- Time: Saturday, 8:15pm MT
- Location: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, ID
- Weather at kickoff: 75° clear
- Odds: Boise State by 11.5
- TV: ESPN2
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM
- Commentators: Mark "Mark" Jones, Quint "What kind of a name is 'quint'" Kessenich, and Rod "Happy" Gilmore
1. FCS woes
The Cougs had a banner year in 2015...winning 9 of their final 12 contests and emerging victorious over Miami in the Sun Bowl...all after dropping their season opener to FCS member Portland State. It's because of this that I can't imagine WSU fans are overly sweating their season opening loss to FCS power Eastern Washington last weekend. What they might be a bit concerned about is giving up 496 passing yards to the Eagles because we also have more than an inanimate carbon rod under center.
2. Air Raid
WSU Mke Leach likes two things: pirates and passing the ball. It's the latter that may send chills down the collective spines of Bronco Nation. The Cougs may have given up nearly 500 yards through the air last week, but junior QB Luke Falk also passed 51 times...and connected better than 80% of the time—good for over 400 yards of their own (and 4 passing TDs). The Air Raid giveth and it taketh away.
3. Safety dance
On August 24th, starting Cougar free safety Shalom (which ironically means "peace") Luani was charged with second-degree assault after punching out some dude in front of a Pullman Domino's pizza. The investigation is still ongoing, but Mike Leach appears to believe that Luani was the victim in the whole pepperoni-fueled fracas and Luani will be suited up against the Broncos after missing the opener. And wouldn't you know it...Luani's reinstatement comes at a rather opportune time for the Cougars as Robert Taylor, Luani's backup, would have been suspended for the first half of the Boise State game due to a targeting ejection against EWU. What luck! By the way, this sort of thing never happens at Papa Murphy's.
4. Going for two
Don't confuse the man.
Boise State - Won 3
Washington State - Lost 1
RIP where applicable
Best name on their roster
Freshman Linebacker Alofagia Faalavaau
Save some vowels for the rest of us, bro
Best player pictures on their roster
Speaking of Game of Thrones, did you hear the one about the Dothraki and the Wildling that walked into a bar?
Players to watch
Hard to believe the junior QB was a walk-on at one point and is now a returning All-Pac 12 first teamer. Falk had a pretty ridiculous sophomore season for the Cougs...one where he passed for 4,566 yards and 38 scores (with just 8 INTs), and his 2016 season is already off to a pretty decent start. He passed for 418 yards, 4 TDs, and 1 INT against EWU and completed over 80% of his passes. The Broncos will need to make Falk feel some pressure on Saturday night, and I'm not talking peer pressure...although if they pressured him into playing hooky I wouldn't mind much.
Every artist needs a muse and Falk's artistry relies heavily on senior WR Gabe Marks. Marks was a Biletnikoff semifinalist last season as well as a first-team All-Pac 12 selection after hauling in 104 of Falk's passes for 1,192 yards and 15 scores. Like Falk, his 2016 campaign is off to a good start: 10 grabs for 108 yards and 2 TDs last Saturday. It's up to the Broncos to make sure he has an uncharacteristically poor outing—something he really hasn't had since last November.
If the Broncos turn all their focus to Marks, Cracraft is another senior WR that could make them pay. The two-time Biletnikoff watch lister has over 2,000 receiving yards in his Cougar career and while he may not be as electrifying as Marks, can absolutely get the job done.
The 6'2" 255 lb. sophomore DE isn't overly large, or overly experienced, but that hasn't stopped him from becoming a real force in the Cougars front four. Mata'afa—who could have easily earned "best name on the roster" honors this week—played in all 13 Cougar contests last season and racked up 11 tackles-for-loss and 7 sacks. That's an impressive debut and the Bronco tackles will have their hands full stopping the Labours of Hercules (that's a bit of literary humor for you all).
Usually, a running back in an air raid offense gets as much use as George Washington's red jacket...but Wicks is a capable enough back to keep the Broncos honest. Last season, Wicks rushed for 610 yards and 3 TDs—somewhat paltry numbers compared to some of the RBs remaining on the Broncos schedule...but he chewed up that much yardage on only 107 carries...a 5.7 YPC clip. The Broncos may not see a ton of carries from Wicks on Saturday night...but when they do, they probably won't be expecting them, and that's when he's bound to do the most damage. Wrap up!
Players NOT to watch
Like I stated above, safety Robert Taylor will serve a half-game suspension due to his targeting ejection in the 3rd quarter of the EWU game, but that's probably neither here nor there since Luani will be back in the starting spot.
Keys to victory
- Pass at will. Sure, the Cougs were without their starting free safety against EWU...but giving up nearly 500 yards through the air is more than a breakdown at one position. The Broncos have the guys to spread the field and the quarterback in place to make WSU pay.
- Trickeration. The Bronco trademark should not go overlooked in this matchup. Last week, WR Thomas Sperbeck dropped a perfect pass into Jeremy McNichols' waiting arms for a 48-yard score and I think the Broncos would be wise to throw a few things at the Cougs they won't be expecting (namely, bullet point number one).
- Get after Falk. The Broncos had 5 sacks last weekend in Lafayette, but will face a much stiffer challenge against the Cougars. Falk is a hard man to rattle, but the Broncos need to make him uncomfortable in the pocket and make him force some throws. Turnovers will be a huge key to victory.
- DON'T LOSE. We're 1-0 this year when employing this strategy.
Boise State 42, Washington State 32