Normally, a 2-2 New Mexico would not be a terrifying prospect. But Option-Induced PTSD is a real affliction across Bronco Nation, and it’s making people jumpier than usual. Down in Albuquerque, the native message board denizens are feeling confident that they will win if they can keep it close. They’re not scared of Boise’s offense, and are pretty sure they’ve got the Broncos’ defense stymied. This is amusing because this year’s version of the Lobos are not particularly prolific against decent defenses, and has a defense themselves that likes to make simple mistakes and let teams back into games that it looks like UNM has put away. This happened last week at SJSU, it happened against Rutgers. If they’re doing it both when they win and when they lose, that means its something that the Boise State coaching staff will be able to exploit.
Boise State has improved greatly defensively since last season, and can now tackle consistently in space, as well as having a ridiculous defensive line. Safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner is back in the lineup now that he has served his grades fueled suspension, and he’s probably chomping at the bit to hit some fools. Especially ones that took a party picture on his Blue last season after winning there for the first time. Theoretically Boise should be able to contain the option fairly well, considering that the Lobos utilize the pass about half as much as Boise and aren’t nearly as successful.
The difference is going to be turnovers, and special teams. It only takes a few big run plays to demoralize a defense, and a few special teams mishaps or highlights to change momentum one way or the other when teams are this closely matched. The Lobos know how to take advantage of these – their top two return men are averaging over 20 yards per kick return and they’ve been able to defensively capitalize on a pick six already. They’re opportunistic, as we learned last season, and play with little fear – that makes them dangerous.
Luckily, so is Boise. The Broncos seem to be very good at focusing on the opponent in front of them – studying not only the usual film, but looking for ideas from the pro ranks to deal with the type of players they’ll be seeing that week. The offense has some execution challenges at this point, but a lot of ills are cured by solid defense that can give them time to get it together. It remains to be seen how much longer the Broncos can be carried on the shoulders of Jeremy McNichols and the Defense’s ability to make routine stops, but let’s shoot for at least one more week.
It’s definitely weird to be this wary of New Mexico, but they’ve improved under Bob Davie and command a baseline level of respect for being one of the few teams Boise has faced recently to win on The Blue. You can bet University Stadium will be lit on Friday for that 7 pm kick, and the Lobo faithful will want to make Boise’s night just as difficult as they can. Vegas believes in the Broncos – as of Monday morning Boise is a 17.5 point favorite. You know the team believes. Maybe we as fans could believe a little too and live that #ALLIN thing Harsin keeps tweeting about. This is a special team having a special season. It doesn’t matter if they’re all pretty, just that they’re all won. In the end, that just might be enough to get Boise State in a bigger bowl and keep our guys from having Christmas in Vegas again versus the dregs of the Pac…and there’s no better gift than that.