Boise State Broncos vs. Washington Huskies Complete Game Preview
The 2013 college football season is underway, and it should be a good one.
In the last season of the current BCS system Boise State begins its quest for a third BCS bowl game appearance. However, the team begins that quest with quite an obstacle.
Boise State at Washington
Game Time: 7:00 PM PST
Where: A Newly Renovated Husky Stadium, Seattle, Wash.
Television: Fox Sports 1
Spread: Washington favored by 3, according to Vegasinsider.com
It will be a battle in Seattle Saturday night, as two good teams square off in an extremely loud Husky Stadium. The home team should get all the motivation it needs from hometown fans, but Boise State is no stranger to hostile environments.
In fact, head coach Chris Petersen seems to prefer them.
Let's look closer at the details of this contest in an effort to understand what it will take for victory in this game.
Keys to Victory for Washington
The main reason the Huskies were able to keep it close, and nearly took home the win, was because of the legs of their outstanding running back Bishop Sankey.
Key No. 1: Sink em' with Sankey
Sankey is back this season, and once again Boise State will have the daunting task of trying to shut him down.
The running game will be a key factor for Washington in this game. If they can get Sankey some open running room, and if the Broncos aren't able to contain him on the outside, the Huskies will be in great shape.
Of course, Sankey wasn't enough for the Huskies to pull off the victory before, and he won't be the only factor needed this time either. Washington will need more.
Key No. 2: The right Price for victory
The "more" comes in the way of quarterback Keith Price.
In Vegas, Price was less than impressive. He was sealed up for negative two yards rushing and just 242 yards passing with only one touchdown and two interceptions. If Washington wants revenge in 2013, he will have to step it up, and not just in the passing game.
If Price can scramble for yardage when needed, it will keep the Boise State defense second guessing. If he can then hit his targets in the pass game, it will create a real problem for the Broncos.
Key No. 3: A defensive delivery
The Defense for the Huskies need only to be who they are. This group is highly talented, fast and well-coached. They will certainly come to play, and in the loud encouraging environment of Husky Stadium, the defense will be a huge factor.
They will have a huge task at hand trying to stop or even slow down a Boise State offense that looks to be much better this season. But, if they can get to quarterback Joe Southwick it will certainly go a long way in taking the win.
Joe Southwick can be mobile, and if the Huskies get pressure on him, they will also have to shut him down on the scramble. Boise State has a load of talent at wide receiver, so taking those guys out of the game by disrupting Southwick will be key.
Washington must also be prepared for a much better rushing attack from Boise State. Starter Jay Ajayi and his backups are going to be a potent combination. It will be imperative for the Huskies defense to control the line of scrimmage and shut down the running game.
Keys to Victory for Boise State
Boise State is going to need a complete game. As the visiting team in a hostile environment, the Broncos don't really have the luxury of allowing a letdown in any area.
Key No. 1: Embrace the bark and endure the bite
Head coach Chris Petersen has a way of getting his team ready for big games in big settings. You have to believe the Broncos will be ready for the noise and the early onslaught the Huskies will bring.
It will be a crazy environment, and the Huskies will come out in the first quarter with an extra boost of adrenaline.
The Broncos must endure the initial dog fight and settle things down with some offensive success.
Key No. 2: The line must be extremely offensive
The offensive line is solid, but with a couple new faces, they will have to prove they can work together. That means not just protecting quarterback Joe Southwick, but helping the ground game by opening up running lanes.
Key No. 3: An agile Ajayi
Jay Ajayi must have a good night for Boise State to have a chance. There are also some backups that need to contribute. Sophomore Jack Fields, true freshman Aaron Baltazar and JUCO transfer Derrick Thomas will have to carry some of the load.
Key No. 4: Stretch the field and rattle the chains
The Broncos must also stretch the field. Southwick has the arm to do it, and he has the weapons to make it happen. Senior wide receivers Geraldo Boldewijn and Aaron Burks and junior Dallas Burroughs have speed and the hands to frustrate the Washington secondary.
Meanwhile, junior receiver Matt Miller knows how to get open and move the chains. The x-factor is Shane Williams-Rhodes, who will no doubt be more incorporated into the offense this season. Look for offensive coordinator Robert Prince to run a hand full of plays designed to allow Williams-Rhodes the ability to make something happen in open space.
