A quarterback change has revitalized the Boise State offense. Once again, the No. 21 Broncos are lighting up scoreboards and obliterating opposing defenses at will. It could be a different story against Utah State this week.
Utah State head coach Matt Wells' Aggies team should offer Boise State their toughest test since the Broncos suffered a loss to BYU in their last trip to the state of Utah in September. Utah State has won two straight following back-to-back losses to Utah and Washington. The Aggies have averaged 44.5 points and 458.5 yards of total offense in those two wins while allowing just 16.0 points and 277.5 yards.
Slowing Boise State down won't be a simple task. The Broncos are averaging 40.7 points and 482.3 yards of total offense per game, while allowing just 12.0 points and 259.5 yards.
Boise State has dominated the series with Utah State since moving up to the FBS ranks two decades ago. The Broncos lead the all-time series 15-4 and have beaten the Aggies 12 straight times. Ten of those victories have come by at least 24 points.
College Football Podcast: Week 7 Preview
Boise State at Utah State
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET (Friday)
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Boise State -9.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Run Defense vs. Run Defense
Shutting offenses down cold is a trademark for Boise State and Utah State this season. One reason why is that both teams feature stifling run defenses. The Broncos allow just 60.7 yards per game on the ground, leading the Mountain West Conference and ranking second in the FBS in that category. The Aggies rank second in the Mountain West and 15th in FBS, allowing 102.2 rushing yards per contest.
If it comes down to the passing game, Boise State has a definite edge. Freshman QB Brett Rypien has already thrown for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns on 73-of-104 passing since taking over for injured starter Ryan Finley in the Broncos' 52-0 win over Idaho State. USU sophomore QB Kent Myers has thrown for 397 yards and two touchdowns on 30-of-46 passing in two starts.
2. Swarming to the Ball
Forcing turnovers is something Boise State does with ease. The Broncos lead the nation with 13 interceptions. Boise State has gained 16 turnovers this season, while losing only six. Their turnover margin of 1.67 ranks fifth among all FBS schools. Darian Thompson and Donte Deayon are the team co-leaders with four interceptions each through six games.
It has helped Boise State achieve unmatched balance on both sides of the ball. The Broncos are the only FBS team that ranks in the top 10 in both scoring offense (40.7 points per game) and scoring defense (12.0 points per game), and in the top 20 in both total offense (482.3 yards per game) and total defense (259.5 yards per game).
3. Tackle Machines
For Utah State, stout defense is rooted in stellar linebacker play. That position group is not only the strongest on the defensive side of the ball for the Aggies, it is also one of the best position groups in the entire Mountain West.
Junior linebacker Nick Vigil leads the team and the conference with 52 tackles. Vigil also ranks ninth among FBS players in that category. He has led Utah State in tackles four times in five games so far this season. Senior linebacker Kyler Fackrell ranks first in the Mountain West and is tied for 17th nationally with eight tackles for loss. Fackrell is also second in the league and third in the FBS in fumble recoveries with two.
Boise State has a long track record of dominating conference opponents on both sides of the ball going back to its days in the Western Athletic Conference. It has shown no sign of changing this season. The Broncos are on a roll offensively and have a tough defense to back it up. That's not good news for Utah State. The Aggies are good enough on defense to avoid getting blown out by Boise State, but they lack enough offensive playmakers to move the chains consistently against the Broncos.
Prediction: Boise State 28, Utah State 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.