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Boise State Broncos vs. Washington State Cougars Preview and Prediction

Luke Falk

Luke Falk

Nothing could boost momentum better for Washington State heading into Pac-12 play next week than earning a payback victory over Boise State. Such a task is easier said than done.

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The No. 20 Cougars (1-0) couldn't have drawn up anything better than how their season opener turned out. Their 31-0 victory over FCS member Montana State marked the team's first shutout victory over an opponent since defeating Idaho 42-0 in 2013. Washington State surrendered its fewest total yards (143) since 2004 and fewest passing yards (28) since 1994.

Boise State (1-0) had a much tougher time in opening up with a win. The Broncos pulled away for a 24-13 victory over Troy amid unusual offensive struggles that included four failed fourth down conversions and an interception return for the Trojans. Defense saved the day for Boise State. It held Troy's offense to just six points, while forcing three turnovers.

Washington State leads the all-time series with Boise State 4-1. The Broncos won in the most recent meeting, holding off a fourth quarter comeback by the Cougars to claim a 31-28 victory in Boise last season.

Boise State at Washington State

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 8 at 10:30 p.m. ET


Spread: Washington State -8.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Defense vs. defense

Potent offense is typically the trademark for both Boise State and Washington State on the football field. Strong defensive efforts, however, played a critical role in week one successes and could keep the scoreboard from exploding on Saturday.

The Cougars allowed Montana State to gain just 143 total yards on 44 plays and gave up only 28 yards through the air. They allowed only seven first downs and limited the Bobcats to 1-of-11 on third down conversions. Washington State did not allow a play of more than 20 yards and yielded more than 10 yards on just five total plays.

Boise State shut down Troy with similar tenacity. The Broncos surrendered 215 total yards on 63 plays and held the Trojans to 76 yards on the ground. Troy had just two plays gain more than 20 yards after averaging 33.7 points per game a year ago. Boise State totaled nine tackles for a loss and four sacks. More importantly, the Broncos forced three turnovers over the game's final 17 minutes.

2. Quarterback controversy brewing for the Broncos?

Brett Rypien (above, right) entered the season as Boise State's undisputed starting quarterback after first winning the job as a freshman two years ago. Rypien's position atop the depth chart may not be so secure after all. A poor performance against Troy led to the junior being switched out in favor of senior Montell Cozart during the game.

The Broncos only scored three points while Rypien directed the offense. He threw for 160 yards on 13-of-23 passing and had an interception returned for a touchdown. Part of Rypien's ineffectiveness was not entirely his own fault. Three offensive linemen made their first career starts and Rypien ended up being sacked four times.

Once Cozart entered the game, he brought Boise State's sleepwalking offense to life. The Kansas transfer injected a dose of mobility and led a pair of touchdown drives. He finished with 50 yards on 6-of-9 passing and rushed for 36 more yards.

Rypien is the starter again going into Pullman. If he struggles to move the chains once again, there's a good chance Cozart may see even more time on Saturday and seriously threaten Rypien's starting job going forward.

3. Falk closing in on more records

Obliterating the school record books is one of the things guaranteed to define Luke Falk's senior season. Falk set a new record in the season opener, throwing three touchdown passes to become Washington State's leader with 92 in his career. Now two more school records are within reach this weekend.

Falk needs just 101 passing yards to eclipse Connor Halliday's record of 11,304. He also needs only 68 yards of total offense to pass Alex Brinks' career total of 11,011. The former walk-on from Logan, Utah, also is on pace to become the Pac-12 leader in career passing yards, career completions and career touchdown passes before the season is over.

After one game, Falk ranks third in the Pac-12 in passing yards (311) and touchdowns (3). He is first in completion percentage (84.6). Falk is currently the nation's active leader in passing yards (11,204) and touchdown passes (92). His average of 350.1 passing yards per game currently ranks fifth best in FBS history.

Final Analysis

Make no mistake, Boise State will pose a tougher challenge to Washington State than what it faced in its season opener. The Broncos are stout on defense and, if they can get their offense figured out, are likely to challenge for a Mountain West Conference title again. Still, the Cougars are no slouches on defense themselves and they have one of the nation's top quarterbacks. That's the right ingredients for a winning football recipe in Pullman.

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Prediction: Washington State 35, Boise State 24

— 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.