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Your Boise State - TCU preview and keys to the game

The Broncos and Horned Frogs face off Saturday (1:30 p.m. MT, Versus) with the Mountain West title on the line and rivalry bragging rights at stake. Good thing this one got moved to Bronco Stadium for entirely understandable reasons, right?

Join me after the jump for a look at the TCU - Boise State matchup and what will matter when the two teams take the field on Saturday. Then feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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No. 26 TCU vs. No. 5 Boise State

  • When to watch: Saturday, November 12, 1:30 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
  • How to find Versus: CableOne channel 326, DirecTV channel 603, and Dish Network channel 151
  • What to wager: Boise State by 15.5 points, combined score over/under 58 points
  • What to wear: Forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies, high of 55, 20 percent chance of precipitation
  • How to score tickets: Check the TiqIQ ticket market

Keys to the game

The key to stopping the TCU offense is stopping the run, and unfortunately, that's one area where the Bronco defense has been, how do I put this nicely, inconsistent. Nevada (ranked No. 13 in the country in rushing) couldn't get out of its own backfield. Air Force (No. 4) couldn't help but gain five yards every carry. The Horned Frogs started showing signs of improvement when they threw offensive balance out the window and ran the ball as often as possible. Running backs Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker, and Waymon James will be in the spotlight on Saturday, and I say that 200 total rushing yards will be the number to beat if TCU wants to win.


On the other side of the ball is the Boise State pass offense versus the TCU pass defense, another matchup of strengths and weaknesses. A young secondary has caused weeping and gnashing of teeth for Horned Frog fans this season, and it's not going to get much better by facing Kellen Moore. This brings up an interesting question: Should Boise State even bother mixing the run and the pass if the pass is working so well? You'll likely hear that an even offense is preferred against TCU on Saturday, but I'm not so sure. The Broncos have passed their way to wins already this season, and if it's working on Saturday against the Horned Frogs, I don't see any reason to change.

The last time these two teams met was in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, won by the Broncos thanks to a sneaky fake punt pass from Kyle Brotzman to Kyle Efaw. Don't be surprised to see more special teams shenanigans this week from both teams. The Broncos have been pulling off big special teams plays on a regular basis this season, and TCU has nothing to lose on Saturday. Expect some big plays on special teams, and hope they go the Broncos' way.

Last week in Vegas, UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring looked like Warren Moon for the first two quarters, and he is definitely no Warren Moon. TCU QB Casey Pachall is better than Herring, so it will be interesting to see how well Pachall plays against the Broncos secondary on Saturday. There was loads of cushion on UNLV receivers thanks to the soft coverage of Quaylon Ewing-Burton and friends. TCU receiver Josh Boyce will take that space all day. Here's hoping Jamar Taylor is healthy enough to play.

Miscellaneous keys for Boise State

  • Deal with TCU's speed. The Horned Frogs will be the fastest team the Broncos have faced since the season opener against Georgia. 
  • Win the turnover battle. /obligatory mention
  • Keep TCU in third and long. The Broncos had been sensational on third down until the last couple weeks, and one way to get back on the third down horse is to force the opponent into third and long. Ten yards is a lot harder to pick up than 2 yards. 
  • Avoid negative plays. 
  • Don't drop the ball. *cough* Tyler Shoemaker *cough*
  • Make extra points. This game figures to be one of the Broncos' tighter games of the season, so points will be at a premium.
  • Bend but don't break on defense. The Horned Frogs will likely run up their fair share of yards, so just make sure that the drives end in FG attempts and not TD high fives.

Miscellaneous keys for TCU

  • Get a big play on offense. Waymon James' 74-yard run against Wyoming was a huge play in the game, and the Horned Frogs are going to have to hope for more of the same on Saturday.
  • Win the turnover battle. /obligatory mention
  • Get pressure on Kellen Moore. Chances are the Horned Frogs won't be able to sack him as often as they'd like, but any type of pressure - especially pressure up the middle - will be key to shaking up the Bronco offense.
  • Hold firm in the red zone. When the Broncos drive inside the 20 (and they will, often), keep them out of the end zone. The odds are in your favor on a Bronco field goal.
  • Play with nothing to lose. In other words, onside kick.

Other things that may matter

  • Home field advantage. Regardless of how the game ended up here (favoritism, most likely), the fact that TCU - Boise State is taking place at Boise State is huge. Thanks, Craig Thompson.
  • The Versus curse. The previous two Boise State games on Versus were against Nevada and Air Force, two of Boise State's closest games of the season. Appox on ye, Shaun King.
  • Intangibles. Both teams have them (Mountain West championships, revenge, rivalry, bitterness about having the game moved to Boise).

Your turn

What do you see as keys to the game for the Broncos and Horned Frogs? What does Boise State need to do to win? What worries you most about this game? Share your thoughts in the comments.