- Time: Thursday, 8:15pm MT
- Location: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, ID
- Weather at kickoff: 57°, party cloudy
- Odds: Boise State by 7
- TV: ESPN
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM
- Commentators: Jason "Bourne" Benetti, Kelly "Kapowski" Stouffer, Paul "Bearer" Carcaterra
1. Taysom's last stand
The last time Cougar QB Taysom Hill played at Albertsons Stadium, Joe Southwick was Boise State's starting QB and the game ended with a 7-6 victory for the Broncos. The lone TD scored that night for the Blue and Orange was a Piesman-caliber pick six from Mike "Canadian Bacon" Atkinson. Both squads have come a long way since then, and Hill has gone through three or four knees. It would be great to send the Pocatello native home with an L.
2. Savvy Sitake
After last season, longtime BYU skipper Bronco Mendenhall departed for the greener(?) pastures of the University of Virginia and after failing to court Navy headman Ken Niumatalolo (thankfully), the Cougs settled for plan B...Oregon State defensive coordinator and BYU alum Kalani Sitake. Sitake's team is slightly less punchy (so far) than Mendenhall's boys, but he has them playing ADEQUATE football.
3. Close (with some cigars)
The Cougars have just ONE win or loss on the year that wasn't decided by single digits—a 31-14 defeat of the Michigan State Spartans two weeks ago. Last week, in Provo, they took a good-ish Mississippi State team to OT where they notched their 4th win of the season. Most people will look at the 55-52 defeat of Toledo to signify that yes, the Broncos should be able to move the ball on the Cougs (mostly through the air), but BYU also has one of the better interception totals in the country, with 12—and 5 of them belong to Kai Nacua...a guy that had 3 picks last season against Boise State. The Cougs are like a box of chocolates...you just never know what you're going to get (but it'll probably be close).
4. Never forget (I know Chanceller James' "upper thigh" won't)
Boise State - Won 8
BYU - Won 3
Best name on their roster
You know you're bound to get some BOM names on a BYU roster, but I'm going with junior OL Tuni Kanuch.
Best player picture on their roster
Freshman punter/kicker Jake Oldroyd. My mind refuses to allow me to believe this gentleman is older than 15 years old.
Players to watch
The super-duper senior is noticeably less agile than he was before his knee injuries, but he's still a definite run threat, with over 300 rushing yards and 4 rushing scores...so he'll keep plays alive with his legs and that was when the Bronco secondary seems to struggle. Hill's accuracy has also suffered a bit from his salad days, but he's on the positive side of that TD/INT ratio (9/7) and seems to get more accurate when he needs to be. This is the story of the entire 2016 BYU squad, to be honest.
Would you believe if I told you that the Broncos will (likely) face the top two rushers in the NCAA this season? Well, if the Broncos are lucky enough to get to the MWC title game, they'll likely face off against the nation's top RB in Donnel Pumphrey, but they won't have to wait long to test his understudy, BYU's Jamaal Williams, who is already just 58 yards from the 1k mark on the year. I'd say that the RB with the nation's 9th best rushing totals, Jeremy McNichols, is more consistent, but Williams can definitely go OFF if the Broncos do mind their gaps and wrap up.
Much like the Broncos, the Cougs are seriously stacked at linebacker and the junior Warner is as dynamic as they come. He has 51 stops this season so far, with 1 INT and a PBU.
Like I said, the Cougs have a bunch of good LBs and Bernard has had arguably the best season of the bunch. He had 16 tackles last weekend against Mississippi State, which pushed his season total to 48 stops. For good measure, he also has registered 2 INTs and 2 sacks.
BYU has a host of lanky wideouts that seem like they'd give our DBs fits...but it's the 5'10" Juergens that did the most damage to Boise State last year. Last season in Provo, Juergens had 172 receiving yards against the Broncos and secured the go ahead TD reception on a Hail Mary from Tanner Mangum. /shakes fist
Players NOT to watch
DE Bronson Kaufusi moved on to the NFL, so he'll no longer give our tackles any trouble. 15 year-old kicker Jake Oldroyd reportedly has a back issue and is questionable against Boise State...Rhett Almond will get the bulk of the kicking work.
Keys to victory
- Win the turnover battle. Taysom Hill throws a very pickable ball...but it's the Cougars that are finding success in creating turnovers this year and the Broncos are lagging behind. BYU isn't a great team, but they are a very opportunistic one. They'll stick with teams to the bitter end and turnovers could sway the game either way.
- Stop the run. Williams is a tough, downhill runner and if the Broncos can't stop him, the Cougs will control the clock.
- Hit them in the mouth. This is going to be a physical game and the more physical team is going to win. The Broncos need to be the hammer and not the nail.
- DON'T LOSE. We did the opposite of this last year against the Cougars. I say let's flip the script...who's with me?
Boise State 24, BYU 20