Key No. 5: Youngsters must come of age
With just four returning starters on defense, the Broncos are going to need this young group to step up. The defensive line starting four are solid, but depth might be an issue. However, it is the lack of experience at cornerback that has to be the most concerning for head coach Chris Petersen and his staff.
With two brand new starters at the corners, you have to believe the Huskies are going to attack early and often. It will certainly be a test.
If Joe Southwick has the time to connect to his talented receivers and Jay Ajayi and the other running backs are rolling, the Broncos may win this game.
If the defense is able to step up and play beyond its years, along with an offense that is clicking, victory will no doubt be in the cards.
Of course, special teams will need to be solid as well, and that is an area where Boise State may have an advantage.
Players to Watch for Washington
The offensive players to watch in this game are no secret.
Running back Bishop Sankey and quarterback Keith Price
It starts with running back Bishop Sankey and quarterback Keith Price. Both of these players are extremely talented, and they are a big part of what Washington does on offense.
Wide receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (if he plays)
Wide receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins are two very talented targets for Price. However, Seferian-Jenkins may or may not play because of a broken pinky that was recently repaired by surgery. He still hasn't been officially cleared.
On defense for the Huskies look for linebacker Shaq Thompson, safety Sean Parker and cornerback Marcus Peters to be a factor. Also, look for defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha to make a difference. He has missed much of the last two seasons due to injury, but when healthy, he is an animal.
Add to the list defensive end Josh Shirley and linebacker John Timu, and you have a load of talented players Boise State will have to contend with on Saturday.
Players to Watch for Boise State
If you want to know how Boise State is doing Saturday, just look at the ground game stats.
Running back Jay Ajayi and quarterback Joe Southwick
Sophomore running back Jay Ajayi will be a key factor in this game. Look for him to lead the way for the Broncos. Of course, quarterback Joe Southwick and his slew of receivers will be important as well. But, it might be the quarterback's ability to scramble that propels the Broncos offense.
Wide receiver Matt Miller
The Broncos top receiver is Matt Miller. He is great at getting open and moving the chains. He will be crucial for the progress of the offense.
Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence
Demarcus Lawrence is going to be a huge factor in this game. It will be his task to lead the way in harassing the Huskies quarterback.
Defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe
Tjong-A-Tjoe and the rest of the line will need to stop any kind of an inside running game. They will need to disrupt and control the line of scrimmage all night long.
Linebacker Blake Renaud
Renaud is an incredible tackler, and he will need to prove that this Saturday. Look for him and the rest of the linebackers to attempt to seal in running back Bishop Sankey and quarterback Keith Price. It won't be easy, but Renaud is athletic enough to help it happen.
Cornerbacks Bryan Douglas and Donte Deayon
The young cornerbacks for Boise State are undersized, inexperienced and will be the focus of the Washington pass attack Saturday. Look for JUCO transfers Cleshawn Page and Mercy Maston to rotate in to help them out.
This group will be hugely important and it will be a key area to watch.
Shane Williams-Rhodes, a.k.a. SWR
Sophomore wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes is going to be returning kickoffs and punts in Week 1. He is a slippery runner that frustrates defenses.
Look for SWR to make some dizzying moves and create great field position for Boise State.
What They Are Saying
Head coach of the Washington Huskies, Steve Sarkisian, sounds very confident about his team. His comments during a recent press conference were quite telling. The Seattle Times quotes Sarkisian in an article by Adam Jude. The coach said:
I like our depth. Our depth is night and day compared to where we’ve ever been, whether that’s on offense, defense or special teams. I like the maturity of this team. The one thing I’ve been impressed with, and I told the guys this, is when I’ve asked them to do something, they respond to it. It’s not like I have to pull teeth. When I’ve gone out and asked for more energy, I’ve gotten it. When I’ve asked for more physicality, I’ve gotten it. When I’ve asked our guys to stay off the ground, I’ve gotten it. When I’ve asked them to eliminate distractions and put laser focus on the tasks at hand, I’ve gotten it. And that really feels so different to me. And the leaders have helped the younger players understand that aspect of it, so I’ve been impressed by that.
The same article quotes the head coach about the health of his team.
It feels great. This is the healthiest we’ve ever been. Compared to where we were a year ago at this time, this team is healthy, they’re energized, they’re fresh. And we’ve had a physical camp.
