Bet on Blue: Senior Sendoff Edition. In what has been a rollercoaster of a season, the Boise State Broncos will try to earn a victory Friday night on The Blue against the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. Friday’s game will be the last chance for the Broncos 19 seniors to win a regular season home game. The 2016 senior class has won 38 games and has a chance at winning 42 games in their careers. A record of (potentially) 42-12 would be a monster accomplishment. Here’s hoping they can pull it off!
Adding to the excitement of Friday’s game is the Broncos renewed hopes of winning the Mountain West Conference. UNLV did the Broncos a solid by knocking off Wyoming on Saturday meaning that if BSU can run the table, and Wyoming loses one more game, Boise State will meet San Diego State in Albertsons Stadium for the conference title.
This week’s Bet on Blue will look at Boise State’s chances of hosting the Mountain West Championship game, present a statistical snapshot of the matchup against UNLV, discuss this week’s betting line, and decide if we should Bet on Blue.
Will Boise State Get a Shot at Conference Supremacy?
Oh, what a difference a few weeks of football makes. After losing to Wyoming in week eight, it was all doom and gloom amongst the Bronco faithful. The hopes of a conference title looked bleak. Fast-forward three weeks, and the Broncos enter their week 11 tilt against UNLV as the favorites to host the MWC Championship game.
Boise State has a lot of work to do, of course, but they will be favored in their two remaining games. Wyoming (the leader of the pack in the Mountain Division), are home dogs to SDSU in week 11. The Cowboys then must travel to New Mexico in week 12 to face a Lobo’s team that will potentially be on a six-game winning streak.
It’s not all sunshine and roses for the Broncos, though. First, although they have a tough road ahead, Wyoming currently controls their own conference destiny. Also, Boise State has to get by a pesky UNLV team and face their triple option demons against a suddenly resurgent Air Force Falcons squad. Beyond all of that, Bet on Blue can hear the screams of ONE GAME AT A TIME chorusing through the computer monitor, so…on to UNLV!
The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
The Rebels are coached by Tony Sanchez. Sanchez has compiled a 7-15 record in his two seasons at UNLV. The Runnin’ Rebels had to have hoped for a more immediate impact from Sanchez since he had a record of 85-5 at the last school he coached. That’s right, Sanchez left his last coaching gig with a 94% winning percentage. Was this some Division III School where he padded his stats? No. It was a high school. That’s right, the gambling capital of the world took the longest of longshots and hired a local high school coach to head their university’s football team. Bravo UNLV, bravo. On to the stats already…
What Do the Stats Say?
In a weekly tradition, Bet on Blue is once again changing up the presentation of the statistical matchup for the Broncos game. The stats still come from the wonderful folks at Football Outsiders, but instead of comparing the Bronco offense to the UNLV offense, we will compare the Bronco offense to the UNLV defense and vice versa. As always, these stats are adjusted for strength of opponent and do not include garbage time numbers.
When the Broncos Have the Ball
First, we’ll examine how the Broncos match up against the UNLV defense (SPOILER ALERT: you’re going to like the way it looks).
The UNLV defense is atrocious. They are in the triple digits statistically against the run, pass, creating turnovers, giving up touchdowns, allowing explosive plays, and allowing successful plays. This is the worst defense that the Broncos will see in 2016. Slightly worse than Hawaii by most metrics. Boise State should be able to impose their will in any run/pass combination they fancy.
BSU has a great offense. They are efficient and explosive. This combination will prove deadly to the Runnin’ Rebels. If you think the rushing ranking is a surprise, know that going into the BYU game BSU was 67th in rushing, so the added emphasis on running the ball is showing up in the numbers. The problem for BSU is that they have played poor defenses so it’s slow going trying to work their way up a strength of schedule adjusted list.
When the Bronco D Is on The Blue
Now we’ll look at what the Bronco defense will be up against when the Rebels have the rock. This will probably be a letdown to some folks. It is a good matchup for the Broncos, but nothing will ever touch the beautifulness of that first table.
