much of a problem.
Short week. Both teams played on Saturday and both will have a short week to prepare for this one. If anything, that benefits the Vandals because Bronco coaches won't have as much time to come up with a gameplan that completely embarrasses them. It will probably only sorta embarrass them.
Momentum. Boise State has it, after a huge win over Hawaii. Idaho doesn't have it, after a huge loss to Nevada. So the question's to you: Does momentum carry over from week to week?
- What to expect. The Broncos played one of the most complete football games in school history last week. Chances are, they will not do that this week. There will probably be a few more mistakes, a few more "Aw nuts" moments, and maybe one or two punts. The nice thing is knowing that the Broncos do not need an A+ game to beat the Vandals.
- What to expect, Part II. At the same time, the Vandals will probably not play as poorly as they did last week against Nevada. Fans should not expect the same blowout score that the Wolf Pack put up. We can hope for it and dream about it and send it to our Vandal co-workers in passive-aggressive e-cards, but we should not be planning on it.
How do you think Boise State matches up against the Vandals? Do last week's results matter for this week? What players are you most interested to watch? Share your thoughts in the comments.