The Oklahoma State Cowboys and Boise State Broncos last met in 2018 at Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys are finally returning the favor this weekend, venturing to Idaho for a matchup on the blue turf.
The Pokes spanked the Broncos three years ago in a 44-21 blowout. The oddsmakers say Boise State will get its revenge this time, installing the home team as a 4.5-point favorite. To be fair, first-year Boise State head coach Andy Avalos probably cares more about avoiding a 1-2 start to the season than revenge.
Here's what to watch when the Cowboys and Broncos square off in primetime on Saturday.
Oklahoma State at Boise State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 18 at 9 p.m. ET
Spread: Boise State -4.5
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
There's no other way to say it: The OSU offense is sputtering badly this season. The Cowboys scored a combined 50 points in their first two games, and those were against two of the weakest opponents on their schedule, FCS Missouri State and Tulsa.
After missing the first game of the season against Missouri State, quarterback Spencer Sanders returned last week in an uninspiring fashion. He completed 15 of 26 pass attempts for 173 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. The pick was especially damaging — the Golden Hurricane returned it 55 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter.
Sanders arguably poses a bigger threat with his legs than his arm. Will Avalos try to counter Sanders' running ability by dropping more players into coverage, or will the Broncos stack the line of scrimmage to bait Sanders into throwing the ball? Probably a little from column A and a little from column B.
When Boise State Has the Ball
Much like OSU, Boise State's offense has looked nothing like the point-scoring machine that aided the Broncos' rise to prominence more than a decade ago. BSU managed just 283 total yards on 65 plays in week one when the Broncos dropped a weather-delayed squeaker at UCF. They seemed more like the Broncos of old in a 54-13 win over UTEP in week two, but their poor execution still reared its head on occasion against the Miners.
You can probably trace Boise State's offensive shortcomings this season to its anemic running game. The Broncos are averaging just 2.2 yards per rush in their first two games. The OSU defense continues to perform at a high level after a solid 2020 campaign, and a one-dimensional offense from Boise State will make Cowboys defensive coordinator Jim Knowles' job much easier.
Late kickoffs out west always seem to produce wild shootouts. Normally, that's what you'd expect from Oklahoma State-Boise State in the first place.
This year feels different. Neither squad seems to have its footing on offense, suggesting we're in store for a rock fight in Boise on Saturday night.
For OSU, that makes Sanders an even bigger key to their hopes of notching a solid non-conference win. The Cowboys don't have the skill around their QB to make up for any of the critical errors that have dogged him during his OSU tenure. Unfortunately for them, Sanders has yet to prove he can keep away from impactful mistakes that can cost his team dearly.
If points end up being at a premium between the Broncos and Cowboys, it favors the team that avoids self-inflicted trouble.
Prediction: Boise State 28, Oklahoma State 24
Podcast: Complete Week 3 Preview and Predictions + Picks Against the Spread
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is the founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.