With just a handful of teams left vying for the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowl spots, No. 9 BYU (7-0) can take a big step forward Friday night as they travel to Idaho to take on No. 21 Boise State (2-0).
Playing its first-ranked opponent this year, the Cougars have an opportunity to make a statement against a big-time opponent and show it’s worthy of all the national attention the team has received so far this season.
But the task will be difficult, especially playing on the road against a Broncos team that hardly ever loses at home. In fact, in just the past two decades, Boise State has only been the underdog twice, and is 121-9 on the “Smurf Turf” since 2000.
Despite the home field advantage, BYU comes in favored as the betting line opened with the Cougars being one-point favorites. The line has since moved in favor of BYU as the Cougars are currently 3.5 point favorites. The over/under for the game opened at 59.5 and has remained steady with the over/under currently sitting at 61 now.
Date: Friday, November 6
Time: 7:45 p.m. MST
TV: Fox Sports 1
Announcers: Aaron Goldsmith (play-by-play), Petros Papadakis (analyst)
Location: Albertsons Stadium (36,387) — Boise, Idaho
– BYU is 4-1 against the spread “ATS” in its last five meetings against Boise State.
– The total has gone under in four of BYU’s last six games.
– Boise State is 6-0 ATS in their last six games at home.
– The total has gone under in six of Boise State’s last nine games against BYU.
– When playing on a Friday, the total has gone under in Boise State’s last five games
With another Friday night game — and in primetime — BYU has another opportunity to put on a show with the entire country watching. The Cougars come in averaging 44 points per game and 527 yards of total offense, while holding opponents to just 13 points per game and 281 yards of total offense.
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, who many believe will be a Heisman trophy finalist at the end of the season, looks to bounce back after playing his “worst game” (by his standards) of the season last week. The junior dual-threat quarterback still threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns in just 2.5 quarters, however, the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder completed just 56% of his passes and threw his second interception of the season.
The good news for Cougar fans is that BYU still managed to score more than 40 points for the sixth time this season and racked up more than 400 yards for the seventh time. As long as Gunner Romney and Dax Milne can stay healthy, Wilson will continue his record-setting pace. The duo are among the most dangerous wide receivers in the country as they’ve combined for 1,221 yards and eight touchdowns so far this year.
BYU is winless on the road against Boise State and part of the problem has been having to play form behind. Although past teams have battled back over the years, missed field goals, a sack near the goal line, etc., has cost the Cougars several wins on the Smurf Turf over the years.
The Cougars have started fast all season this year and will need to do so once again. Last week, the Cougar offense was perfect in the first half as they scored five consecutive touchdowns and did not even punt until the second half. If the Cougars can take the momentum right from the start, the Cougars will be in a good spot.
With BYU’s high-powered offense, combined with a Boise State defense that doesn’t appear to be as good as it has been in years past — allowing 21.5 points per game, including giving up 30 points to Air Force last week — the Cougars shouldn’t have a problem putting up points. It also helps that Boise State star defensive end Demitri Washington will miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury against Air force in the first half. It’s a big loss for the Broncos as Washington, Boise State’s best pass rusher, had 34 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles-for-loss last year.
While BYU has played seven games on national television and with the entire country talking about Zach Wilson, the Broncos have plenty of game film to look over. However, the same can’t be said for the Cougars who go up against a Broncos team that has played just two games so far this year. Both have its positives and negatives, and luckily for the Cougars, the soft schedule this year — due to COVID-19 and conference only play by most leagues — has allowed the team to prep for Boise for quite some time now. No offense Western Kentucky and Texas State.
BYU and Boise State have solid football programs and Friday’s game will be a great measuring stick for both schools. There’s no doubt that BYU’s offense will be the toughest test of the season for the Bronco defense. Will Boise State’s defense be able to win the turnover battle and make the Cougar offense one-dimensional? If they can do that, they’ll have a great shot at keeping BYU winless on the Smurf Turf.
On offense, the Broncos have two talented quarterbacks in Hank Bachmeier and USC transfer Jack Sears. Bachmeier missed last week’s game against Air Force for undisclosed reasons. Sears stepped in and the offense didn’t miss a beat as Sears threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
The USC transfer completed 85% of his passes and led Boise State to touchdowns on seven of the team’s 10 drives. His favorite receivers were CT Thomas and Khalil Shakir. In two games, Thomas and Shakir have combined for 17 catches for 335 yards and four touchdowns and will certainly test the BYU secondary with their play-making skills.
It’s still unknown if Bachmeier will play, or if Sears will take over in his second start. The status of Boise State running back George Holani is also unknown as the running back was limited to five yards on two carries against Air Force before leaving the game with an injury in the first quarter. Andrew Van Buren filled in nicely as he ran for 70 yards and two touchdowns against Air Force. No matter who plays, the Cougar defense will have its hands full as the Broncos offense is averaging 45 points and 454 yards so far this season. If both offenses are in sync and click early, we could be in for a shootout.
Prediction BYU 34, Boise State 27
In three of the last four series meetings, the game has been decided by a touchdown or less. When just looking at the games in Boise, the contests are even closer as four of the last five games on the Smurf Turf have been decided by one score, including three one-point games.
Boise State made a goal line stand to beat BYU in 2018, but the revenge tour continues for Zach Wilson as he looks to wow voters once again in primetime. While I do think the game will be another one-score contest like it has is in the past, BYU will cover and get its first win on the Smurf Turf against Boise State.
The Series — BYU and Boise State are meeting for the 11th time and for the ninth consecutive year. Boise State leads the series 7-3, with BYU winning last year’s matchup in Provo with a 28-25 victory. The Broncos came in 6-0 and ranked No. 14 at the time. BYU has not won on the blue turf against Boise State (0-5), but did defeat the Western Michigan Broncos in the 2018 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Ranked Teams — BYU’s No. 9 ranking is the highest since the Cougars climbed as high as No. 7 in 2009. It’s the eighth-consecutive week that the Cougars have been in the rankings. This is the first matchup in the series where both teams are ranked at the same time.
Scoring — The Cougars 40+ points in six of the first seven games had never happened before Saturday’s 41-point game. Only two other times have the Cougars averaged more than the 44.4 points per game (1983: 48.2 and 2001: 46.5). On the defensive side, the 13.4 points per game allowed has only been bested five times since 1972, with 2012 being the best at 8.8 points per game in the first six.
7-0 Starts — BYU is 7-0 for just the fifth time in program history (2020, 2001, 1984, 1979). It is the best start through seven games under head coach Kalani Sitake. BYU has gone 8-0 three times (2001, 1984, 1979).
Outland Trophy — Left tackle Brady Christensen has been added to the Outland Trophy Watch List after grading out as the only tackle with a 90 or above grade in both run and pass blocking by Pro Football Focus. He is currently graded as the No. 2 overall tackle in college football. Christensen has played and started all 33 games of his career. BYU defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga and center James Empey are also on the watch list. Tonga has started six games and has 18 tackles with two sacks, three quarterback hurries, two breakups and one forced fumble. Empey has started four games at center.