COUGAR TRACKS

BYU Vs. Boise State: Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction

Nov 5, 2022, 12:01 AM
BYU Boise State, Kalani Sitake, Andy Avalos...
BYU/Boise State square off again. Bronco coach Andy Avalos won the last meeting against Kalani Sitake. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

BOISE – Today is the final scheduled chapter of BYU/Boise State in football. With BYU moving on to the Big 12 next season, it brings to a close a great regional rivalry that has produced some excellent college football games.

Today’s matchup has the makings to be another entertaining ball game. But it’s two teams that are heading in different directions.

BYU comes into today’s rivalry matchup with a 4-5 record. A far cry from the lofty preseason expectations this team had coming into the year as a Top 25 team.

BYU is probably thrilled to turn the calendar to November, as they finished October winless and sackless. It was one of the most challenging months in the tenure of BYU head coach Kalani Sitake.

At one point this season, Boise State was experiencing similar heartbreak as BYU. First, they were 2-2 after an embarrassing loss to UTEP in El Paso. Then, head coach Andy Avalos fired offensive coordinator Tim Plough. Replacing him was analyst and former Boise and NFL head coach Dirk Koetter.

Koetter is an interim coordinator and is only in the role for the 2022 season. But since he stepped in to call the plays, the Broncos also turned to Taylen Green at quarterback after Hank Bachmeier entered the transfer portal.

The pairing, plus a lights-out defense, has reeled off four consecutive victories and now the Broncos have a chance at a New Year’s Six bowl game if they can win out.

BYU vs Boise State

Kickoff: 5 p.m. (MT)

TV: FS2

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Extended pregame begins at Noon)

Now it’s time for the 3-2-1 game preview for today’s matchup between BYU and Boise State.

Three Game Day Thoughts

1. I will miss this rivalry

BYU versus Boise State doesn’t have the day-in, day-out bickering and downright hate as BYU/Utah does. But the quality of play between BYU and Boise is always top-notch.

I get why BYU is pausing the series. It’s not a traditional rival, and the Broncos are outside the Power Five. Typically, BYU will want Group of Five teams to come to Provo in guaranteed money games. But there should be a lot of respect given to Boise State because they have always valued playing BYU. Even amidst a global pandemic, the Broncos wanted to play BYU.

I’d like to see these two put something together again.

2. BYU can keep this game close

Kalani Sitake brought it up earlier in the week; Boise State brings out the best in BYU. The reeling Cougars will need to be at their best if they have plans to pull off this upset.

But there were good vibes and body language from BYU practice this week. After the Arkansas and Liberty losses, the body language from players and coaches leaving the practice field was somber. Then it carried over into the play in those following games.

BYU showed some fight last week in the loss against East Carolina, which was promising. With today’s game, you’ve got a rivalry and a potential bowl game on the line. So the motivation seems to be there for BYU. But will the high level of execution follow?

3. BYU’s defense needs to play its best game of the season

The defensive staff at BYU has undergone some changes since the bottoming-out performance against Arkansas on October. Kalani Sitake has taken over the defense. He’s trying to simplify the playbook, fewer hockey substitutions, and put his playmakers in spots where they can make plays.

 

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Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki is in charge of the defensive line along with analysts Jan Jorgensen and Vince Feula. Then Preston Hadley moved back to the safeties spot, while Ed Lamb oversees the special teams along with his assistant head coach role.

There was promise last week in the fourth quarter against East Carolina. But the Pirates still racked up 227 rushing yards. If Boise gets up to 227 on the ground, BYU’s not winning this game.

The BYU defense has to put together its best performance of the season. Even better than what they did against then No. 9 Baylor in week two. Throw out the playbook at this game; whacky things happen in BYU/Boise State matchups. Sitake has to dial up his best for this one, or November will start to look familiar to what BYU experienced in October.

Two BYU vs Boise State Questions

1. Will Jaren Hall continue to run?

BYU has firmly committed to not running quarterback Jaren Hall this season. The importance of Jaren Hall to BYU and its success is why they’ve opted to avoid dialing up run plays for the second-year starting quarterback.

But last week against East Carolina, Hall took off on what appeared to be some designed runs. Hall finished with 60 rushing yards on eight carries, which included a 23-yard run.

The risk of running with Hall means he takes hits, but his athleticism is too good not to factor him into the ground attack. Especially with starting running back Chris Brooks being “doubtful” for today’s game.

2. How good is Boise State?

We’re going to learn a lot about Boise State today. Boise’s strength of schedule to this point of the season is 116th in Jeff Sagarin’s ratings. The Broncos have improved a lot since that loss to UTEP in September, but the Mountain West is having a down year this season.

Boise’s only game against a Power Five team this year was in week one against Oregon State, and the Broncos weren’t competitive against an Oregon State team currently in the College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings.

If Boise State dominates BYU today, they will probably run the table the rest of the way and position themselves for a New Year’s Six bid. But if BYU keeps it competitive or pulls the upset, there will be questions if Boise’s recent success was simply a byproduct of the weak schedule.

One score prediction for BYU vs Boise State

I’m expecting this game to come down to the wire. But I give the edge to Boise State. The Broncos are not the high-flying passing attack they once were under Chris Petersen. Instead, they are a physical team that wants to run the football. That’s not good for BYU.

BYU’s defense will put up a valiant effort, but ultimately the bending during the game will break. Boise State closes out the regional rivalry with a hard-fought victory.

Boise State 28, BYU 23

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch and his BYU/Boise State coverage from Idaho on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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