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Idaho State Bengals vs. Boise State Broncos Preview and Prediction

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Boise State returns to the blue turf after a heartbreaking, 35-24 loss to BYU last week. The loss to BYU snapped the Broncos’ 10-game winning streak and dropped them out of the top 25 polls. 

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Looking to bounce back, the Broncos will host in-state foe Idaho State at Albertson’s Stadium in Boise as they try to extend the nation’s third-longest home win streak to 16 games.

Idaho State from the FCS’ Big Sky Conference comes into the game 1-1 after losing last week to Portland State, the same PSU team that defeated Washington State in week 1, 34-14.

These two programs used to be Big Sky rivals before Boise State moved up to what was then known as Division I-A (now FBS). The last time these teams faced each other was in 2006, and the last time the Bengals came away victorious against the Broncos was in 1994 in Holt Arena in Pocatello.

Idaho State at Boise State

Kickoff: 7 p.m. (Friday)

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Spread: N/A

Three Things to Watch

1. Boise State’s running game

Last week against BYU, there was no rushing attack to speak of. BYU’s ground game outgained the Broncos in yardage on the ground, and that included the four sacks the Broncos had on BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum.

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Broncos running back Jeremy McNichols has accounted for all five of Boise’s touchdowns this season with four on the ground, and one on the receiving end, which has never happened before at BSU. Despite all the touchdowns, the offensive staff still feels there is room to grow with McNichols in the backfield, and what better way to get that positive momentum with a tune-up against an FCS squad?

2. Will the Bronco defense shut out the Bengals?

Boise State’s defense through two weeks has been the strength of the team, which is not the typical strength for a Bronco team, but this year’s defense has an ability to get to the quarterback and create turnovers. Last week, the secondary forced Mangum to throw two interceptions.

Idaho State has a nice passing tandem in quarterback Michael Saunders and wide receiver Madison Mangum, who not only is the aforementioned BYU quarterback's brother, he also made one of the best catches you’ll see in all of college football this season with his grab against Black Hills State in the season opener. That catch from Mangum ended up as the No. 2 play on ESPN SportsCenter’s top 10 plays of the day.

3. Iron out the kinks before a road trip to Virginia next week

The Broncos have shown yet again that they are going to be a team that has an opportunity to come away with the Group of 5 automatic bid in a New Year’s Six bowl this season. Losing to BYU doesn’t take that off the table. Boise State still controls its destiny in that regard, but it will need to clean up areas along the offensive line and in the offensive backfield before a tough road test at Virginia next week, which will be the Broncos’ last non-conference game before a relatively light Mountain West schedule.

Virginia showed last week against a top-10 Notre Dame team that it is a difficult out at home in Charlottesville. Boise will need to use this game against Idaho State to shore up some of those areas of improvements.

Final Analysis

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Games against FCS programs aren’t ideal for a program like Boise State who wants to play as many quality teams out of conference as it can, but the problem is that not many Power 5 programs want to travel to Boise. That’s what happened here, so Boise had to turn to in-state foe Idaho State to fill the gap.

The Broncos will cruise to victory in this one and put up their best offensive performance of the season to date, extending their home-winning streak to 16 games.

Prediction: Boise State 42, Idaho State 7

— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.