Game Week: Volume Two has arrived! This is the one we’ve all been waiting for. Boise State plays its home opener on Saturday night at 8:15 pm, taking on the PAC12’s Washington State Cougars (WSU). While the game may have lost some of its luster after Washington State’s loss to FCS Eastern Washington, there’s still plenty of intrigue to get the juices flowing as we approach the first game on The Blue for 2016.
With the Ragin Cajun thoroughly dispatched, it’s time to move on to the Washington State Cougar preview. This week we will look at the betting line on the game, briefly discuss the history of Washington State, preview the Cougar’s offense and defense, and decide whether we should Bet on Blue.
Boise State opened as a 12 point favorite against WSU. The line has bounced around between -11 and -12.5 and appears to be settling in at -12. The O/U is sitting at a robust 72. This means the betting markets are predicting a 42-30 Boise State victory. If you follow me on Twitter you know that I predicted BSU -3.5 before the Cougars got smacked around by EWU, and figured it may open -6 at most after the FCS defeat.
At first I thought the line was a huge overreaction, but then I did a little thought experiment. Imagine that instead of opening against EWU that WSU faced BYU in Jerry’s World to open the season. What would you make that line? I would make that game a pick ‘em. They seem like evenly matched teams on paper. Well, if that’s the case, then the BSU -12 line makes sense. We know this because in the pre-season look ahead lines that Vegas bookmakers released BSU had one game on the list; BSU was -11 against BYU on The Blue.
BOISE STATE GETS SOME GAME PLANNING HELP?
If the Boise State coaching staff is having any trouble game planning for the Cougars, help is just a phone call away. Former Boise State Head Coach Chris Petersen has played WSU each of the last two years in the Apple Cup and has destroyed the Cougars by a combined score of 76-23. Boise State’s new Co-Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach Zak Hill was a member of the Eastern Washington Eagles coaching staff in 2015, yes the same Eagles who took down the Cougars this past Saturday.
One more fun note: Brett Rypien and his family have a long history with Washington State University. Brett’s Super Bowl MVP winning Uncle, Mark Rypien played for WSU (and will cheer on the Cougars this Saturday), and his mom graduated from the school. Brett Rypien was recruited by the Cougars and reportedly was seriously considering accepting their scholarship offer. There will be a little extra motivation for Rypien this week.
THE WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS
The Cougars have the saddest history of any team I’ve ever bothered to research. WSU has been playing football since 1894 and have won four conference titles (about one every 30 years!). They have played in 12 bowl games (around one per decade). The Cougars boast four trips to the Rose Bowl, and they even won the Granddaddy of Them All once (in 1916 when Bronco Legend Lyle Smith was three months old). WSU has an all-time winning percentage of .491. They are the Idaho Vandals that hit the PAC10 lottery.
The current version of the hapless Cougars are coached by verifiable scumbag Mike Leach. This is a guy who “allegedly” forced a kid with a concussion to sit in a dark shed, repeatedly referred to his football player’s romantic partners as their “fat little girlfriends,” is BFF’s with Donald Trump, and has just an average coaching record of 105-73 (63rd on the active coaches winning % list). At WSU the guy is 21-30. But, hey… You do you Cougars.
The ULL preview last week spent a lot of words breaking down the Ragin Cajuns, because, let’s be honest, none of us knew anything about the ULL football team before 2016. This week is different. We all know what the WSU football team is about. The Cougars run the “Air Raid” offense which has roots with BYU Head Coach Lavelle Edwards and was made famous by notorious towel abuser Hal Mumme and his minion Mike Leach. The offensive system is, as the name implies, a pass heavy scheme. It relies on getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly and allowing the receivers to run in space after the catch.
The Cougar offense returns a lot of fire-power, headlined by returning QB Luke Falk and All-World WR Gabe Marks. The duo had a productive week against EWU with Falk throwing for four TDs against one INT while passing for 418 yards. Marks caught two of those TDs on 10 catches and 108 yards. Marks was in and out of the lineup due to apparent injury on Saturday and his status for week two is unknown.
WSU passed the ball on 72% of their plays in 2015, expect that trend to continue on The Blue this Saturday. WSU uses two RBs, Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow, but their skill level is hard to evaluate because their effectiveness is likely due to the reasonable surprise by opposing defenses that they were allowed to run the ball.
WSU had one of their better defensive showings in years in 2015, but they lost five starters in their front seven and it’s unknown whether the replacements can fill the void. EWU ran 66 plays against the Cougars for 606 yards (a staggering 9.18 yards per snap), and you know that Harsin, Rypien, McNichols, and company must be salivating over that game film.
A final note on the defense, Shalom Luani the Cougars standout Senior Safety returns from a one game suspension just in time to take on the Broncos. He was suspended for “allegedly” punching a fellow WSU student in the face after getting upset that Dominos was taking too long to cook his pizza. He broke the student’s nose and faces assault charges that carry a maximum sentence of one year in prison. Yeah…a one game suspension against an FCS opponent sounds about right. #FREEDSG
WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
The second that BSU Twitter realized that the Cougars would lose to EWU I saw a lot of tweets from handwringing Bronco fans saying that Washington State would come into Albertson’s Stadium mad, focused, and ready to tear the Broncos apart. That’s one theory, but maybe we should stop and ask ourselves… Are we sure the Cougars are good? Sure they are coming off a 9-4 year where they hung tough with the top of the PAC12 North but, as weird as it sounds given the scores, a lot of that had to do with an improved WSU defense that lost six key players. I don’t think the 2016 Washington State Huskies are good.
I look for Boise State to have a field day offensively. Even with Luani returning from his suspension, the Boise State offense will prove too much for the Cougars. I predict this is the game where McNichols breaks out in the run game. Boise State has weapons all over the field in Chaz, Wilson, Sperbeck, and McNichols. Rypien has the skill (and the extra motivation) to make it a special day on the Blue. Boise State breaks out in a big way and scores 50+ points.
On defense look for the secondary to be tested. With only one long-time starter in the secondary I expect a few coverage breakdowns that Falk will exploit. This will happen, BSU just has to limit it. Harassing Falk is the key to the Bronco’s game plan, and I’d guess Falk will be hurting on Sunday morning. Ultimately I predict WSU scores between 24-35 points, but the Bronco defense makes them earn it.
SHOULD WE BET ON BLUE?
Don’t be afraid of the PAC12 emblem on the Cougar’s jersey in this one. Boise State will win handily. I predict a 58-30 Boise State victory which easily covers the 12 point spread and flies over the O/U. I recommend a Bet on Blue this week by laying the 12 points. In an abundance of caution, I’d stay away from the O/U. Be happy Bronco Nation, it will be another incredible Bronco Saturday!
Find me @ddenato04 on Twitter with any questions or suggestions. #BleedBlue