With last week’s wild win over Wyoming, Boise State clinched the Mountain West Mountain Division and will host Fresno State in the conference title game on December 3.
But, before that, the Broncos have to play Utah State, last year’s Mountain West champs who lost quarterback Logan Bonner to injury in September and sit at 6-5. The game will kick off at 10 a.m. and air nationally on CBS.
Those are the facts. Here are some thoughts.
1. How will Boise State approach a game with no implications?
Don’t tell Andy Avalos that Friday’s game is meaningless.
“There’s a lot on the line,” Avalos said. “It’s senior day. We’re defending the blue.”
Those are good points. Winning games at home — especially at Boise State, where it is practically taught in schools that Kellen Moore lost just once on The Blue — is an important thing. So is getting a victory on senior day, even in this day and age, where most kids go through the senior-day festivities two or three times because everyone has an extra COVID year they might take.
Here is another good point. No one will care about a win on Friday if the Broncos lose next week in the Mountain West title game — a contest that will also take place on The Blue and include all those “seniors.”
Back in 2017, a weird thing happened. Boise State and Fresno State played a regular-season finale in Fresno knowing full well that they’d meet again the next week in Boise for the Mountain West Championship Game.
On senior day, defending their home turf, the Bulldogs took care of BSU in the regular-season finale, 28-17. A week later, Ryan Wolpin ran in a late touchdown to help the Broncos win the conference title.
Do you think Fresno State fans are telling their children about that incredible regular-season win over Boise State? I hope not.
This week, Boise State’s coaches have told everyone they are 100% focused on this game against Utah State. Which makes sense.
First off, coaches talk to their players through the media. They weren’t gonna say anything more than how immersed they are in Utah State prep. Secondly, these guys are competitors. They want to play. They want to play as hard as humanly possible. They want to win at all costs. That’s what makes them so good.
But, it would seem silly to me if Taylen Green or DJ Schramm or George Holani or Scott Matlock plays the entire game on Friday. Just imagine if Green goes down trying to make a play in the fourth quarter. There would be loads of regret.
One would think there’s a balance between wanting to get a senior-day victory on The Blue and putting yourself in the best position to achieve the ultimate goal: Winning a conference title.
But maybe not. Maybe it’s counterproductive. Maybe looking ahead and taking a week off can damage a squad more than it can help. Surely the coaches know best.
I’m not saying Boise State should sit every starter for the whole game. Or that the coaches shouldn’t bother even game planning for Utah State. I’m saying this seems like a good time to think about the big picture. Maybe sit guys who have had injury issues. Maybe pull players in the second half. Maybe get a head start on Fresno State prep.
But who knows? Perhaps Avalos will play everyone against Utah State, the Broncos will win, then they’ll win again next week and I’ll look like a fool for even questioning not going all out.
We’ll know in two weeks.
2. A 10 a.m. game might be good for BSU.
OK, a game at 10 a.m. is weird. But it’s only weird because it never really happens.
Boise State played a 10 a.m. game against Utah State and a 9 a.m. (10 a.m. in Boise) game against San Diego State last season. Other than that, Boise State is most known for playing games so late that folks need an eleventh-hour coffee to catch the second half.
But think about this: Boise State normally practices at 9 a.m. Most of the Broncos players are routinely up around 5 a.m. and getting ready for film sessions and practice. They won’t have to change much for Friday’s game
“We train in the mornings,” Avalos said. “You do lose a little bit of preparation time. Because when you put your head on that pillow Thursday night, that’s it. When you get it up on Friday morning, it’s time to go.”
Same goes for Bronco fans trying to tailgate.
3. I think Taylen Green is the first-team All-Mountain-West quarterback.
Usually the best player in the Mountain West each year is a quarterback. Historically, this has been a passing league.
This year, not so much. Not helping the case: Arguably the league’s top two quarterbacks — Utah State’s Logan Bonner and Fresno State’s Jake Haener — missed significant time with injury.
All that means that Taylen Green might be named the first-team All-Mountain-West quarterback despite not starting until week five.
Currently, Green is arguably the best running quarterback in the conference and ranks fifth in the conference in passing yards (1,510) while the guys above him hail from teams completely outside the top of the league.
The only guy I could see it going to aside from Green is San Jose State’s Chevon Cordeiro, who has completed 60% of his passes for over 2,600 yards and 18 touchdowns. His only downside: He plays for a 6-4 Spartans team.
4. Can Boise State start a new streak of 1,000-yard rushers?
George Holani is just 23 yards away from rushing for 1,000 yards in a season. He’d be the first Boise State tailback to reach quadruple digits since …. George Holani in 2019.
When Holani did it back then, though, it was the 11th-straight year a Broncos running back eclipsed a 1,000-yard rusher. The streak ended in the 2020 Covid season and then injuries to Holani kept the BSU rushing attack at bay last year.
One would have to think Boise State could restart the streak here quickly. Holani should get it back on track on Friday. Then, whether Holani goes to the NFL or not, Boise State has star Ashton Jeanty on campus for at least the next two years.
And based on what he’s shown as Holani’s backup, Jeanty should be a near-lock to go over 1,000 yards every year he’s in the blue and orange. That would be a good start to a new streak.
5. Look out for Utah State RB Calvin Tyler Jr.
Without Bonner, Utah State is not the same team. New quarterback Cooper Legas is OK, but he doesn’t make many big plays and turns the ball over far too much.
The guy Boise State’s defense needs to worry about is running back Calvin Tyler Jr. The Oregon State transfer is the Aggies’ workhorse, tallying 978 yards and a half-dozen touchdowns on the season.
After a week in which it allowed over 200 yards to Wyoming running back Titus Swen, it will be interesting to see how the Broncos’ rush defense responds.
PREDICTION: Boise State 34, Utah State 17.