This week's game against Hawaii has the feel of the Virginia Tech game or the Oregon State matchup except without any of the hype. Hawaii will be the best team Boise State has faced in over a month. Will Saturday's game be a nailbiter, a blowout, or something in between?
After the jump, I lay out several keys to the game for both teams as well as all the info you need to get ready for Saturday. Then it's your turn. Let's hear what factors and matchups you feel will be most important for a Bronco win this weekend.
Hawaii vs. No. 4 Boise State
- When to watch: Saturday, November 6, 1:30 p.m. kickoff
- Where to watch: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Ida. (Capacity: 33,500)
- How to watch: Live on ESPNU with Pam Ward, Danny Kannell, and Jessica Mendoza (also available on ESPN3D and ESPN3.com)
- What to wager: Boise State by 21
- What to wear: Forecast calls for partly cloudy skies, 54 degrees
Three matchups to watch
Greg Salas vs. Brandyn Thompson, Kealoha Pilares vs. Jamar Taylor
There's a good chance that these matchups won't even happen if the Broncos employ zone or choose to play Thompson and Taylor off the slot. But let's say these four players play across from each other because that will be convenient for this storyline. Can Thompson shut down Salas as effectively as Kyle Wilson has in years past? Will Salas and Pilares break tackles against BSU's aggressive corners? Will Thompson have another big game against Hawaii? Which matchup favors the Warriors more?
Corey Paredes vs. Shea McClellin
These are two of your top candidates for WAC Defensive Player of the Year. A great game by McClellin would be huge for the Broncos to help slow the vaunted Hawaii passing attack. Likewise, if Paredes plays well from his linebacker spot, the Warriors may be able to contain Doug Martin and the Broncos' short passing game.
Mana Silva vs. Kellen Moore
Safety Mana Silva leads a Hawaii defense that has specialized in turnovers during their six-game winning streak. Thing is, Kellen Moore doesn't turn the ball over except against LaTech. Sorry, Hawaii. Still, Silva is the Warriors' best player in the secondary, and it will be entertaining to watch the way that Moore works around him (or past him, or through him).
For Boise State:
- D.J. Harper out for season with ACL tear
- Tommy Gallarda out for regular season with broken foot
- Aaron Tevis questionable with leg injury
- Kyle Brotzman probable with leg injury
- Cedric Febis questionable with undisclosed
- Joe Kellogg questionable with leg injury
- Brandyn Thompson questionable with shoulder injury
- Jeron Johnson questionable with undisclosed
- Chase Baker questionable with undisclosed
- WR Kealoha Pilares probable with hamstring injury
- OL Laupepa Letuli probable with ankle injury
- SS Spencer Smith probable with arm injury
- LB George Daily-Lyles probable with ankle injury
- OL Brett Leonard questionable with knee injury
What Hawaii can do to win
Hawaii needs to gain yards after the catch for their offense to be successful on Saturday. Boise State will give the Warriors the short passes, and if those short passes remain short gains, then UH will face a lot of 3rd downs and end up punting more often than they'd like to.
The Warriors are a Top Ten defense in forcing turnovers, which is what you might expect when you play Charleston Southern and Idaho. Boise State will be far more stingy, especially when it comes to interceptions. Hawaii may be able to force some fumbles, though. Boise State has coughed up four fumbles in its three closest games this year. Hawaii has forced seven TOs on fumbles and returned fumbles for scores in back-to-back games. Careless turnovers like those will keep Hawaii in this game all afternoon.
What Hawaii can do to lose
I watched the entire Nevada-Hawaii game a couple weeks back, and that game should not have come down to the last possession. Hawaii seemed to be in control. They just let Nevada hang around. The reason: A lot of stupid penalties, questionable offensive playcalling, and a lack of urgency in the red zone. You can't afford to make many errors against a team as across-the-board talented as Boise State. Hawaii can get away with one of those three problems areas (not the red zone one, though, as you'll read below), but not all three.
What Boise State can do to win
The difference between a rout and a nailbiter will be what the Broncos do with their opportunities. If Boise State makes the most of their opportunities - connecting on long passes, getting off the field on 3rd down, turning turnovers into points, taking advantage of good field position - the Broncos will put a lot of points on the board and cruise.
In an email this week, Drew wrote that Hawaii will need to score at least 30 points in order to keep up with the Broncos. And I agree. If Boise State can hold Hawaii to 28 points, the Warriors won't have enough. This Bronco offense (and Bronco special teams and Bronco defense) will put too many points on the board - no matter how good the Hawaii defense may be.
What Boise State can do to lose
Missing tackles is the obvious one. I know I don't need to rehash that one any more than it's already been hashed.
This one is another fave of mine: Red zone defense. Boise State is currently No. 2 in the nation in red zone D, and they are playing the No. 74 team in red zone offense. Mismatch much? The Broncos need to keep that advantage and keep the Warriors out of the end zone as much as possible on Saturday. Hawaii will not win by kicking field goals because Boise State won't be kicking field goals (hopefully because the Broncos are in the end zone and not because Kyle Brotzman has dead leg).
"They’re going to catch balls and they’re going to get yards," Kwiatkowski said. "It’s how we tackle after they catch it. When they drive the ball, it shortens the field and coverage can get tighter. We have to do a good job in the red zone."
Time to prepare. Do not give Boise State extra time to prepare for an opponent. Have you learned nothing from last year's Fiesta Bowl? The greatest confidence I have in this game is that Bronco coaches have had 11 days to get ready for Hawaii. I expect to see some crazy effective schemes.
Home field advantage. Confidence point No. 2: Boise State is at home. Hawaii has had rough road games at Army and Colorado this year, and they traditionally do not play so hot in Boise. Kickoff is at 9:30 a.m. local Hawaii time.
Hawaii strength of schedule. Hawaii has built its momentum on the back of a six-game winning streak. Here are the teams they have defeated during that stretch: Charleston Southern, Louisiana Tech, Fresno State, Nevada, Utah State, Idaho. Combined record: 23-24. Boise State will be by far the best team Hawaii has faced all year.
Hawaii running game. Hawaii RB Alex Green will probably run the ball better than you think a Hawaii running back should run the ball, but at the same time, he's not going to be a Lennon Creer. Green is very efficient in his role in the offense, and completely ignoring him would be a mistake. That said, I doubt Boise State will completely ignore him. I'd say Byron Hout is equal than or greater to Green in a one-on-one matchup.
Aggressive playcalling. Why did I feel so uncomfortable during parts of the Louisiana Tech game? Probably because I never knew what Sonny Dykes was going to do next. Hawaii needs to take the same aggressive approach into Saturday's game, and really, they have no reason not to. They have their bowl game tied up. They have nothing to lose. We'll know a lot about the Warriors' approach (and McMackin's gameplan) when Hawaii faces some early 4th downs on Saturday.
Dropped passes. They're like the fraternal twin of missed tackles.Right, Austin Pettis?
What does Boise State need to do to get the win on Saturday? Think Brandyn Thompson can replicate Kyle Wilson's success against Greg Salas? What do you make of the Hawaii D? Share your thoughts in the comments.