The Utah State Aggies play host to the Boise State Broncos on Saturday afternoon from Merlon Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium in a CBS Sports game. The Mountain West rivals face-off for the 26th time all-time, with Boise State dominating the all-time series, 20 wins to five. Boise State has also won five in a row in the series overall and will look to make it six straight on Saturday. The last two seasons have seen the Broncos win 56-21 and 42-13, and another blowout could be on the horizon. In the preseason Mountain West poll, Boise State was selected to win the Mountain Division, while Utah State was selected to finish fifth. Utah State has surprised early on this season though, coming in 3-0, while the Broncos have struggled against a strong schedule, entering only 1-2. With an early start time and a national television audience, this conference showdown will be one of the key games for fans to tune into on Saturday.
Broncos Looking For Bounce BackBoise State heads on the road for the first time since the opening week of the season, as the Broncos aim to grab a win and start the Mountain West slate off with a bang. It's been tough going this season for Boise State, especially with the offseason loss of longtime head coach, Bryan Harson, to Auburn. The struggles to fill his void have been felt and losses to UCF and Oklahoma State already on the season have set the tone in the wrong way. The conference favorites still have a great chance to find a win on Saturday and even though they'll be on the road, will still like their chances to grab the win. The Broncos do have a lengthy injury list though, especially on the defensive side of things. Nose tackles Keeghan Freeborn (ankle) and Herbert Gums Jr. (knee) both are questionable for Saturday, while wide receiver Stefan Cobbs (undisclosed) will try to give it a go as well. If healthy, the Broncos will like their chances on Saturday but an unhealthy team making the trip could give Utah State some confidence to stay close.
Hank Bachmeier continues to be the leader of the offense at quarterback, tossing for 845 yards in just three games, with five touchdowns. The two interceptions aren't ideal for a Bronco quarterback but if he can take better care of the ball against the Aggies, Boise State has a good shot to come away with the win. The rushing attack is a major concern, only averaging 67.33 yards per game and they are in separate need of someone to take control of the backfield. Khalil Shakir has been elite at wide receiver and has a good chance to dominate the outside on Saturday. He's averaging 111.67 yards per game and has added two touchdowns as one of the top threats in the Mountain West. The passing attack isn't a problem but the rushing attack needs to create more balance to the offense if they want to succeed in the Mountain West.
Boise State's rush defense has been a point of concern early on this season, allowing 201.67 yards per game on the ground. Their defense has been stuck on the field for far too long in their losses and unless they aren't able to limit the ground game, they could be in for a surprise. JL Skinner is sure to have his name heard throughout Saturday's broadcast, as he enters the leader on the team in tackles, with 32. The pass rush is one key advantage, with Scott Matlock, Shane Irwin, and Isaiah Bagnah, all have contributed two sacks and the pressure should disrupt what Utah State is accustomed to running on their offensive side of things.
Aggies Off To Hot StartUtah State's offense has put up points without issue this season but having to welcome the historically top team in the conference to town, is a whole another story. The Aggies rank 21st in FBS in points per game, with 41 points per game. The opening game saw them stun Washington State by three points on the road and set the tone for the Aggies' non-conference slate. They then put up at least 48 points in back-to-back games and the offense certainly is ready to roll on Saturday. The defense though is an issue, ranking 106th in FBS in scoring defense and that's without seeing an offense even close to as efficient as Boise State's is. Unlike the injuries that appear to be plaguing the Broncos, Utah State enters Saturday with a clean bill of health at home, a massive advantage.
It's difficult to judge exactly how dangerous the Aggies are on the offensive side of things, given how light their schedule has been. Air Force was picked ahead of them in the preseason MWC poll and Utah State still put up 49 points for themselves when they met the Falcons. They might need every point they can to pull off the home set. The quarterback position continues to be a battle between Logan Bonner and Andrew Peasley, though both have been strong on the season. Bonner has tossed seven touchdowns and three interceptions, and Peasley has three touchdowns without turning the ball over yet. Both have the ability to succeed in the MWC but the inability to decide on a starter is only going to haunt them. Rushing the ball has been their recipe for success as well. Calvin Tyler Jr. is averaging 96 yards per game and could be in for a large night against a Boise State defense that can't seem to stop anything from running all over them.
Defensively, Utah State has actually fared worse than Boise State on the ground, allowing 217 rushing yards per game. Through the air, they've allowed 255 yards per game, and Boise State should be able to make a living with their passing attack against a Utah State defense that has struggled against far worse offenses than what the Broncos will have on Saturday. Justin Rice is the leader of the defense, with 30 total tackles and having grabbed three interceptions already this season, but unfortunately, he doesn't have a ton of help. The Aggies have virtually no pass rush and if they allow Bachmeier to stay in the pocket all night and have time, they could be in for one of their worst defensive performances of the season.
The top team trends, according to covers.com, are: - Broncos are 10-2-1 ATS in their last 13 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game. - Broncos are 4-0 ATS in their last four meetings with Utah State. - Broncos are 6-1 ATS in their last seven meetings at Utah State.
The top team trends, according to covers.com, are: - Aggies are 1-7 ATS in their last eight games as a home underdog.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Boise State enters as the favorites in the Mountain West and even though they'll be on the road on Saturday, shouldn't have any trouble showing why they should win the conference again this season. Their rush defense remains their largest weakness, but given Utah State's own issues stopping opponents on the ground, the issue should be minimized and Saturday might actually be the first game of the season where Boise State can compete in the time of possession game. Bachmeier is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the country, let alone in the conference, and given Utah State's inability to stop teams through the air as well, could be in for a tough night defensively. The key for Bachmeier is going to be to take care of the ball, as the turnovers have continued to come at inopportune times this season. Going on the road won't be easy but considering this Utah State defense is coming after a game in which they allowed 40 points to Air Force, the Broncos shouldn't have any trouble scoring themselves. The defense for Boise State is a little more of a concern but they've had a difficult schedule thus far and should have an easier go of things on Saturday. Boise State has dominated the series of late and the confidence and momentum that the returning starters will bring into Saturday's game will be unmatched as they get out to a quick and easy start in the conference opener.
Full-Game Total Pick
Points won't be a problem when the nation's 21st and 46th ranked scoring offenses take the field. Given that Utah State also ranks 106th in scoring defense, they've shown their hand at playing high-scoring affairs this season. Boise State has put up numbers against quality opposition this season and given the way the game should be played from a pace perspective against Utah State, this could be one of the highest-scoring games of the weekend. Additionally, according to covers.com, for Boise State, the over is 5-0 in their last five games after accumulating less than 100 yards rushing in their previous game and is 4-0 in their last four games following an ATS win. For Utah State, the over is 3-0-1 in their last four games after accumulating more than 280 yards passing in their previous game and is 3-0-1 in their last four games after allowing more than 40 points in their previous game. In games between the two teams, the over is 5-0 in the last five meetings at Utah State and is 8-2-1 in the last 11 meetings overall.