From the sounds of things, this is the best and healthiest team coach Sarkisian has had since arriving at Washington. If true, the Broncos are certainly going to have their hands full Saturday.
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times had the best quote from the Huskies head coach. When reminding him of how the 2012 season ended, a loss to Washington State in the Apple Cup and Boise State in Vegas' Maaco Bowl, Sarkisian went off. In a very honest and raw moment the coach blurted out:
We’re not over it. We’re antsy. We’re pissed. We’re not over it, and we won’t be until we get to go hit somebody else
Easy coach, let the players do the hitting.
Boise State Broncos
Head coach Chris Petersen loves when his team in an underdog. Well, in Seattle they will be.
Petersen recognizes the environment his team is heading into, and he also understands what his team will be facing from the Huskies offense.
When asked about "if" Washington will run a no-huddle style hurry-up offense, Petersen was quoted by KTVB.com as saying, "It's not if. They will."
Offensive coordinator Robert Prince seems to be excited about his offense this season. He was quoted by Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman in a recent article when he said:
I think (play-calling) has come faster this year, one because we’re more comfortable with each other, understanding what plays can be successful where last year, especially early, we were still finding out what each other can do and so certain play calls weren’t working. I was kind of getting stuck and saying Aw, man, what do I need to call here to have a successful play? and was probably more conservative, especially early on. This year, with Joe having that year under his belt, if we call a bad play, he does a good job audibling out. As a staff we feel more comfortable.
When asked why he had such confidence in the offense this season Prince said, "It's probably Joe, having him be that guy who’s a second-year starter. Hopefully he left all his mistakes back in 2012."
On paper, this game looks like Washington should be favored. Of course, that happens many times to the Broncos.
First, it is a home game for the Huskies in a very loud and newly renovated stadium.
Second, the Huskies have many players back from the Las Vegas Bowl team that gave the Broncos all they could handle and then some. The Broncos, on the other hand, bring back just nine starters on offense and defense combined from that 2012 team.
Next, coach Sarkisian seems very confident in his team right now, and he should be. The Huskies have a powerful offense and a much-improved defense. They had a good camp and injuries are at a minimum.
The Broncos have an extremely talented and potent offense as well. They should have a solid ground game and a very good passing attack. Washington is going to have a difficult time shutting down all the weapons Boise State has at its disposal.
The offense will certainly be better than the team that scored 28 on the Huskies last December, and the Boise State defense has some individual talent that is comparable to the unit that finished No. 12 in overall defense last season.
The hype of the game won't get to Boise State but it could cause a late drain on the Husky players that get way too pumped early on.
Comparison and separation
When you compare defenses, the Huskies have the edge because of experience. When you compare offenses, the Broncos get the edge because of the numbers of weapons at their disposal.
Boise State is going to have a very good special teams unit this year. They have a load of young talent just ready to make their mark, and they have a very solid field-goal kicker.
Yes, you read that right. Boise State has a very good field-goal kicker—at least in practice. But, it should translate. Junior Dan Goodale improved immensely over the summer. He came into camp as a kicking machine.
As good as the kicking game might be, the kickoff- and punt-return game might be better for Boise State.
Sophomore wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes and redshirt freshman running back Charles Bertoli should bring some excitement on kickoffs. Williams-Rhodes should also turn some heads on punt returns.
Special teams is an area where Boise State should also have the advantage.
The last factor in all of this has to be coaching. Chris Petersen is a master at getting his team ready for big games. He has been very successful at Boise State leading his team into hostile territory and bringing home a victory.
Steve Sarkisian, on the other hand, has to be feeling the heat a bit.
After a lackluster season last year, you have to believe another mediocre endeavor could find Sarkisian somewhere other than Seattle in 2014.
There is tremendous pressure on him and his team going into this game and this season.
Boise State should be able to score points. If they can play solid defense and simply slow down the Huskies they will be in good shape.
Look for Washington to come out strong, but look for Boise State to rise later in the game.
The offense of the Broncos has enough weapons to counter most of anything Washington does on defense. Also, the Boise State defense may be young, but they have looked incredible in fall practice. They return more starters this season than last, and all they did last year was finish No. 12 in total defense.
Chris Petersen's team will not be overwhelmed by the surroundings, and in the end they should outlast the home team.
Final score prediction: Boise State 38, Washington 27