Game Week: Business Trip to Hawaii Edition. Boise State has entered the home stretch of the 2016 football season with a record of 8-1. They now head to beautiful Hawaii for a 5:00 pm contest against the 4-6 Rainbow Warriors. This week’s Bet on Blue will take a bird’s eye view of the Broncos season so far. Next, we’ll compare Boise State and Hawaii statistically. Finally, we’ll decide if we should Bet on Blue. That’s a lot to cover so let’s dive right in.
GO HOME 2016, YOU’RE DRUNK
Trying to figure out 2016 is above my pay grade. From politics to sports to media to the further division of all of those categories, 2016 is the strangest year of most of our lives. 2016’s strangeness has spared no one, and that includes our beloved Boise State Broncos. Let’s look at the Bronco’s 2016 season, shall we?
The 2016 Boise State football team entered the season with a lot of question marks. The 2015 version found themselves in a contested battle with radical newcomers (think UNM) that had no business hanging with the incumbent MWC Champs on the football field. Boise State was predestined to be the 2015 MWC Champs, but these pesky teams took advantage of Boise mistakes making 2015 a tough season for fans.
BSU ultimately prevailed by destroying NIU in the last game of the year. However, the warts exposed during 2015 divided the fan base. Many BSU loyalists lost their enthusiasm heading into the 2016 campaign.
In 2016 the landscape looked like smooth sailing for Boise State. The MWC put up teams that had almost no chance to win. Even longtime BSU haters had to concede that Boise State was going to run roughshod over an inexperienced and objectively awful MWC.
Everyone seemed to agree that 2016 was the year of the Broncos. The betting markets made BSU huge favorites. Every single poll had the Broncos as head and shoulders above the competition. Even the media said the Broncos were a lock. Then came Wyoming.
Wyoming, the near-middle of the country football team that was sick and tired of being ignored. Wyoming, the sparsely populated state that ended up with a big say in the direction of the entire Mountain West Conference. The Laramie, Wyoming Cowboys, the football team that Boise State buried on several occasions only to find that the erratic and exciting nature of their quarterback let them rise from the grave again and again.
Boise State got beat by Wyoming: go home 2016, you’re drunk.
THERE’S GOT TO BE A MORNING AFTER
It’s done. It happened. Now it’s time to move on. We must recognize that it was Boise State’s own mistakes that cost them a clear path to the MWC Championship game. There were fumbles and misfires, bad game plans and sketchy execution, too many hail marys and not enough effort put into the ground game. We must get back up, dust ourselves off, and keep fighting to become the best football team possible.
Boise State is still the best football team in the MWC regardless of the results in Laramie a few weeks back. Most of the country agrees with that. Now it’s time to put our collective heads down, try to mitigate the damage and get to work fixing the problems that have plagued the 2016 campaign thus far.
The best team doesn’t always win, such is life, and you just have to keep fighting like hell to correct the process. The Boise State football program is not dead and buried; it has just begun.
ON TO HAWAII
That’s enough of that talk. Life goes on. Boise State plays Hawaii on Saturday, so let’s see how the teams stack up statistically, shall we? As always, these stats show strength-of-opponent-adjusted figures. We’ll start with the offense.
This week’s statistical breakdown is a little different from usual. The table above looks at what Football Study Hall’s Bill Connelly calls “The Five Factors.” Teams that are successful in these five categories are statistically very successful in the win-loss column. So what do these stats show?
First, the Boise State offense is the better team in four of the five factors. This bodes well for the Broncos, but the numbers indicate that the Hawaii offense is no slouch. UH is about even with Boise State in explosiveness and they are a top 15 team in terms of converting trips inside the 40-yard line into points.
A further look at the stats shows that Hawaii is 38th in rushing and 68th in passing. The recently faltering Bronco defense may have its hands full on Saturday.
The good news for the Broncos is that they hold a substantial edge when it comes to efficiency. Couple that with the team’s newfound love of ground-and-pound and you’re looking at a recipe for success.
The raw numbers show that BSU and UH are even in turnover margin. If you look at Connelly’s “turnover luck” figure it shows that BSU has been far more unlucky than the Warriors. BSU is sitting at -4.4 points per game due to bad turnover luck.
