Today is the day. The last "real" Boise State Broncos football game until next year. While the season felt long, for fans, at times, it is hard to believe that there have already been twelve games played. As a primer for this afternoon's game, here are some articles to from around the nation to whet your appetite for the match up.
NIU can frustrate suddenly mortal Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl
Russ brought this one up in the Wake Up Bronco Nation links and I wanted to include it here because it is such an informative article.
Bill Connelly breaks down both teams to their core issues. Will Northern Illinois' QB issues translate to on-field struggles? Is Boise State motivated to win after stumbling to 8-4?
NIU has had a pretty strong, impressive streak in the MAC:
NIU played in its sixth consecutive MAC title game on Dec. 5; in a league designed for parity, that is an incredible accomplishment. It's one made even more impressive by the fact that the Huskies have pulled this off with three different head coaches. Jerry Kill led NIU to the first division title of the streak, then Dave Doeren took over for the next two, and Rod Carey has captained the last three.
That is strong consistency in the face of a coaching carousel that may never stop. Most likely only a matter of time until Rod Carey sees his opportunity to make a P5 move.
What could prove to be a boon to Boise State is the propensity for Ryan Graham and interceptions.
Graham is supposedly healthy enough to go in San Diego. He's a little bit better running the ball than Hare, though he was more mistake-prone in the passing game, with higher interception and sack rates. If he can just be steady enough to keep the offense out of the defense's way, that's a start.
Donte Deayon and Darian Thompson over here just... waiting.
But then there are the Broncos' own issues:
Brett Rypien played like a freshman at times, the secondary was wrecked by injury, the defensive front wasn't as good as it probably should have been, and the defense as a whole played efficiently but gave away enormous, frequent big plays.
That last sentence hurts. But it only hurts because it is true.
Also available is Connelly's 2015 Poinsettia Bowl advanced stats tale of the tape: Northern Illinois vs. Boise State which is a plethora of information and stats regarding both teams. Interesting are the five advantages for both teams:
Short-Yardage Rushing (No. 21 offense vs. No. 121 defense) Rushing Efficiency (Success Rate) (No. 6 defense vs. No. 87 offense) Rushing S&P+ (No. 15 defense vs. No. 93 offense) First Down S&P+ (No. 9 defense vs. No. 85 offense) Adj. Line Yards (No. 8 defense vs. No. 83 offense)
Redzone S&P+ (No. 23 defense vs. No. 96 offense) Passing Downs Sack Rate (No. 37 offense vs. No. 95 defense) Q4 S&P+ (No. 5 vs. No. 60 ) Passing Downs S&P+ (No. 34 defense vs. No. 83 offense) Passing Downs Explosiveness (IsoPPP) (No. 37 defense vs. No. 84 offense)
Click on it. Yeah. Sure there is math.
But, for stat geeks, Connelly's numbers are superb. If you do not know what some of his notations are, there are crib notes to find their source. You will not regret taking a gander.
Sports Illustrated: Boise State vs. Northern Illinois: Poinsettia Bowl Preview
SI has pointed out that the Poinsettia Bowl is none too kind to the returning teams:
The Poinsettia Bowl hasn’t treated either team very well historically. The Broncos lost to a TCU team led by quarterback Andy Dalton in 2008, the second and last bowl game Petersen lost as head coach of Boise State (he won his other five). Northern Illinois’s last trip to San Diego resulted in a loss to Utah State in ’13. Rod Carey seeks his first bowl win as coach of the Huskies, as he currently sits at 0–3 since inheriting the program in late ’12.
While we can feel for Rod Carey's struggles in bowl games, going to hope that the struggles continue.
However SI does have faith in the Broncos:
Nonetheless, despite its season-long struggles, Boise State will continue Carey’s bad luck in bowl games to salvage an otherwise disappointing season.
CBS Local Sports: Poinsettia Bowl: Boise State vs Northern Illinois
If you needed some betting help regarding the spread and the point totals, they give some suggestions regarding what to expect:
Amazingly, Boise State will finish the season being favored in every single game of the year. However, they are just 5-6 against the spread heading into their final game. The matchup is a good one for the Broncos who should be able to run all over the Northern Illinois defense.
Hopefully he is right!
Normally the Broncos are in the mix for a New Year’s Six bowl so there’s certainly a chance for a letdown against the Huskies.
Right about the first part, the second part? Let us hold our breath for not as right.
Chicago Tribune: Mirror programs NIU and Boise State face off in Poinsettia Bowl
Basic article comparing the success / similarities of both teams. Successful on the field. Blue collar work attitudes. Both wondering what happened to the 2015 season. What is interesting is the phrasing of this paragraph:
Boise State (8-4) looked, well, just like itself when it opened with a victory over Washington of the Pac-12 and motored to a 5-1 start. Then it lost starting quarterback Ryan Finley to a broken ankle, injuries mounted and the Broncos lost their way with three Mountain West defeats in the last six games.
Not sure if the writer is aware that Finley broke his ankle in Boise State's third game. No matter. Both schools are used to winning, and not getting enough respect, so them facing each other is quite apt.
Huffington Post: Californians crowd BSU's roster in Poinsettia Bowl vs NIU
Recruiting is ever prevalent for college coaches. And one of those recruiting hotbeds for the Broncos is California in general. Just take a look at the roster.
Boise State (8-4) lists 44 players from California on its roster
Not sure how many of those are scholarship, and which are walk-ons in some capacity, but that is about 42% of a 105-man roster.
And the longest running joke? You will never, ever guess what it is Twilight and Harry Potter star Robert Pattinson
It is potatoes you silly goose!
"You know, Boise is a place if you haven't been there, I think the first thing, we joke about this, I think it's a blue field with a bunch of potato farms around it, OK?" Harsin said.
If anything this is trip will not be fruitless. There is a chance for connections and for some prospects to see the Broncos in action.
Another from the Chicago Tribune: Wednesday's preview: Northern Illinois vs. Boise State
Takeaway from this one:
The number: 84. The Huskies top all FBS teams in games played since 2010 with 12-game regular season schedules plus annual appearances in the MAC championship and bowl games.
Impressive. That is a lot of games since 2010.
Washington Post: Poinsettia Bowl Capsule
Basically this, the "key matchup":
BSU’s offensive line against NIU’s defensive line. The Broncos will be trying to open holes for Jeremy McNichols, who rushed for 1,244 yards and 18 touchdowns this season.
Huh. Is that it? I am hungry all of a sudden.
Nonetheless, the trenches matchup will be crucial as both teams get their running game going. With a healthy, and well-rested McNichols, contributing the Broncos will seek to capitalize.
Lots of reading material here. Anything pop out at you? Like what you see stat-wise? Matchup-wise? Food-wise? Let's talk about it!