Non-conference losses to Washington State and Virginia knocked Boise State out of the New Year’s Six bowl game discussion early this season, but a 24-14 victory over Wyoming last week improved the Broncos' Mountain West record to a perfect 3-0. Now 5-2 overall, and riding a three-game winning streak, Boise State travels to Logan to play Mountain Division rival Utah State. Matt Wells' Aggies improved to 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the league with a 52-28 win over UNLV Saturday night.
Boise State at Utah State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 10 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Boise State -8
Three Things to Watch
1. Rotating quarterbacks
Both Boise State and Utah State have used multiple quarterbacks this season, and often in the same game. Despite Brett Rypien earning All-Mountain West accolades in each of his first two seasons as the starter, head coach Bryan Harsin has worked Kansas transfer Montell Cozart into the mix. Cozart is an effective runner who ranks second on the team with 260 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and he was used primarily in the red zone last week against Wyoming. He scored twice on the ground against the Cowboys and also threw a TD pass.
Cozart started the conference opener against New Mexico with Rypien injured, and the senior also saw significant time as the team’s primary quarterback when Rypien was ineffective against Troy and Washington State. Surprising given Rypien’s track record, Cozart has also been the better passer of the two this season, at least statistically speaking. Cozart has completed 66.2 percent of his passes for 559 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception. Rypien has thrown for 822 yards and two TDs with three interceptions and has completed 61.2 percent of his passes. Rypien will likely start against the Aggies, but Cozart is sure to play. The two might even share the field on the same snap at times, as seen last week.
The Aggies aren’t likely to shuffle two QBs as often as Boise State, but two signal callers could see action. Kent Myers began the season as the starter and has thrown for 1,206 yards with seven touchdowns, but he has also tossed seven interceptions. He played only one series last week. Jordan Love started against UNLV and threw for 316 yards and three TDs without a pick. He has completed 52.8 percent of his passes for 701 yards, four scores and four interceptions overall.
2. Chunk yardage
Boise State wide receiver Cedrick Wilson is one of the best playmakers in the Mountain West, if not the nation. Wilson is the Broncos' leading receiver by a wide margin, having caught 39 passes for 654 yards — a 16.8-yard average — and four touchdowns. Wilson's longest reception of the season, a 47-yard TD against Washington State, is also the team’s longest scoring play of the season. He also had a 47-yard reception in the win over New Mexico.
However, the fact that Wilson’s 47-yard catches are the longest plays from scrimmage for the Broncos' offense is a symptom of the Broncos' lack of explosiveness. Boise State is one of only six FBS programs without a play of 50 yards or more. The Broncos have also struggled to pick up chunk yardage in smaller doses, having gained 10 yards or more on only 81 plays, which ranks 11th in the conference and 112th in the nation.
Meanwhile, Utah State has produced 112 plays of 10 yards or more, including five plays longer than 50 yards. Three Aggies receivers have scored on touchdown receptions of at least 70 yards, and Myers posted a 68-yard TD run.
However, both defenses also mirror their offenses in terms of chunk yardage allowed. Boise State ranks among the top 20 nationally with only 76 plays allowed of 10 yards or longer. The unit sits eighth among FBS defenses with just eight plays of 30 yards or more allowed, though four of those were longer than 50 yards. The Aggies are one of just 10 FBS teams to surrender one or fewer plays longer than 50 yards, but Utah State has allowed 121 plays longer than 10 yards (ranking 115th nationally), including 14 plays longer than 30 yards.
Utah State has surrendered 398.6 yards of total offense per game and 5.45 yards per play this season, both of which fall in the middle of the pack in the conference. However, the Aggies lead the Mountain West and rank second nationally with 20 takeaways — 10 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries. Also, no team has been better at turning turnovers into immediate points. The Aggies have scored four defensive touchdowns this season, tying the team for the most nationally. The Boise State defense has also been good taking the ball from its opponents. The Broncos have forced eight interceptions and have recovered three fumbles (two of which were returned for touchdowns).
Boise State has had success rotating quarterbacks this season, and Cozart brings an added wrinkle to an offense that, despite Wilson’s playmaking ability, has failed to take the lid off opposing defenses consistently. Utah State has also played two quarterbacks, but both have been inconsistent. The Aggies have surrendered large amounts of chunk yardage but have also been among the nation’s best at forcing turnovers.
Utah State has home-field advantage, but the Broncos have the better team. As long as Boise State takes care of the football, the Broncos should survive and keep pace with Colorado State atop the division standings.
Prediction: Boise State 28, Utah State 24
— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, a member of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.