We couldn’t decide which game to preview, so we just decided to shove them all into one giant preview and see what shakes out. One interesting note here: If Boise, Air Force, and Fresno State all win, then the Broncos and Bulldogs both can only lose their divisions by not winning again. But what are the actual odds of that happening?
Boise State Broncos (7-2, 5-0) vs Colorado State Rams (6-4, 4-2)
Location & Time: CSU Stadium, Fort Collins, CO; 8:30 PM MT Saturday, November 11th
Line: Boise State -6, O/U 57
Colorado State got bowl eligible and went belly up. Their defense struggled against Air Force’s triple option and the offense, good as it was, couldn’t catch up; then they ran into Wyoming’s stout defense and couldn’t do enough to win despite surrendering only 16 points. They badly need a rebound game, and Boise is not the best opponent to face in that situation – but at least they get them at home? Boise’s defense is not Wyoming’s, but it isn’t far behind, so don’t be surprised if the struggles continue. Nick Stevens averaged 306 yards in his first nine games but totaled only 110 against the Cowboys, and almost a third of that came on one pass. They can’t be this one-dimensional and hope to hang with the Broncos.
Boise, meanwhile, has been cruising through the conference, with their five wins coming by an average of 31-14. The Broncos are so consistent, they’ve not just won by an average of 31-14, they’ve given up exactly 14 points in every conference game so far (that game where they gave up 42 to Virginia looks weirder every week.) This will be the best offense that the Broncos have faced since the Washington State offense that scored 21 points in the last 10 minutes to get to overtime, so we’ll see how much Boise has truly improved, but they have skill at preventing big plays and a strong run defense working in their favor.
Prediction: The Rams have to get a quick start against Boise State, otherwise this game is going to be over quick, especially if the Broncos can continue to stay consistent on both sides of the ball. Boise State 27, Colorado State 14
Wyoming Cowboys (6-3, 4-1) vs Air Force Falcons (4-5, 3-2)
Location & Time: Falcon Stadium, USAF Academy, CO; 8:15 PM MT Saturday, November 11th
Line: Air Force -3, O/U 53.5
Wyoming’s defense is a thing of beauty. They’ve excelled at generating pressure from all over the field, as they’ve not only produced 23 sacks, but have gotten at least one sack from a dozen different players. This is good, because their offense has been rather sluggish all year. They generally exist in two forms – capitalizing on a short field (eight of their 21 offensive touchdowns this season) or slowly plodding their way to points. They’re capable of big plays, but it isn’t something they do reliably, especially with their limitations running the ball well enough to keep the opposing defense honest.
Meanwhile, Air Force is recovering from being put in a chokehold by Army for four quarters, as they managed only six offensive possessions all game and never reached the red zone. I don’t know how much luck they’ll have rebounding against a Cowboy defense that is much better than Army’s, but they’ll at least face an offense that’s not really built to exploit their biggest weakness (explosive plays) so they should at least be able to keep the game competitive.
Prediction: There was a lot of Army rushers, there’s only one Trey Woods, however Wyoming’s defense has been known to be a lot better than Army’s. Wyoming 31, Air Force 28
Fresno State Bulldogs (6-3, 4-1) vs Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (3-6, 1-5)
Location & Time: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI; 8:15 PM MT Saturday, November 11th
Line: Fresno State -10, O/U 53
Momentum is the Rainbow Warriors’ mortal enemy – they’ve been outscored 21-0 at some point during four of their six losses. That kind of tilting of the field can undo even the best performance, like when Hawai’i actually outgained UCLA 515-505 and still lost by five touchdowns. Hawaii does few things very well other than produce big plays on offense, but that’s more out of necessity than anything. When your offense starts slow and your defense often doesn’t start, you’ve got to hit it big to have a shot. Hawai’i’s game against Western Carolina is one of only three times they were not shut out in the first quarter, and one of only two times they shut their opponent out in the first quarter.
Fresno State has had a very strong season, as their 6-3 record features two road losses against teams currently ranked in the top 10, and a 6-1 record against everyone else. The odd part is that the last couple of weeks, the Bulldogs have started looking much more mortal. Last week they played their first one-possession game of the season, and I can understand that against an above-average defense like BYU, but losing at home against UNLV? Not sure about that one.
Prediction: Anything can happen in Aloha Stadium…it’s a weird place to play. However Fresno State already got their weird loss out-of-the-way. Fresno State 42, Hawaii 28