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Bear down: Boise State vs Baylor game preview

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NCAA Football: Baylor at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Game facts

  • Time: Tuesday, December 27, 8:15pm
  • Location: Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ
  • Weather at kickoff: 56°, Clear
  • Odds: Boise State by 7.5
  • TV: ESPN
  • Radio: KBOI 670 AM
  • Commentators: Rece “Piece” Davis, David “Jackson” Pollack, Joey “Gladstone” Galloway, Molly “McButter” McGrath

Other facts

1. 3rd time’s a charm

The Broncos "get" to square off with their 3rd Power-Five school of the year for their 15th straight bowl appearance and this one could be a doozy. Baylor doesn't have the underdog status to be viewed as the "next Boise State" but they've certainly taken on the Boise State mantle of high-powered offense the last couple of years. Hopefully, the Broncos have no plans to become the "next Baylor" when it comes to off-field ugliness. For what it's worth, the Broncos look to defeat their 3rd P5 opponent in one season since...well...forever pretty much. They're 2-0 against the Big-12, by the way...with a victory over Iowa State in the 2002 Humanitarian Bowl and I'm told a victory over Oklahoma in the '07 Fiesta although my mind refuses to recall said game. Strange.

2. Room to Grobe

Jim Grobe is the acting head coach in Waco, but how good an actor is he? Baylor started the season 6-0 and on week 8 of the CFB season found themselves sitting at #9 in the AP polls. Well, that was last bit of good news for a Baylor program that's had a LOT of bad news of late (most, to be fair, was self-imposed). The 6-6 Bears will now limp into Phoenix with Grobe in tow for one last hurrah—they hired Temple's Matt Rhule about 3 weeks ago—and maybe Shawn Oakman as well...because Jim Grobe doesn't know who he is.

3. Karmic justice

Is this the best bowl matchup we could've dreamt of? Hardly. But given that this is an exhibition game and not the coveted "big money" game the Broncos were after, I'm kind of glad that we got paired up with the Bears (the second most embarrassing Waco storyline of all time) and here's why. Baylor is bizarro-world Boise State and Boise State is bizarro-world Baylor.

Boise State built themselves into a nationally-recognized program through years of consistent excellence produced by overlooked, blue-collar players and coaches. Baylor found themselves back in the football elite by selling their souls and taking every castoff blue-chip recruit that batted their eyelashes at them...even BSU castoffs whose names we’d rather not mention. We're talking top-down corruption here in the name of winning and until Baylor's exorcised all those demons and bled the Briles/Starr poison out...they deserve some karmic justice served up on blue and orange china.

4. Sentient Pompoms

Streaks

Boise State - Lost 1

Baylor - Lost 6

Stroopwafels

Best name on their roster

Shock Linwood, Thor Rodoni, and Pooh Stricklin will just have to share.

Best player picture on their roster

Happy samurai Sam Tecklenburg

Players to watch

Zach Smith

The 6’4” 225 lb. freshman took over for QB Seth Russell for the last 3 games of the season after Russell suffered a gruesome leg injury against Oklahoma (seriously, don't google it) and has been so-so in relief (10 TDs/6 INTs). He played sparingly prior to Russell's injury, so he has a bit more experience than just the 3 starts, but he's definitely a bit of a step down from the veteran Russell. The Broncos could really throw him off his game if they rediscovered their pass rush.

Terence Williams

Williams is the Bears leading rusher (945 yards, 11 TDs) but is not a 100% certainty for the game as he has a tweaked knee. The Bears better hope he's ready to go, because if he doesn't play, that would mean their two top rushers are unavailable for the Cactus party (more on 2nd leading rusher in a moment). Williams doesn't have the numbers of a say, Jeremy McNichols...but he averaged 5.9 YPC this season and when healthy can definitely take things to the house.

K.D. Cannon

Cannon is Baylor's leading receiver, with pert-near 1,000 yards on the season (989 to be exact) and has also scored 11 TDs—enough to land him on the All-Big-12 first team. He also promised new coach Matt Rhule a bowl victory so not only is he a talented receiver, he's also a seer.

Kyle Fuller

The 6'5" 310 lb offensive tackle was a first-team All-Big-12 pick and though you probably won't find too many statistics for an O-lineman, his measurements alone are enough to suggest he won't be easily displaced.

K.J. Smith

Though he's no relation to QB Zach Smith (that I'm aware), the junior DE could certainly be considered a quarterback of the defense. The 6'2" 265-pounder had 6.5 sacks this year amidst his 63 tackles and was also a Big-12 first-teamer. Our OTs need to be on their game or at least be very good at surreptitiously holding.

Players NOT to watch

Shocking, I know...but RB Shock Linwood has opted to skip the bowl game to focus on the NFL draft. Linwood doesn’t even appear on CBS Sports RB draft board, FWIW. Smart.

Keys to victory

  • Win the turnover battle. Baylor may have fallen on some tough times this season, but they aren't quitters...and they still have a speedy and potent offense that would LOVE a short field. We probably shouldn't give them one (or several).
  • Get after the QB. Smith isn't a terrible QB, but he's young. The Broncos could shake him and cause him to throw some near-interceptions (sorry Bronco secondary...but you gotta hold on) by applying some gentle pressure.
  • Don't lose. Finishing the year with two straight losses isn’t exactly a great way to catapult into 2017.

Score prediction

Boise State 42, Baylor 31