Brett Rypien and the Broncos look to bounce back against the Wolf Pack
The Broncos (3-2, 1-1 MW) disappeared on offense in a 19-13 loss to San Diego State. It got ugly for Boise State over the course of four quarters. The Aztecs limited the Broncos to 229 total yards and forced three turnovers.
The Wolf Pack (3-3, 1-1 MW) looked even more lifeless on that side of the ball in a 21-3 loss to Fresno State. Starting quarterback Ty Gangi sat out with a leg injury, and Nevada's offense was sidelined with him. The Bulldogs forced three turnovers and kept the Wolf Pack from sustaining drives.
Boise State leads the all-time series 29-13. The Broncos have won 15 of their last 16 games against the Wolf Pack. Nevada's lone victory in that stretch came in 2010, when it upended Boise State 34-31 in overtime.
Boise State at Nevada
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 13 at 10:30 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Boise State -17.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Boise State figure out the 3-3-5 defense?
For a second straight week, Boise State will face a defense that relies on a 3-3-5 scheme. The Broncos will need to have learned some lessons to keep their second exposure from turning into a repeat disaster.
San Diego State stifled Boise State when it mattered. The Broncos tallied two total yards in the entire first quarter. 79 of their 229 total yards came in the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter.
Brett Rypien felt the heat all afternoon. Rypien threw a pair of first-half interceptions and finished with 170 yards on 21-of-41 passing. The Aztecs also sacked the senior quarterback four times. A lack of a consistent running game put added pressure on Rypien to rescue the Broncos and made it easier for San Diego State to tee off and go after him.
Nevada has the capability for making things hard as well. The Wolf Pack held Fresno State to a season-low 271 yards and only 12 first downs.
2. Will Nevada finish drives?
Life without Ty Gangi proved to be rough for the Nevada offense. The Wolf Pack mustered only 327 yards and 21 first downs against Fresno State. Converting first downs proved impossible. Nevada's only points came off a 41-yard second-quarter field goal from Ramiz Ahmed.
An inability to make third-down plays did in the Wolf Pack offense. Nevada converted 4-of-18 third downs. That stat isn't an outlier either. The Wolf Pack are 29-of-88 on third-down plays through six games. Their 32.95 percent conversion rate ranks ninth among Mountain West teams and 116th nationally.
Getting Gangi back to 100 percent could go a long way toward injecting some life back into the offense. The senior has thrown for 1,332 yards and 11 touchdowns through his first five games this season. He gives teeth to an air raid offense that averages 38.3 passes per game, ranking among the top 25 FBS teams in that category.
Junior quarterback Christian Solano had a shaky outing in relief of Gangi last week. Solano threw for 195 yards and totaled three interceptions in his first career start.
3. Can Boise State fix its run game?
While the Broncos made a name for themselves in the college football world through razzle-dazzle passing, a strong running game has always been a bread-and-butter staple shoring up the explosive offense. That element has not been present for the Broncos through much of the 2018 season.
Boise State racked up 400 yards and four touchdowns on 45 carries against Connecticut in Week 2. In the team's four other games, the Broncos have tallied 357 total yards and six touchdowns on 142 combined carries. That averages out to 2.5 yards per carry. In losses to Oklahoma State and San Diego State, Boise State averaged 1.1 yards and 1.4 yards per run, respectively.
Getting 100 yards on the ground is usually a barometer for success with Boise State. The Broncos are 22-3 in their last 25 games when they finish with at least 100 rushing yards.
Boise State looks much more vulnerable than when it began the season as a Top 25 team and a favorite to win the Mountain West title and claim a New Year's Six bowl slot. The NY6 bowl hopes are likely done, but a league title is still in play. Nevada should present less of a challenge to the Broncos. The Wolf Pack are improved on defense, but their offense remains too much of a question mark to realistically expect Nevada to spring the upset.
Prediction: Boise State 45, Nevada 17
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.