Run Rebels Run
The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels can run the ball. They are 39th in the country in rushing, and they’re 30th in the country at producing explosive runs. UNLV typically uses two running backs. Sophomore Lexington Thomas (5.3 YPC, 8 TDs) and Freshman Charles Williams (5.8 YPC, 3 TDs) each have over 115 carries and 600 yards on the year. On top of that, Junior QB Kurt Palandech has run for two touchdowns and 230 yards on just 21 carries. Mobile quarterbacks have hurt the Broncos this season and Palandech is a good one, averaging 11 yards per carry. Lexington Thomas is listed as doubtful for the BSU game which should help the Broncos against the run.
You may be saying, “Hey, BSU is 12th against the run, what’s the big deal about UNLV being 39th?” That is true, and BSU has earned that ranking by preventing offenses from producing successful runs. The problem is that when BSU’s opponent does have a successful run, the Bronco defense is just 49th in the country at preventing a good run from being an explosive run. UNLV is all about explosive runs. It’s something to watch out for on Friday night.
Taking the Air Out of the Football
A saving grace for BSU is that the Runnin’ Rebels have struggled to throw the ball this season. They’ve used three quarterbacks that have combined to throw 15 touchdowns against nine interceptions. Palandech has been the most successful of the QBs. The junior has completed 54% of his passes with four touchdowns against one interception. Palandech will be without his top wide receiver on Friday night, however, and that could be a huge problem for the Rebels.
UNLV’s top WR Devonte Boyd, who broke his arm in the win against Wyoming, had 45 catches on the year for 746 yards and four touchdowns. No other UNLV player has more than 13 catches or two touchdowns. The receiver position is so dire at UNLV (the top three receivers are listed as out) that they will start their freshman QB at wide receiver against the Broncos.
A Battle of Bad Special Teams
Special teams play has been a huge problem for the Broncos this season. That statement surprises absolutely no one. Here are the stats on the year; shield your eyes if you must.
Hey, that’s actually not too bad! For the first time this season, the Broncos are not at a decided disadvantage on special teams. Boise State’s special teams is still the inferior unit, mind you, but the margin is awfully slight. Boise State is much better than UNLV at defending kickoffs and punts. Could BSU have a big return this week? If it’s ever going to happen, bet on this to be the week.
The stat of the week has to be that UNLV has a worse net field position ranking than BSU, right? These are some atrocious special teams units taking The Blue on Friday. Let’s look away from this abomination and turn our attention to the betting line.
Boise State opened as a 26.5 point favorite against UNLV. The line has since moved to -28.5. With an over/under of 66, the betting markets are predicting a 47 – 19 Boise State victory. The Runnin’ Rebels are 5-5 against the spread on the year and just 2-3 on the road against the number. BSU is 4-6 against the spread and a putrid 0-5 against the number at home. The recent trends for the two teams don’t shed much light on the outcome of this game. BSU has been awful at home and UNLV has been bad on the road.
Should We Bet on Blue?
Stay far, far away from this one. The number is too big and the trends are too hideous. If that wasn’t enough, even if BSU takes a commanding lead the third stringers didn’t exactly inspire confidence in preventing a backdoor cover in Hawaii last Saturday. There is one intriguing bet for Friday night’s game. This game will go over the 66 points. If you feel like taking some action on the game; take the OVER.
Bronco fans are nervous. After the letdown in Laramie, and the turn of events over the last three weeks, a lot of Bronco Nation is waiting for the other shoe to drop. Bet on Blue won’t tell you it can’t happen. We’ve all SEEN it happen. What can happen and what can/should be predicted are two different things, though. The Broncos will cruise to a 52-26 victory on Friday night sending the senior class off with a 10-1 record heading into the regular season’s final week. Go Broncos and Bleed Blue.