Skip to main content

San Diego State vs. Boise State Prediction: Broncos Set to Unveil New-Look Offense Against Aztecs

Boise State opens conference play with new OC, QB.

Two Mountain West teams that survived challenging Septembers will meet on Friday night when San Diego State and Boise State face off on the blue turf. Both teams enter October at 2-2 with a chance to hit the reset button as conference play really ramps up.

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 5

The Aztecs did end September on a good note, rallying to defeat Toledo 17-14 last weekend in front of a home crowd of 27,108 at Snapdragon Stadium. After letting a 10-point lead slip away in the fourth quarter, Jordan Byrd's one-yard touchdown plunge with 41 seconds left averted disaster. The defense played lights out for most of the game, not giving up any points until midway through the fourth quarter and forcing four turnovers (3 INTs). The offense produced 217 rushing yards but next to nothing through the air, which has been a continuing problem. San Diego State was also hit with 11 penalties for 103 yards, something that absolutely needs to be cleaned up entering conference play.

On the other side, Boise State had a rough Friday night in the Sun Bowl, losing 27-10 in a discouraging effort against UTEP. Quarterback Hank Bachmeier struggled (13-for-34, 93 yds., TD) and the running game (84 total yds.) didn't fare much better. Defensively, the Broncos couldn't get off the field as the Miners held the ball for more than 40 minutes, chewing up the clock by methodically running the ball (54 attempts, 199 yds.). Special teams play was another issue as Boise State gave up a touchdown on a punt return with 1:01 left in the third quarter that extended UTEP's lead to 20-10 and pretty much ended the game.

To add to the challenges facing head coach Andy Avalos and his staff entering Friday night's critical game, Bachmeier announced earlier this week that he would be entering the transfer portal. If the Broncos snap their two-game losing streak to the Aztecs and win their conference opener, they will do so with a new quarterback at the helm.

San Diego State at Boise State

Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 30 at 8 p.m. ET
TV: FS1
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Boise State -6
Tickets: As low as $30 on SITickets.com

When San Diego State Has the Ball

The Aztecs are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to their offensive attack. They are second in the Mountain West in rushing offense (220 ypg) and dead last in passing (73.8). This was clearly on display last week as Byrd led a ground effort that averaged 6.6 yards per carry against Toledo while quarterback Braxton Burmeister completed 13 of 25 passes for 65 yards with an interception. Burmeister can make things happen with his legs (5.3 ypc) but needs to be more accurate (53.1 percent completion rate, 2 TDs, 2 INTs on the season) when throwing the ball, even if it doesn't lead to big gains. Byrd is averaging nearly eight yards (7.7) per carry, and he figures to be the focal point of the game plan, but that also means he'll draw the lion's share of Boise State's defensive attention.

Despite their .500 record, the Broncos' defense has been doing its job this season. They are No. 1 in the Mountain West (and in the top 15 nationally) in total defense at 266.8 yards per game. Opponents are averaging less than five yards (4.7) per play. Boise State has been strong against the pass, but when it comes to San Diego State, the focus will be on stopping the run. The Broncos are surrendering 107 yards per game on the ground and only 3.1 yards per carry. UTEP went for 199 last Friday, but the Miners needed 54 attempts (3.7 ypc) to get there, so if Boise State can continue to make teams grind out every yard, that bodes well for its struggling offense.

Defensive linemen George Tarlas (4.5 tackles for a loss) and Tyreque Jones will play a big role in which team controls the line of scrimmage, while linebacker DJ Schramm (33 total tackles) and safety JL Skinner (27) will be responsible for preventing the big gains.

When Boise State Has the Ball

It's been a wild couple of days for the program, and particularly for the offense, following Bachmeier's announcement that he's entering the transfer portal. This comes on the heels of Avalos firing offensive coordinator Tim Plough over the weekend and replacing him with Dirk Koetter, a veteran offensive play-caller and former Broncos head coach (26-10 from 1998-2000). Bachmeier's decision means that freshman Taylen Green will take over at quarterback.

Green will make his first collegiate start on Friday night. He's played in three games this season and is 19-for-28 for 155 yards with an interception. He's also a running threat, currently third on the team with 102 yards on 11 carries (9.3 ypc) and two rushing touchdowns. Look for Koetter to lean on the running game to help his young signal-caller settle in with George Holani likely in for a heavy workload. Holani is in the top 10 of the Mountain West in rushing with 261 yards, but he's averaging just 3.6 yards per carry and has scored once on the ground. The offensive line also will need to step up its game because San Diego State will be focused on stopping the run to try and make the unproven Green beat the defense with his arm.

And it just so happens that run defense has been the Aztecs' strength thus far, holding teams to 134.5 rushing yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry. Contrast that to the 260 passing yards per game and 10 touchdown passes SDSU has already given up. If Boise State can run the ball effectively, that could potentially set up Green to produce some explosive plays with his arm. The Aztecs need to come out aggressively, trying to pressure Green early and confuse him by throwing different looks at him. Linebacker Michael Shawcroft and defensive linemen Garret Fountain (3.5 TFLs, 2 sacks apiece) are two SDSU defenders to keep an eye on.

Final Analysis

Both teams should be fired up for this conference matchup, but expect some extra energy from Boise State, especially on offense with a new offensive coordinator calling the shots and starting quarterback at the helm. Any early success moving the ball or putting points on the scoreboard would be a huge boost for the home team, although a slow start could lead to a restless crowd in Albertsons Stadium. San Diego State will try to dictate the tempo with its ground game, much like what UTEP did against the Broncos last week. Defense and special teams could decide how this one is own, especially given both teams' current offensive struggles. Expect a close game throughout, but in the end, new OC Dirk Koetter will be the difference as his impact as a play-caller will be felt right away. He'll put Taylen Green in the best possible position to succeed while also utilizing his dual-threat skill set as Boise State picks up a tough, hard-fought win on the blue turf.

Prediction: Boise State 23, San Diego State 14

Podcast: Week 5 Preview, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

– Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Contributor Network.

*Price as of publication.