Boise State's next biggest game of the year happens Saturday, when Oregon State and the Rodgers brothers come to town. Is this Oregon State team capable of pulling the upset?
Find out my keys to the game for both the Broncos and the Beavers and then discuss how you see things turning out on Saturday. Who wins the battle of James Rodgers vs. Brandyn Thompson? How about Coach Pete vs. Mike Riley? Let's discuss.
No. 24 Oregon State vs. No. 3 Boise State
- When to watch: Saturday, September 25, 6:00 MT kickoff
- Where to watch: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Ida., (Capacity: 33,610)
- How to watch: Live on ABC with Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, and Erin Andrews
- What to wager: Boise State by 17.5 points
- What to wear: Forecast calls for clear skies, 85 degrees
Three matchups to watch
DT Stephen Paea vs. OG Will Lawrence, C Thomas Byrd, and OG Joe Kellogg
It's not that Paea will be 1-on-3 against the Boise State interior line, but I do believe at some point each of these three inside blockers will have their chance to go mano-a-mano against one of the Pac-10's best defensive players. How important are these matchups? Well, take away the inside running game or pressure Kellen Moore up the middle and you can have some success against the Broncos. Don't, and it could be a long day.
Of note, Thomas Byrd has two holding penalties in two games thus far, and he fumbled a center-QB snap moving to his left to block down against Wyoming. Good luck sleeping the rest of the week.
WR James Rodgers vs. CB Brandyn Thompson
Rodgers the running back gets a lot of attention, but what will Boise State do to defend against Rodgers the wideout? I have to believe that Brandyn Thompson will be prominently involved. If BSU loads up to stop the run (a fair assumption), then it could be Thompson vs. Rodgers one-on-one on the edge. Rodgers is a sharp, smart route runner who finds space in the defense and makes plays after the catch. As we saw against Virginia Tech, Bronco corners often provide space in their defense and give you room to make plays after the catch. Louisville held Rodgers to 3 catches for 27 yards. I propose Boise State does whatever the Cardinals did.
DEs Ryan Winterswyk and Shea McClellin vs. OTs Michael Phillip and Mike Remmers
If Winterswyk and McClellin can be successful getting to the quarterback and keeping contain on Jacquizz Rodgers's runs, Boise State's defense will have a much easier time defending Oregon State. If Phillip and Remmers win this battle, then Oregon State's offense can do a lot more with its playbook ... at least the parts Billy Winn hasn't eaten yet.
For Boise State:
- Mitch Burroughs out with an ankle injury
- Shea McClellin questionable with a concussion
For Oregon State:
- None of note
What Oregon State can do to win
The more and more I study this game, the clearer and clearer it becomes that QB Ryan Katz is going to have to win it for the Beavers. Boise State has the personnel to bottle up the run just like TCU did, so the burden will be on Katz to perform. If Katz can find receivers other than the Rodgers brothers (who have accounted for nearly half the team's pass receptions so far this year), Oregon State will have a good night. Look for the Beavers to exploit coverage that is heavy toward James Rodgers and watch for well-timed play action, the type that led to Wyoming's only TD of the game last Saturday.
On defense, Oregon State needs to take away the run, something that they have not been able to do so far this year (opposing teams are averaging 200 per game on the ground). Hold the Broncos under 100 yards rushing and OSU will be in good shape. Is that asking too much? We'll see.
What Oregon State can do to lose
Oregon State cannot afford to let the Broncos turn them into a one dimensional offense. Boise State did just that against Wyoming and Virginia Tech, and only the brilliance of Tyrod Taylor saved the Hokies from blowout city. Ryan Katz is not Tyrod Taylor.
You cannot afford to miss tackles against Boise State, a lesson learned the hard way in losses by Virginia Tech (witness D.J. Harper's TD run) and Wyoming (witness the entire game). Oregon State gets the missed tackle bug at times, which would just be killer against the Broncos. BSU is hard enough to defend when they are dinking and dunking up and down the field. Miss a few tackles, and those 10 yard gains turn into 20 yarders and you're looking up at the wrong end of the scoreboard before you know it.
What Boise State can do to win
Staying out of 3rd and long will be key for the Boise State offense. When the Broncos get positive yards on 1st and 2nd downs (and avoid penalties), they are nearly unstoppable. Defending BSU on 3rd and short is impossible. Boise State can control the game if they can keep the chains moving and keep Oregon State's best players (the Rodgers brothers) on the bench.
Oregon State is five-for-five scoring touchdowns on trips inside the red zone this season. If Boise State plays bend-but-don't-break defense and forces the Beavers into field goal tries instead of touchdowns, the Broncos can win going away.
What Boise State can do to lose
Speaking of red zone efficiency (see above), field goals instead of touchdowns could unravel Boise State just as easily as they could Oregon State. At the very least, failing to get seven points on drives inside the 20 will keep the game close, and close games against good teams have a tendency of going either way. Boise State settled for three field goals inside the 20 against Wyoming, not that it mattered much then. It could matter more this week.
I watched the Beavers' opener against TCU, and the game felt a lot closer than it really was. The reason? Big plays by Oregon State. OSU scored on two 30-yard touchdowns and added a long fake punt pass. Their offense was pretty mediocre the rest of the time, but those big plays kept them in it. Boise State has allowed two long touchdowns in two games this season but has been very solid otherwise. If Boise State allows big plays on Saturday, the Broncos could be in trouble.
Momentum. Oregon State head coach Mike Riley is an expert on Boise State momentum after watching a 14-0 Beaver lead become a 42-14 Bronco win, just like that, back in 2006. Riley doesn't want to see that happen again.
You’ve got to keep your hands around the game. You can’t let it get away like that. If they punch you, you’ve got to counterpunch. If they get a stop on defense, we have to get a stop on defense. If they score, we have to score.
- Home field advantage. There was a decided edge for the Broncos when Oregon came into town last season. The crowd was loud, and the Ducks seemed flustered. Mike Riley has been to this rodeo before, but his players haven't. It will be interesting to see just how much of a factor the home crowd will be.
Turnovers. It's a broken record, but it's a valuable broken record. Speaking of which, how do you all feel about Titus Young fielding punts?
Coaching. Is it safe to say that Coach Pete outcoached Frank Beamer in the season opener? I think so. Can Coach Pete go two-for-two against big-time coaches on Saturday against Mike Riley?
What are your keys to the game for Boise State and Oregon State? How do you think the Boise State defense will gameplan against Oregon State? Any areas where the Beavers might have an advantage? Share your thoughts in the comments.