Some turnovers come from poor ball security and execution, but a lot of it is luck too. Turnover luck tends to correct itself. Throughout the course of a season, teams tend to fall on a fumble, be the beneficiary of a tipped pass, and overall be in the right place at the right time their fair share of the time. If the Broncos luck changes on the island then look for an offensive explosion from BSU.
The stats tell us that BSU is a mild favorite when it comes to the five factors on offense. Where things really start looking up for Boise State is when we combine the offensive and defense stats to look at the whole picture.
Defensively these teams aren’t close. Hawaii gives up explosive plays, can’t force teams into 3rd and long, are unable to prevent scores, and their defense is often placed in unfortunate positions. In four of the five categories, Hawaii is among the very worst in the entire country. Comparing what the Broncos are good at with what Hawaii is terrible at we can predict a dominant performance for the Bronco offense.
The Broncos defensive stats look good. The Bronco defense is put in compromising positions by the offense and special teams often but they are still a top 25 team at preventing teams from finishing drives. They hold up well against explosive plays and prevent opposing offenses from slowly working the ball down the field.
So if the stats are so good, why is there a pit in the collective stomach of Bronco Nation about the defense?
The lack of turnovers, sacks, and the overall lack of size and depth on the defensive line is a cause of angst for many observant Boise State fans. BSU has used safeties to “cheat” up against the run and it’s left holes in the secondary for tight ends and slot receivers to exploit.
There doesn’t appear to be an easy fix available either. It’ll be interesting to see what Avalos dials up on Saturday to stop the slow leak that has plagued the Bronco D the last several weeks.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
Oh no, prediction time! This is where 2016 likes to rear its ugly head. All you can do is look at the best data you can find and evaluate it for clues about what outcome is most likely. You’ll look like a fool sometimes, but it’s the best and only way to predict unknowable outcomes. Here we go!
Boise State can run or throw the ball effectively and explosively. The stats back that up. It seems that Harsin and company have decided that the safe bet is to go run heavy and rely on a talented backfield to bully BSU opponents into submission. That’s the game plan that BSU will use Saturday in Hawaii.
Boise State will run the ball heavy to control the ball, control the clock, and keep their lack of depth on defense from causing concern. Bet on Blue would prefer a “zig when they think you’re going to zag” pass-happy explosion on Saturday, but McNichols and Mattison are more than capable of carrying the load.
Speaking of the dynamic duo of Jeremy and Alexander, it is high-time that they spent a ton of time in the same backfield. If BSU is content to run the ball 60+ percent of the time then they should go all in with the strategy and force defenses to check two ridiculously talent backs.
There are so many formations, shifts, counters, and misdirections that come into play if you put those two in the same backfield. With both backs capable of running, receiving, and protecting the QB, the possibilities are endless. Let’s hope we see it from the Broncos this week.
So what’s going to happen Saturday evening? Boise State is going to handle the Rainbow Warriors to the tune of 48-28. That’s the prediction. Is it a tad on the homer side? Yes. Is it realistic? Yes, it’s that too.
Boise State opened as a -16 betting favorite. Since the line opened it has grown to -18. The over under is at 63.5 meaning the betting markets predict a score of 41-22 Boise State. Boise State is just 3-6 against the spread on the year, but they’ve been better on the road. Away from Albertson’s Stadium the Broncos are 3-1 against the spread.
Hawaii is 5-4 against the number, but just 2-2 at home. The Rainbow Warriors are just 1-2 at home against MWC teams. Also of note, BSU is 4-1 against the spread against Hawaii in their last five matchups. No matter how you look at it, the trends say BSU is a good play on Saturday. As always, check Odds Shark for more betting trends.
SHOULD WE BET ON BLUE?
Regardless of the craziness of 2016, you have to trust the process. Boise State has been good on the road. Hawaii has been iffy against the spread versus conference foes. Plus the stats tell us that Hawaii’s defense is awful.
I understand that many people are gun-shy (scared even) to place a bet on a favorite in 2016, but it’s the right play. Yes, Bronco Nation, Bet on Blue against the Warriors and enjoy a therapeutic Saturday of Boise State football. Lord knows we need it. Go Broncos and Bleed Blue.