Boise State and Nevada will meet on Saturday afternoon at Albertsons Stadium in what could be a potential preview of the Mountain West Conference Championship Game in December. These teams last met back in 2018 when the Broncos went down to Reno and defeated the Wolf Pack 31-27.
Nevada (2-1) had the week off and will be looking to get back on track after a 38-17 loss at Kansas State. The Wolf Pack had the game tied at 17 after three quarters, but a 21-point fourth-quarter outburst by the Wildcats put the game out of reach. Carson Strong went 27-of-40 for 262 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Romeo Doubs and Melquan Stovall had a combined 14 receptions for 197 yards. Running the football was a problem, as the Wolf Pack were limited to just 25 net rushing yards against a physical Kansas State defense.
Boise State (2-2, 1-0 MW) got off to a nice start in conference play by going on the road and cruising past Utah State 27-3. Hank Bachmeier went 22-of-39 for 287 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. Khalil Shakir caught seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. Finishing drives also was a game-changer for the Broncos, as they converted on all five trips in the red zone. The defense took more of a bend-but-don't-break approach; they surrendered 443 yards but got the job done in the red zone all afternoon long where the Aggies scored just once in four opportunities. Boise State also limited Utah State to six of 17 (35.3 percent) on third downs.
Nevada at Boise State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 2 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Boise State -6.5
When Nevada Has the Ball
Head coach Jay Norvell and his offensive staff should not have any issues finding ways to move the ball against the Boise State defense. The Broncos are allowing 420.0 yards per game this season after four games. Strong has the potential to take advantage of that weak defense, as he is completing 68 percent of his passes and has thrown seven touchdowns to two interceptions. The inability to run the football is an Achilles heel of the offense that has to be fixed in order to have a 10-win season. So, look for Toa Taua and Devonte Lee to get extra carries this week to see if they can ignite the ground game against a Broncos team that has struggled to consistently stop the run.
Boise State must set a tone right away by controlling the line of scrimmage and putting pressure on Strong to make him uncomfortable in the pocket. This will make it easier for the secondary to take more chances against the Wolf Pack wide receivers after they took a hit with the loss of Elijah Cooks for the season with a foot injury. Red zone defense has been a strength for this defense, as they have only allowed five scores in 14 trips into the red zone by opposing offenses. Looking ahead to Saturday, that will need to continue in order to slow down the Nevada offense since getting into a shootout is a bit risky at this point in the season.
When Boise State Has the Ball
The Broncos will need to methodically move the ball to keep the Wolf Pack offense off the field. Bachmeier is completing 63.2 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and three interceptions so far this season. In order to win the Mountain West Conference championship, Bachmeier must get that closer to 70 percent. This week, the Broncos will also have to run the ball effectively after averaging 87.5 rushing yards per game through four games, which is problematic.
Nevada needs to force Bachmeier to beat them with his arm, and that will be easier said than done this week. The Wolf Pack have only registered five sacks and three quarterback hits through three weeks, which isn't going to be good enough if they want to win the conference championship. Defensive tackle Tristan Nichols is leading Nevada with three sacks and three tackles for a loss, but he will require additional help this week against a Boise State offensive line that has allowed seven sacks this season.
Turnovers could quickly swing the direction of this game since both teams are very evenly matched. Strong will make a few plays early to put the Broncos' defense on their heels and keep Nevada in the game well into the fourth quarter. Boise State will generate about 125 yards on the ground, which will help open the passing game up quickly. Expect Bachmeier and Shakir to make several explosive plays against the Nevada secondary, and that will be enough on Saturday. The Broncos will find a way to pick up their third win of the season and improve to 2-0 in conference play.
Prediction: Boise State 27, Nevada 20
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