Final pregame thoughts on Boise State vs. Virginia Tech

Boise State and Virginia Tech kickoff tonight, and I am more of a mess than usual. Hopes, fears, thoughts, worries - you name them, I'm feeling them. It's time for a good, old-fashioned vent session. And a Pepto.

After the jump, I check in with some final pregame thoughts touching on topics like injuries, the Bronco keys to the game, and reaction to reaction from around the web. And then I invite you to share and vent with me. Got any last minute hopes, fears, or worries to share? Let's hear them. Gamethread coming later today, so get it all out now.

Before I forget to remind you, there is a Predict the Score contest happening right now. Enter for a chance to win a jersey.

Which injured Broncos will play? And is that even the right question?

Several Boise State players are dinged up to an extent that has not been revealed to anyone. Did Faraji Wright sprain an ankle? No one knows. Does Jeron Johnson still have a foot? Your guess is as good as mine.

The mystery shrouded in paranoia has led a lot of Bronco fans to spend a lot of time wondering what the injury status for BSU's star players will be tonight. Really, we fans should be asking two questions.

  1. Will starters like Ryan Winterswyk and Jeron Johnson play tonight?
  2. If they play, will they be 100 percent?

The first question is fine but really fails to get to the point. Yes, we want Winterswyk and Johnson to play tonight, but what we really want is for them to play at 100 percent.

Austin Pettis played in last year's Fiesta Bowl. But did he really? Apart from one catch, he was a non-factor. Something tells me that Winterswyk and Johnson will be on the field for tonight's game, but anything other than that remains very much up in the air. When they play, will they play at 100 percent? Is a 90 percent Jeron Johnson better than a 100 percent Travis Stanaway or Jeremy Ioane?

Bryan Harsin's four keys to victory

Over the weekend, Chadd Cripe revealed offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin's four keys to the game. Here they are in much plainer language than I'm sure Harsin explained them to the team:

  • Run the ball effectively.
  • No turnovers.
  • Avoid 2nd-and-15-type situations.
  • Score touchdowns in the red zone.

Brilliant. Every single one of them. When Boise State runs the ball effectively, they are an impossible offense to stop. I'd say 4.0 yards per carry should be considered effective tonight.

Turnovers is an obvious one, and it will be interesting to watch for Thomas Byrd and Kellen Moore's center-QB exchanges, especially since the two players did not spend as much time as usual getting reps in Fall Camp as Byrd battled for a starting job.

The 2nd and 15s can be avoided easily enough with an effective running game. Same with scoring touchdowns in the red zone.

With a number of Harsin's goals relating directly to the running game, I wonder how stubborn Harsin will be with ensuring that the ground game works. Will he stick with it early even if it isn't getting results? I hope that Harsin uses the pass to set up the run since I believe Boise State is better suited to move the ball effectively through the air against the Hokies. Obviously a balanced attack is preferable, but Harsin will have to start somewhere.

Interesting enough, here were my four keys to the game, as expressed in my interview at Pre-Snap Read.

  • Holding Tyrod Taylor under 250 yards of offense.
  • Converting on third downs.
  • Scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
  • Turnovers.

Two out of four ain't bad.

Titus Young vs. Rashad Carmichael

I would encourage you to read the ESPN Scouts Inc. preview of tonight's game except that a) it costs money and b) it doesn't have a happy ending. One aspect of the preview I found interesting was its matchup prediction of Boise State WR Titus Young and Virginia Tech CB Rashad Carmichael.

(Carmichael) will occasionally struggle versus bigger wide receivers who muscle him around. At 5-foot-10 and 176 pounds Young does not fit that description, so the edge should go to Carmichael in this one-on-one matchup. If he holds up when isolated on Young it will make a big difference for the blitz-happy Hokies.

Maybe it's just me, but I haven't heard too much talk about this matchup leading into tonight's game. Sounds important, though. If Young can exploit Carmichael, that would make life a lot tougher on the Virginia Tech defense. And if Carmichael can handle Young one-on-one, that would put a serious crimp in the Boise State offense. Can the Broncos succeed with Young neutralized? I say yes, so long as Austin Pettis has a big game.

Scouts Inc's keys to imminent failure for the Broncos

More from Scout's:

Still, there are three reasons to believe Virginia Tech will come out on top in a somewhat low-scoring affair. The first is the distinct advantage the Hokies own in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The second is the backfield tandem of Williams and Evans, which should wear down the Broncos' disciplined but smallish defensive front. The third is the location of FedEX Field, which sits just 280 miles from Blacksburg, Va. That's 2,100 miles closer than Boise, Idaho.

The three reasons why Virginia Tech will win:

  1. An advantage in the trenches
  2. Ryan Williams and Darren Evans
  3. Home-field advantage

First of all, can we please throw this home-field advantage theory out the window? The atmosphere in Autzen Stadium will be much worse than whatever happens at FedEx Field. On the road against hostile crowds is not an issue for the Broncos, at least not this version of the Broncos.

I haven't decided what I think yet about the other two factors. I know that Boise State's lines are deep and talented, but does that exclude them from getting worn down by bigger fronts of Virginia Tech?

Boise State was born prepared, but an extra 8 months certainly helps

Aaron Torres of Aaron Torres Sports made a good point in his game preview:

Most importantly, all of (BSU's) biggest wins have come off extended layoffs. Boise had a month before their two Fiesta Bowl wins, and an off-season to prepare for Oregon. If this were Week 5, I might take Tech. But it’s Week 1, and Boise’s going to be ready for whatever Frank Beamer throws at them.

Ah. That makes me feel better.

Miscellaneous thoughts

  • On a podcast with Bill Connelly of Football Outsiders, I latched onto something Bill said about third downs. Apparently, the Broncos were not terribly good defending 3rd-and-manageable last year. Virginia Tech was good at getting into 3rd-and-manageable. So what gives tonight?
  • In Gobbler Country's preview, furrer4heisman listed several box score stats to watch, and the one I liked the most was average starting field position. Both Boise State and Virginia Tech have excellent special teams, which allows them to start off with great field position almost all the time. It will be interesting to see which team gets the advantage on that front tonight.
  • For those of you in D.C. for the game, keep an eye out for the OBNUG tailgate banner before the game. Stop by to meet some OBNUGgers.

Your turn

What is on your mind prior to Boise State's big game? Got a reaction to the Bronco injuries? Any new keys to the game you want to discuss? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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