The Boise State Broncos were forced to wait an extra week for an opportunity to bounce back from a disappointing 28-25 road loss to BYU. Though the Broncos are still undefeated in Mountain West play at 3–0, the non-conference defeat could loom large in the race for a spot in a New Year's Six bowl. Now 6-1 overall, Boise State must turn its attention to the upstart San Jose State Spartans, who improved to 4-4 overall (though they remain just 1-3 in league action) by beating Army 34-29 on the road a week ago.
Boise State at San Jose State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 2 at 10:30 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Boise State -17
When Boise State Has the Ball
Quarterback Hank Bachmeier started the first six games of the season for the Broncos and completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 1,547 yards (8.8 yards per attempt) and nine touchdowns with just three interceptions. Unfortunately, Bachmeier was sidelined against BYU by injury, and it is unclear whether or not he will be healthy enough to play against the Spartans.
But Boise State has experienced backups Chase Cord, who started against BYU and has appeared in six games, and senior Jaylon Henderson. Cord has completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 480 yards and eight touchdowns with two interceptions and has added 77 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground as well. If Bachmeier can’t go, Cord will likely make his second start.
Regardless of the starter, Boise State has weapons on offense. Receivers John Hightower (26 receptions, 455 yards, 5 TDs), CT Thomas (21, 365, 3) and Khalil Shakir (30, 424, 3) all rank among the top 12 in the conference in receiving yards per game. Meanwhile, running backs George Holani (463 rushing yards, TD) and Robert Mahone (389, 5) both rank among the top 20 in the league in rushing.
San Jose State will have its hands full keeping the Broncos in check. The Spartans rank No. 11 in the Mountain West and No. 106 nationally in total defense (442.9 ypg), though the unit is better on a per-play basis, having allowed 5.53 yards per snap, which ranks seventh in the Mountain West and No. 64 in the country. Run defense has been the biggest issue. San Jose State ranks last in the conference and 125th in the country in rushing yards allowed per game (236.5).
When San Jose State Has the Ball
The Spartans also have plenty of offensive firepower, and it starts with quarterback Josh Love, who ranks second in the conference in passing offense (294.4) behind only Hawaii QB Cole McDonald (315.1). A senior, Love has completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 2,355 yards and 15 touchdowns with only three interceptions.
Top target Tre Walker ranks second in the Mountain West in receiving yards per game (94.2), having caught 40 passes for 565 yards and a touchdown. Deep threat Bailey Gaither ranks 10th in the league in receiving (61.4 ypg), and has averaged 18.19 yards on his 27 receptions, hauling in four TDs. Gaither was on the receiving end of one of the most highlight-worthy touchdown catches of the season against Army.
The Broncos should be well-prepared for the San Jose State passing attack. Boise State ranks second in the conference in pass defense (205.3) this season and has surrendered just 6.5 yards per pass attempt, which leads the league. Elite pass rusher Curtis Weaver, who ranks third nationally with 9.5 sacks, is set to square off with a strong San Jose State offensive line that has surrendered only eight sacks this year, second-fewest in the Mountain West.
The loss to BYU was a surprise, but Boise State still has all its goals in front of it. A victory over San Jose State would be one more small step toward a Mountain Division title and would likely earn the Broncos (currently ranked No. 21 in the AP poll) a spot in the first College Football Playoff committee rankings, which will be unveiled next week. Keep winning, and a big-name bowl game is still possible — even likely.
The Spartans have already exceeded expectations. The win over Army gives San Jose State more victories this season than it had in the 2017 and '18 seasons combined, and a home win over the Broncos, though unlikely, would be a huge step toward the Spartans' first bowl game since 2015.
Boise State has a talent advantage on both sides of the football, and the Broncos should have success running the football. Despite the progress, San Jose State has made this year, Boise State should pick up an important win on the road to keep its spotless conference record intact.
Prediction: Boise State 29, San Jose State 17
(Top photo courtesy of Boise State Athletics)