The Broncos and Cowboys square off on Saturday night in what absolutely no one is calling the greatest game in Boise State football history. Have we learned nothing from Coach Pete?
The Cowboys will give the Broncos a stiff test in a hostile environment, and while the buildup lacks the hullabaloo of Virginia Tech, the game itself is well worth getting antsy about. After the jump, find out what my key matchups and factors are for the Broncos' game against the Cowboys, and then weigh in with your thoughts in the comments. Does this game have you worried? Think Wyoming can hang with BSU? Let's discuss.
No. 3 Boise State vs. Wyoming
- When to watch: Saturday, September 18, 6:00 MT kickoff
- Where to watch: War Memorial Stadium, Laramie, Wyo. (Capacity: 32,580)
- How to watch: Live on CBS College Sports (details)
- What to wager: Boise State by 24
- What to wear: Forecast calls for clear skies, 76 degrees
Three matchups to watch
Wyoming QB Austyn Carta-Samuels vs. Boise State's defensive line
Boise State should be able to harass Carta-Samuels plenty on Saturday night if the BSU D-line's dominating effort against Virginia Tech is any indication. But a lot of good that does if they can't corral the Cowboys QB. Carta-Samuels is essentially Tyrod Taylor Lite - elusive in the pocket and a dangerous passer when he's on his game. The Bronco line had its share of miscommunication on keeping containment and staying home against Taylor. If that happens against Wyoming, Carta-Samuels knows how to take advantage, like he did last week against Texas.
Boise State WRs Tyler Shoemaker and Mitch Burroughs vs. Wyoming CBs James Caraway and Marqueston Huff
I was tempted to make this be about the matchup between A-Team Boise State WRs Austin Pettis and Titus Young and Wyoming starting CBs Marcell Gipson and Tashaun Gipson. And no doubt that matchup will be big. But I went with the next men up for both teams thanks to this quote from Wyoming senior safety Chris Prosinski, speaking about the last time he played the Broncos:
"With all the different shifts and motions they run I was kind of lost in that game as a freshman."
Marqueston Huff is a freshman, James Caraway a sophomore. They'll be tested by the Bronco offense and by the second wave of BSU's receiving corps, so it will be interesting to see if the Wyoming corners stand their ground and get things figured out.
LB Brian Hendricks and S Chris Prosinski vs. QB Kellen Moore
An interesting chess match to watch will be Hendricks and Prosinski versus Kellen Moore, not so much in a one-on-one open field tackling kind of way (Bryan Harsin's QB option infatuation notwithstanding), but in a one-on-one football smarts kind of way. Will Hendricks suck in on Moore's play action fakes? Can Moore move Prosinski out of passing lanes with lookaways and pump fakes? Will Wyoming's defensive captains get their teammates in the proper position pre-snap to defend the Broncos? Is anyone on the CBS College Sports broadcast team even going to know this stuff goes on in football games?
For Boise State:
- Ryan Winterswyk probable with leg injury
- Jeron Johnson probable with unknown
- Brenel Myers probable with ankle injury
- Derrell Acrey will play with ankle injury
- Reserve OT Travis Hillen out with an Achilles injury
What Wyoming can do to win
After two weeks of football, Wyoming is the third-worst rushing team in the country, averaging only 47 yards per game. And one of those games was against Southern Utah. If the Cowboys can run the ball effectively against the Broncos, they will be in good shape for a number of reasons.
- They won't be behind by a bunch.
- They will give their defense a rest and keep Kellen Moore and Co. off the field.
- They will be moving the ball somewhat consistently.
Where those rushing yards come from is up to the Cowboys. Carta-Samuels is a threat to run both on designed plays and on scrambles, so he could account for a majority of the yards. RB Alvester Alexander could get a hot hand and bail out Wyoming on the ground. It really doesn't matter who gets the ground game going. If anyone on Wyoming can find any room consistently, the Cowboys can keep it close.
