Black Friday 2019 will send the surging Boise State Broncos on the road to Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins to take on the Colorado State Rams. Boise State (10-1, 7-0 Mountain West) will be looking to enhance its case for a trip to the Cotton Bowl as the top Group of 5 team in the College Football Playoff rankings.
The Broncos will host the Mountain West Conference Championship game on Dec. 7 in Boise after crushing Utah State 56-21 in Logan on Saturday. George Holani rushed for a career-high 178 yards and two touchdowns as Boise State ran for 297 yards and 6.5 yards per carry against the Aggies. Jaylon Henderson did a nice job in his second start at quarterback, throwing for 187 yards and three touchdowns. Defense and special teams chipped in with touchdowns as well, as Jalen Walker’s 15-yard interception return gave the Broncos a 14-7 lead in the first quarter that they would not relinquish, and Avery Williams had a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter that put an exclamation point on the win for Boise State.
Colorado State (4-7, 3-4) dropped a hard-fought 17-7 decision to Wyoming last Friday night in Laramie. The loss to the Cowboys was the fourth in a row for the Rams, as they failed to bring the Bronze Boot back to Fort Collins. The defense hung in there all night long, limiting Wyoming to 273 yards of total offense. However, the Rams struggled to get the running game going, mustering only 48 rushing yards. With bowl eligibility no longer on the table for Colorado State, it will be interesting to see how the Rams respond this week against the Broncos.
Boise State at Colorado State
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 29 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Boise State -12.5
When Boise State Has the Ball
Offensive balance has been a big key to success for Boise State in 2019. The Broncos are passing for 273 yards per game and complementing that with 184.5 yards per game on the ground. George Holani should see the ball early and often on the ground against a Rams defense that was not able to slow the Wyoming running attack last week. The ability to run the ball efficiently will set up Jaylon Henderson in the passing game to find John Hightower (40 rec., 810 yds., 7 TDs) and Khalil Shakir (46, 642, 5) for big chunk plays.
Colorado State needs to come out with great effort like it did against the Cowboys on defense this week against the Broncos. The Rams did a nice job of forcing Wyoming to rely solely on the run. Defensive end Emmanuel Jones had nine tackles and three sacks last week, so Boise State will need to be aware of Jones all afternoon long. Jamal Hicks and Dequan Jackson will also need to play at an elite level on Friday to slow down the Broncos; they combined for 16 tackles, a sack and a couple of tackles for a loss last week in Laramie. Turnovers are also a game-changer in contests like this, and Colorado State will need to be on the positive side of the turnover margin in order to pull off the upset.
When Colorado State Has the Ball
The Rams have to put together a little bit of running threat this week to slow down the Boise State pass rush. Jaylen Thomas and Marcus McElroy had a combined 20 carries for 36 yards last week. Thus, it will be up to the offensive line to generate a push so that quarterback Patrick O’Brien will have a fighting chance in the passing game. Warren Jackson caught six passes for 95 yards and a touchdown last week and will be counted on heavily to have another big performance this week.
One of the more underrated aspects of the Boise State program is its consistency on defense. This season, the Broncos are limiting teams to 21.3 points per game and are making teams one-dimensional on a weekly basis. Opponents are averaging only 117.4 yards per game on the ground, 23rd in the nation. Curtis Weaver leads a strong Broncos defensive line with 13.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for a loss and is an absolute force to be reckoned with. Chase Hatada and Sonatane Lui will require attention from the Rams offensive line at all times to give O'Brien time to throw the ball.
Boise State should come out with enough of a sense of urgency to put the game away early on Friday. The Broncos are the superior defensive team in this matchup, and if they win the turnover battle, they should be fine. Colorado State will give a nice effort defensively early but will likely wear down in the second half from being on the field too long. Boise State will head into the Mountain West Conference title game against Hawaii with plenty of confidence after a comfortable win over the Rams on Black Friday.
Prediction: Boise State 38, Colorado State 17
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.
(Top photo courtesy of Boise State Athletics)