Your Boise State - Nevada preview and keys to the game

The Nevada Wolf Pack team that enters Bronco Stadium on Saturday (12:30 p.m. MT, Versus) will not be the same Nevada team that faced the Broncos last year. No matter. We'll take our revenge however we can get it, right?

For the differences between last year's team and this year's, as well as the keys to the game for Nevada staying close and Boise State staying ahead by 40, join me after the jump. Feel free to share your thoughts on the game in the comments.

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Nevada vs. No. 4 Boise State

  • When to watch: Saturday, October 1, 12:30 p.m. MT kickoff
  • Where to watch: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Ida. (Capacity: 33,500)
  • How to watch: Live on Versus with Paul Burmeister, Shaun King, and Anthony Herron
  • What to wager: Boise State by 27.5 points, combined score over/under 62 points
  • What to wear: Forecast calls for clear skies, high of 89, no chance of precipitation
  • How to get in: Check the ticket flea market for any remaining tickets

Keys to the game

The new Colin Kaepernick is still TBD after three weeks of football. Tyler Lantrip, the heir to the Kaeper-throne, has started all three games but failed to finish last week against Texas Tech. Cody Fajardo, the better runner and worse passer of the two (hmm, sound familiar?), nearly led the Wolf Pack to an upset over the Red Raiders. Which one will Chris Ault choose? He doesn't know. But he promises it will be one of them ... unless that one plays like garbage. Then it will be the other.

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Regardless of who starts, the Nevada Pistol offense will remain the same. You'll still have the power running attack with a downhill back like Mike Ball. You'll still have the deep passing game with a receiver like Rishard Matthews. Boise State will need to play sound, assignment football, meaning no freelancing or daydreaming or missing tackles. 

Whatever team establishes the run will have a clear advantage on Saturday. Nevada's offense goes like gangbusters when the run is working, and Boise State's offense is deadly when it can effectively pass and run. The pass will be no problem for the Broncos. Kellen Moore can throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns against a secondary of Incredibles (and the Wolf Pack are no Incredibles). Nevada won't have as easy a time passing, especially if the run fails them. The Wolf Pack would be best served to try slants and crossing routes against Boise State's linebackers and safeties, a la Toledo. 

In the previous three meetings with the Wolf Pack, Boise State has jumped out to early leads only to see Nevada fight back. I'm not sure this Wolf Pack team is built for comebacks; therefore, the first quarter will be big for both teams. If Boise State gets an early lead, we could see a repeat of the Oregon-Nevada game, which was U-G-L-Y and O-V-E-R by halftime. If Nevada can keep it close, then we'll have ourselves a game (for the next couple quarters at least).

Miscellaneous keys for Boise State

  • Control the line of scrimmage. Kind of an obvious statement, but it takes on added importance when you play Nevada's Pistol and when your own running game is suspect. 
  • Win the turnover battle. /obligatory mention
  • Limit big plays.
  • Don't let Fajardo or Lantrip get comfortable. Whether it's with a four-man rush or a five- or six-man blitz, the Broncos should pressure the Nevada QBs and force them into quick decisions and errant throws and ice baths.

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  • Tackle. 
  • Easy offensive drives. The Broncos have been surviving on third and fourth downs for the past couple weeks, and that's no way to live. How about moving the chains on first and second downs instead, and just avoiding third down altogether?
  • Scramble yards. Fajardo made several plays with his legs last week against Texas Tech, so Bronco D-linemen and linebackers have to be aware of his ability to escape the pocket and pick up yards. It's reminiscent of Colin Kaepernick, except less birdy.
  • Red zone defense. When Nevada gets to the red zone, they are not very good. Boise State would do well to keep it that way.

Miscellaneous keys for Nevada

  • Field position. The Broncos have had a lopsided advantage in all three games so far, and it was a huge factor in the final outcome. Plus, those guys in the South End Zone are crazy, so you don't want to be back there too long.
  • Win the turnover battle. /obligatory mention
  • Have a good halftime. Human thimble Chris Ault is one of the few coaches around who can match wits with the Broncos when it comes to adjustments. 
  • Avoid big mistakes. These can come in the form of penalties, dropped passes, turnovers, and missed tackles. To beat Boise State, you have to play flawless football or else catch some breaks. Flawless football is the one thing you can control.
  • Make field goals. In the irony of ironies, Nevada kicker Anthony Montgomery Martinez enters the Boise State game on a cold streak, having missed a gimme against Texas Tech last week. Obviously, you need all the points you can get against the Broncos.

Other things that may matter

  • Swing points. Those are the points scored by defense and special teams and short drives, and they can either keep overmatched teams in the game or throw lighter fluid on a blowout. 
  • Last year's game. I don't want to relive last year's Nevada game any more than I already have to every time someone puts together a pregame intro. I think the mistakes Boise State made are obvious enough that I shouldn't have to enumerate them here. I'll just say that what went wrong against Nevada last season was less a result of who Nevada had on the field and more a result of the adjustments the Wolf Pack made, the errors Boise State made, and some calls that could have gone either way. In other words, while the personnel has changed, the underlying factors remain. I'll be interested to see how both teams approach Saturday's game and how old strategies and new adjustments play a role.
  • Revenge. Bronco players and coaches have done a good job pointing out this week how the Nevada game is a good rivalry without saying that they want to go up and down the field on them until the scoreboards stop working. I have to think they want revenge at least half as bad as I want revenge.

Your turn

What are your keys to the game for Boise State and Nevada? Do you think Boise State will repeat any of the same mistakes it made last year? Will Nevada's new QBs pose any problems? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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