The Boise State Broncos are rolling. Winners of five straight games, each more impressive than the last, BSU takes on the Rams of Colorado State tonight as they try to remain unbeaten in Mountain West Conference play. Colorado State is coming off of back-to-back losses (Wyoming and Air Force), and seem to have lost the spark that made them the talk of the conference early in the season. Should be a Boise State blowout, right? Not so fast my friends!
Colorado State represents a formidable challenge for the Broncos for several reasons. Let’s take a look at three areas that should cause Bronco Nation some anxiety as we approach the 8:30 pm kickoff in Fort Collins.
COACH SPEAK OR CAUSE FOR CONCERN?
Boise State Head Coach Bryan Harsin seems feisty. Throughout his talks with the media this week a theme started to develop; if you lose focus for a second, if you let up for an instance, or if you start believing your own hype then you will lose and it will be ugly. Was this kind of talk calculated as a preemptive strike against complacency, or is there a real feel of “We-Have-Arrived-Itis” in the Bronco locker room? It is probably the former, but if it’s the later, the Rams will make Boise State pay in merciless fashion.
THE RAMS SUPERBOWL HAS ARRIVED
The Boise State Broncos have a target on their backs in the Mountain West Conference. Whether they are the cream of the crop or are down and vulnerable, EVERYONE wants to steal a win against the “Evil Empire” of the Mountain West Conference. Colorado State has not been shy about their belief that this will be the year that they topple the Broncos. They certainly should be motivated. CSU is 0-6 all-time against the Broncos and are dying to end that ugly streak in the confines of their brand new stadium. Bottom line: Colorado State will be highly motivated and prepared tonight, BSU had better be ready.
WHAT DO THE STATS SAY?
Generally, if Bronco Nation’s collective nerves needs some soothing before kickoff they can turn to the stats. This week is a little different. While Boise State does have an advantage according to the advanced stats, the margin is much too small to be the Xanax-like calm before the storm. Let’s dive into the strength of opponent adjusted stats provided by Football Study Hall’s Bill Connelly, shall we?
CSU OFFENSE VS BSU DEFENSE
In the chart above (and subsequent charts), stats highlighted in green for CSU and orange for BSU are areas where the Rams have the advantage, and stats highlighted in yellow for CSU and blue for BSU are areas where the Broncos have the advantage. The scariest statistical match up for the Broncos is defending the highly efficient and proficient Colorado State passing game. Colorado State does not allow sacks, and are content to pick apart a defense with a deadly accurate short to intermediate passing attack. How Avalos decides to defend CSU’s aerial assault will go a long way towards deciding the outcome of this game.
BSU OFFENSE VS CSU DEFENSE
Things look a little better statistically when the Broncos have the ball. The largest statistical advantage, for either team, is the Boise State passing attack versus the Rams porous pass defense. Colorado State is among the nation’s worst at defending the pass and allowing explosive plays through the air. If BSU can rack up yards after the catch, and finally complete a few deep balls, it could be a great night in Fort Collins.
WHO DOESN’T LOVE CHARTS?
I think it is fair to say that Colorado State has had the better offense throughout the season. They have been more efficient, explosive, and have been better at finishing drives than the Broncos. However, the Boise State offense has really turned a corner in the last four weeks and if that trend continues, BSU should be able to put up enough points to stay unbeaten in the Mountain West Conference.
This chart should tell the story of tonight’s game. The Boise State defense is in a whole different league than the Rams defensively. Let’s just stare at this chart and be deliriously happy until 8:30 pm, shall we? Oh, wait…one more chart.
This chart attempts to combine the offensive and defensive stats for each team to compare the overall quality of each squad. It isn’t perfect, but it should provide a glimpse of the relative strengths and weaknesses we may see exploited tonight. The biggest thing that sticks out is that BSU is better in each of Bill Connelly’s “Five Factors” of victory. The second thing that sticks out is that BSU doesn’t really dominate in any area besides field position. All told, this should be a fantastic game and it truly could go either way.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
To break into first person for a minute, I am TERRIFIED of this game. Before the season began I predicted BSU would go 9-3 with losses to Washington State, BYU (lololololol), and Colorado State. Swap the embarrassing Cougars with Virginia and that prediction seems ominous. The good news? I am horrible at predicting things! With that said, I predict that Boise State wins with a heart attack inducing final score of 34-31. Go Broncos!