The BYU Cougars played their archrival Utah Utes last Saturday evening. The Holy War was close at the end, with a series of Utah penalties and missed field goals by BYU kicker Riley Stephenson leading to a Utah victory. The Cougars now face the 24th ranked Boise State Broncos in Boise at 9 ET Thursday. The quick turnaround may actually benefit the Cougars. Then again, playing on the road again may not benefit them, especially at unwelcoming Bronco Stadium where BSU had a 65-game regular season win streak snapped last season.
The Cougars have a mature team, led to a 2-1 start by quarterback Riley Nelson. Nelson is playing well thus far, with completions on 60 percent of his passes for 735 yards and five touchdowns. That extrapolates out over 12 games to 2205 yards and 15 touchdowns. Nelson has focused his passing game around receivers Cody Hoffman and Kaneakua Friel, who have 33 receptions, 476 yards and six touchdowns as a tandem.
The BYU defense has been holding up its’ end of the bargain as well. They have allowed 14 points per game, which ranks them 20th in the country.
Boise State has a 1-1 record, and its fans will be excited for this primetime match up on the Blue Turf at Bronco Stadium. This is the Broncos’ first tough game since losing to Michigan State in East Lansing on Aug. 31. Boise State was led by record setting quarterback Kellen Moore the past four seasons (along with some well conceived and timely gadget plays called by head coach Chris Petersen). This season, the quarterback play has been decent with junior Joe Southwick taking over. He has completed 39 passes for 478 yards and two touchdowns. Running back DJ Harper is coming off an outstanding game of four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiveing) against Miami (OH).
The Bronco defense is the backbone of the team this year. It’s allowed 14.5 points per game in two appearances. This ranks it 24th in the country.
BYU is more talented than Boise State on both offense and defense. BYU is coming off a brutal loss to rival Utah in a classic, old school former WAC/MWC contest. Such a test favors BYU.
The game being played at night on the Smurf Turf means the Broncos will be fired up, and certainly not intimidated. This favors Boise State.
The game then comes down to special teams. Both kickers are marginal at best. Stephenson for BYU is 12 out of 12 on extra points and 4 for 6 on field goals. Michael Frisina for Boise State is 5 out of 5 on extra points and 3 for 4 on field goals. All of Frisina’s field goal attempts have been from30 yards out or closer.
Ultimately the defenses both play well, and Stephenson makes more kicks than Frisina. As a result, BYU knocks Boise State out of the top 25 in what could be a wacky game.
Final Score: BYU 22, Boise State 19