It’s beginning to look more and more like Boise State will have a shot to crash the New Year’s Six Bowl festivities – so long as the Broncos can successfully navigate an underrated Mountain West schedule from here on out. On paper, Boise State won’t face a single team with more talent than what it has, but as they say, that’s why they play the game.
New Mexico comes into the matchup with a 2-2 record, having lost to Rutgers and in-state rival New Mexico State. If nothing else, the Lobos have proved that they can score in 2016, hanging more than 38 points per game on the scoreboard. That could become a factor, as Boise State has not been able to pull away from any of its opponents since the first weekend of the season.
Boise State at New Mexico
Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 7 at 10 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBSSN
Spread: Boise State -17
Three Things to Watch
1. Can New Mexico figure out how to slow down Jeremy McNichols?
Boise State’s do-everything back has piled up 720 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns so far this season. He is without a doubt the key cog in the Bronco offensive attack. Look for New Mexico head coach Bob Davie to try to take him away as an option as often as possible – much like teams are doing with Christian McCaffrey this year – and force Boise State’s other weapons to beat his Lobos. If New Mexico can have any sort of success in doing that, they absolutely have the ability to compete to the end in a shootout.
2. Can Boise State keep the Lobo quarterbacks in the pocket?
Both Austin Apodaca and Lamar Jordan are mobile quarterbacks who do their best work on the run – largely outside the pocket. Davie’s pistol offense can be tricky to defend at times, but the Broncos really need to find a way to set the edge and force both Lobo quarterbacks to improvise and try to win with their arms. The last thing Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin wants is for his defense to have to deal with New Mexico running back Teriyon Gipson getting his hands on a pitch downfield. If New Mexico can get the option going, things could get interesting.
3. Can New Mexico pressure Rypien?
Even if the Lobos can take McNichols out of the equation, they’ll still need to get pressure on the Boise State signal-caller. That’s easier said than done. The Broncos are among the best in the nation in terms of keeping their quarterback clean. If Brett Rypien is given any time to make reads, he will find a target – McNichols or not. Expect Davie to have some exotic blitzes up his sleeve in an effort to test the Boise front five early on.
For New Mexico to have any chance of winning this game, all three of the previous questions need to be answered in the Lobos' favor. That’s highly unlikely, simply given the level of talent Boise State brings to the table. The Broncos have too many weapons on offense for New Mexico to account for, and any attempt to key on one particular player is likely going to open up the opportunity for big plays elsewhere. On the other side of the ball, it’s tough to call the Lobos anything but one-dimensional. There’s no reason Boise State can’t snuff out New Mexico’s pistol-option with fundamental assignment football executed by superior athletes. The Broncos have shown a tendency to play to the level of their opponent this season, but it’s hard to imagine this game ending in anything but a blowout.
Prediction: Boise State 45, New Mexico 17
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.
(Photos courtesy of Boise State media relations)