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September 19, 2012I have some good news and bad news BYU fans. The bad news is that there's a chance that BYU will play just as poorly against Boise State as they have against Utah the last 3 years. The good news is that if the Michigan State vs. Boise State game is any indicator, BYU will still win. Michigan State tried their darndest to lose that game, but Boise State just couldn't pull out the win.
3 interceptions, one of which was a pick 6, and a fumble lost make it tough to win a game, assuming the opposing offense is capable of scoring. Boise State's defense accounted for 10 of their 13 points against Michigan State; this isn't Kellen Moore's Boise State offense. The Spartans outgained the Broncos 461 yards to 206, Michigan State's standout running back Le'Veon Bell ran for more yards than the Broncos entire offense gained.
The Broncos secondary looked good, not quite 3 interceptions and one fumble recovery good, but they were impressive. Michigan State's offensive line is really good, and their quarterback had ample time in the pocket on most pass plays, but even with all of that time, his receivers had a hard time getting open. The Boise State corners had good speed, and Michigan State was not able to connect on any deep balls over the top. Michigan State found success throwing to Bell out of the backfield and to their big tight end who had 7 catches for 65 yards. Alisa, Friel and Wilson should all have another good game catching the ball, and Hoffman will certainly put up ridiculous numbers despite all of the attention he'll draw. Michigan State had a receiver named Lippett who bobbled an easy catch into the arms of his cover man for a pick and fumbled another catch later in the game for a turnover. If he can get 3 catches for 62 yards then Apo will not put up another blank in this game.
Boise State was very creative in their blitzing packages, on one play they had their 4 down linemen, showed blitz by two linebackers, then only rushed two and dropped the other 4 into coverage. One of those two rushers went untouched right at the quarterback, and 4 of the MSU offensive linemen just stood there without anybody to block. It was brilliant. Despite their creativity Riley will find himself with much more time to throw on Thursday night than he had against Utah on Saturday, which will lend to him having a much better game. With that extra time to throw he'll be able to go through his reads better and find his second and third options more often. Expect Ridley, Kuresa, and Falslev to contribute with some nice catches.
Michigan State's offensive line is much better than BYU's offensive line, but if Bell can run for 210 yards then BYU should be able to run for 150. Hopefully Doman will stick to his strategy last game of running exclusively off tackle and sweeps. Running outside the tackles plays into the BYU O-Line's one run blocking strength of using their athleticism to get out in front of the runner and make a block. Boise State's strength is their secondary, their front seven and their ability to stop the run was not impressive. As they keyed more onto the run in the second half they did start to limit MSU's run game, but Bell was able to break a lot of tackles and still get yards despite his O-lines inability to open up as big of holes for him to run through. Alisa and Williams strengths are a good fit for this BYU offensive line's inability to open holes up the middle. They both are hard to bring down in the open field and they have the speed to get around the corner. I see them both having good days running the ball on Thursday night.
Boise State however will not have much success running the ball. Their quarterback Southwick was their leading rusher, with 18 yards. Their second leading rusher was shifty receiver Williams-Rhodes with 10 yards. BSU's primary back ran the ball 15 times for 8 yards! That is a whopping .5 ypc for Harper. Boise State attempted most of their runs in between the tackles, and there was nothing available for them there. Boise State's struggles in the red zone were in large part because of their inability to run the ball, so even if they do manage to get within the 20, the chances of them getting into the end zone aren't in their favor. MSU has a really good front 7, so I wouldn't expect BYU to hold BSU to under 37 yards, but Boise State won't find much success there either way. With how ineffective their running game was, I think it limited the effectiveness of the tricks that Boise State had up their sleeves.
They still tried the tricks, but didn't get a big play on any of them. When the running game is so easily contained it's hard to get the cornerbacks to leave their receiver to come up and stop the run. Trick plays have been something that BYU has struggled with in the past, so I wouldn't be surprised if Boise State was able to break a big play on one in this game.
That will probably be the only big play that Boise State does get. Their receivers are not nearly as athletic as Utah or Washington State's receivers. Kellen Moore's little brother Kirby is a favorite target of Southwick, but he is more of a possession receiver. He has good size, good hands, and he runs routes well and gets open but he doesn't have the speed to get much YAC or get behind the defense. Miller has straight line speed and was able to get some separation on a fade route, but only had two catches against MSU. Williams-Rhodes is their favorite guy to run reverses with and throw bubble screens to, but it doesn't look like he has the best hands. He dropped a bubble screen which was a backward pass and MSU recovered it for a turnover.
Southwick has some decent mobility, but isn't as fast or as gutsy and tough as Riley or Hays. On one run towards the sideline on 3rd down he ran straight toward the sideline and half-heartedly reached the ball out like he wanted the first down. Riley would have lowered his shoulder for that first down and Hays would have gone airborne head first for the first down marker. He seemed overly willing to throw the ball away, even when there wasn't much pressure on him. It was a stark contrast to Riley's refusal to throw it away. Southwick did show the ability to throw the ball pretty well on the run, and they rolled him out occasionally but he did most of his passing from the pocket. He threw the one fade route really well, and did a good job finding Moore in passing windows 9-10 yards down field. I think that BYU's nasty pass rush is going to really get to Southwick. He only completed 48% of his passes, which seemed to mostly be him throwing the ball away. Expect more of the same from BYU's pass rush, Southwick never once got sacked against MSU's excellent pass rush, but they definitely got him in the habit of throwing the ball out of bounds. His 87.7 QB rating gives you a pretty good idea of how much the Boise State passing game struggled against MSU. His one interception was in the red zone, his receiver ran a quick slant and as Southwick was throwing it the receiver got jammed and it totally derailed him. Even if the receiver wouldn't have been jammed Southwick forced it into a bad spot, the linebacker and DB were both right there and it still might have been picked off.
I know that Boise State cruised to a victory in a balanced offensive attack against the mighty RedHawks of Miami (Ohio), but Michigan State showed that they looked bad because they are (I can't believe they were still ranked in the top 10 after that terrible performance against BSU) not because of how good BSU is. Notre Dame spanked 'em 20-3 and held them to 237 yards, while ND was able to run for 122 yards, and that was while only forcing one MSU turnover. Thursday night probably won't be a spanking, but if ever there was a year that BYU should beat Boise State, it's this year. Even if BYU plays like it's a rivalry game. BYU 24-13
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