Talk about having the rug pulled out from under you.
One week ago, the Boise State Broncos were in the driver's seat for a New Year's Six bowl — and possibly more. Fast-forward to today and the men of the blue turf are no longer at the top of their own division in the Mountain West. No longer in control of its own destiny, Boise State must now regroup and refocus its sights on new goals.
The next obstacle in Boise State's way is a San Jose State team that has won two of its last three games against formidable conference opponents. The Broncos are heavy favorites, but as we've seen all season, nothing is guaranteed in college football.
San Jose State at Boise State
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 4 at 10:15 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Boise State -29
Three Things to Watch
1. Body language
Keep an eye on whether or not the Broncos come out uninspired. That will be your first indicator as to whether or not Boise State can both win and beat the huge spread. These Broncos have had a tendency to play down to their competition as of late. It nearly burned them against BYU and derailed their season last weekend. I'm not sure San Jose State has the horses to win this one outright, but if Boise State is simply going through the motions, it might make the game interesting deep into the second half.
2. San Jose State's big-play ability
The home-run play is what keeps the Spartans in games and — despite their win-loss record — they are pretty good at it. Nine different San Jose State players have scored on plays of 35 yards or more in 2016. That's a lot of big-play threats for a defense to account for. That threat may alter the way the Broncos bring pressure on defense, opting instead to contain and keep everything in front of them. Boise State is athletically superior and can win this game without taking unnecessary defensive risks that could lead to broken plays. The Broncos will need to be disciplined in their approach.
3. Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols
There are a number of reasons you will or won't watch this game. One of the reasons you should is McNichols. I've raved about him since before the season began, but I'm not about to stop now. He is one of the most complete backs in college football and a guy people will be fighting over in order to land him on their fantasy football teams in a year or two. He is the next Boise State ball carrier who will make a name for himself in the NFL as a three-down back. He's worth the price of admission and your cable package.
Expect this one to start slow, as the Broncos take a minute to get motivated for an inferior opponent after a loss. Then, watch Jeremy McNichols take over — both on the ground and through the air. I like his big-play ability to energize the Friday night crowd in Boise. Once he establishes himself as the best player on the field, Boise State will open it up through the air and pull away for good. The fact of the matter is, Boise State lost a close game to a good team on the road last weekend, but this is still the most talented team in the Mountain West. The San Jose State Spartans are now in the unenviable position of being the "get right" game for the Broncos — and there's not a whole lot they can do about it.
Prediction: Boise State 45, San Jose State 14
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.
(Top photo courtesy of www.broncosports.com)