The last two times that the Cowboys played the Broncos (2006 and 2007), Wyoming hung with BSU for the duration. One of the keys for the Pokes back then was getting off the field on 3rd down, and that won't change Saturday night. Now, a lot of Wyoming's success in this area might depend on Boise State's missed opportunities. If Wyoming can limit big plays on first and second down, they'll have a better shot at stopping the Broncos on third ... or the Broncos stopping themselves. Don't forget, Boise State had 11 penalties against the Hokies, a couple of which were offensive drive stallers.
What Wyoming can do to lose
Here's a number that Wyoming fans don't want to hear: 23 missed tackles. No, not against Texas. Against Southern Utah, a team that the Cowboys beat 28-20 in the season opener. If you watched the highlight tape above, you can see that missed tackles were also a problem against Texas, leading to the two game-changing scores by the Longhorns. Missing tackles on Saturday will doom the Cowboys. The Bronco running backs and receivers are too talented to let roam free in open space, and they will make you pay.
It's a broken record, but turnovers would kill any chance Wyoming has, too. Boise State only forced the one fumble against Virginia Tech (and forced is putting it nicely), they lost the turnover battle, and still beat the Hokies. If Wyoming finds itself upside down on turnovers on Saturday, they do not have the ability to overcome that against BSU.
What Boise State can do to win
Kellen Moore was solid and effective against Virginia Tech. If he happens to be spectacular and prolific against Wyoming, the Cowboys don't stand a chance. Moore should benefit on Saturday from Boise State's advantage up front and in the ground game. Imagine the kind of time he could have on play action. Imagine if the screen game gets rolling. If the the Bronco passing attack puts up 350 yards or more, this one's over. Wyoming cannot keep up.
Boise State has advantages at most every position on the football field, and they need to make the most of it with a fast start right from kickoff. Take the crowd out of the game, jump out to a big lead, and play smart football the rest of the way. Doing so will make getting a W much easier on the Broncos.
What Boise State can do to lose
Fans definitely don't want to see a repeat of the Tyrod Taylor Show on Saturday night, so containing Carta-Samuels will be key. But Boise State can also not afford to get too aggressive, sloppy, or out of position in its secondary and let the Cowboys beat them through the air. Carta-Samuels will never be mistaken for Steve Young, much less Colin Kaepernick, but as we saw on Monday night against the Hokies, Boise State's secondary is not foolproof. And as always, those problems get magnified when a mobile quarterback extends plays with his feet. If Boise State's strategy is to defend the pass in lieu of focusing on Wyoming's anemic ground game, then the secondary might get some extra help with more forgiving coverage schemes. Either way, the Bronco defense will likely live or die with how its corners and safeties perform.
No matter how it might happen - mistakes, penalties, turnovers, etc. - losing the field position game would be a bad sign for the Broncos. Virginia Tech got two of its touchdowns on a short field following turnovers. Wyoming could easily do the same. The Cowboys don't have to do anything special on offense to get points if they start consistently in Boise State territory. Plus, consistently bad field position means that the Broncos aren't moving the ball on offense, which would be bad times all around. Lose the field position battle - and lose it soundly - and this one's a lot closer than you'd expect.
The death of Ruben Narcisse. Wyoming lost freshman linebacker Ruben Narcisse in a car accident prior to the Texas game, and Saturday's contest against Boise State will be the Cowboys' first home game since Narcisse's death. Now, I'm not one to usually put too much stock in the emotional high of playing for a fallen teammate, but everyone else sure seems to be jumping on that bandwagon. Do you think this kind of intangible matters on the field?
Boise State's defensive strategy. What does Kwiatkowski do on defense? The Broncos defended Tyrod Taylor with a variety of schemes, some more effective than others. If BSU maintains the rotating looks from the opener, here's hoping they work better than they did against Taylor.
- Close game early. Wyoming took a 7-6 lead on Texas late in the second quarter. How would the Broncos respond if a similar circumstance came their way on Saturday night?
What are you feelings on the Cowboys? Think they can hang with the Broncos for four quarters? What are your keys to a Bronco victory? Share your thoughts in the comments.