Boise State vs. BYU prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins Thursday night’s matchup between the Broncos and Cougars.
When: Thursday, Oct. 20 – 10:15 p.m. ET
Where: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho
TV Broadcast: ESPN
Life is great when you’re sporting an undefeated record. No. 14 Boise State comes into this one with a 6-0 record and a 3-0 mark in Mountain West games. A week after the Broncos torched New Mexico on the Lobos’ home field, head coach Bryan Harsin’s team was back home in Boise to host Colorado State, and they took down the Rams, 28-23. After falling behind early, 3-0, Boise State scored 28 unanswered points and hung on for the win despite allowing 20 points in the fourth quarter.
Kalani Sitake hasn’t had as smooth as a transition in his first season as head coach at BYU (4-3), but things have been looking up for the Cougars lately. After starting 1-3, BYU has won three consecutive games at home versus Toledo, on the road against Michigan State and at home versus Mississippi State. The most recent win over the Bulldogs needed two overtimes before the Cougars finished with the 28-21 victory.
It’s not an extensive history between the Broncos and Cougars, but the all-time series does favor Boise State, 4-2. However, BYU took last year’s meeting in Provo, 35-24.
What To Know About Boise State
You were warned. Jeremy McNichols is an absolute monster, and he deserves a Gatorade bath for the performance he had against Colorado State. The Boise State tailback rushed for 217 yards (a career high) and two touchdowns on 40 carries — 40 … as in four, zero. That’s the biggest workload he’s had since joining the Broncos. The second-highest amount of carries he had were the 33 he got in a win over Wyoming last season. But in the five games after that, McNichols didn’t get more than 26 carries in a single game.
It’s not as though sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien was any less spectacular. He completed 16-of-24 passes for 207 yards, and his lone touchdown pass went to Thomas Sperbeck from 12 yards out right before halftime. Sperbeck got in on that action later when he threw an 11-yard touchdown to A.J. Richardson. Rypien continues to improve as the year goes on, though. He’s completed 62.2 percent of his passes for 1,622 yards and 12 touchdowns with only three interceptions.
What to Know About BYU
Taysom Hill worked some magic last weekend. Mississippi State scored early, and Hill delivered a one-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Marshall. The Bulldogs put up another seven points, and Hill eventually answered with a 15-yard touchdown strike to Moroni Laulu-Pututau to force overtime. When Dan Mullen’s team went up again in the extra session, Hill tied it up again with a one-yard touchdown run, and finally the Cougars took the win when Hill dropped a 25-yard touchdown throw to Tanner Balderree. The BYU quarterback finished with 16-of-28 passes completed for 165 yards and three touchdowns to one pick.
While Hill ended up with 53 rushing yards on 17 carries, he got some help from Jamaal Williams who took 26 carries for 76 rushing yards, which were the fewest he’s rushed for since Week 3 against UCLA (28 yards). That broke a streak of three straight games of 150-plus yards on the ground for Williams. He totaled 618 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns during that three-week stretch from Sept. 24 to Oct. 8.
Offense: Boise State – McNichols is coming off the best game of his life while Williams is trying to bounce back from a slower week than he’s been used to this season. Plus, Rypien is far better than Hill from the pocket.
Defense: Boise State – The Broncos are allowing 19.3 points per game, which ranks them No. 23 in scoring defense. BYU sits at No. 52 with 25.1 points per game.
Special Teams: BYU – Rhett Almond has stepped in nicely for Jake Oldroyd and hit 6-of-7 field goals while having accounted for 35 total points. With Aleva Hifo averaging 19.8 yards per kick return, the Cougars get the edge.
Coaching: Boise State – Harsin’s team is playing well and is still undefeated. Even though Sitake has led the Cougars to three straight wins, he’s still in his first season as head coach.
Matchup To Watch
Jeremy McNichols vs. Jamaal Williams
These are two of the most talented halfbacks you’ll see in college football not named Fournette, Chubb, Cook or McCaffrey. Boise State often likes to get McNichols involved in the passing game, and that could really benefit the Broncos and him this week. Getting 40 carries is a lot, so it will be fun to see how Harsin’s staff gets its star tailback going without sending him between the tackles too much. That could involve some stretch plays, counters, screens, etc. As for Williams, the Cougars are No. 39 in rushing offense with 202.5 yards per game, and that’s come on 40.1 rushing attempts per game. Williams’ workload could be a little heavier this week in order to control the clock and keep both Rypien and McNichols off the field.
Spread: Boise State -7
Over/Under: No Line (as of post)
Boise State vs. BYU Prediction
As mentioned, that was some heavy duty work McNichols did last week, so don’t’ expect 30-plus carries this time around. Two weeks ago, it was Rypien who shined, so expect more of that against BYU’s poor pass defense. He’ll hook up with Sperbeck again to cap off a scoring drive early, and Rypien will finish with about 200 passing yards and a couple of touchdowns. McNichols will be held under 100 yards, but he’ll find his way into the end zone. Hill will do what he can for BYU, but he won’t be able to lead the Cougars to a win. Boise State takes it.
Boise State vs. BYU Score Prediction: Boise State 35, BYU 31