The Boise State football team (2-2, 1-1 MWC) finds itself in the unfamiliar position of attempting to bounce back from a second loss early in the season.
After the painful 41-40 loss to Fresno State last Friday night in Bulldog Stadium, the Broncos will host Southern Miss (0-3, 0-0 C-USA) in a Saturday night game in Boise.
This should be a good game for the Broncos to get back to their winning ways. However, if they overlook the Golden Eagles, the results could be disastrous.
Let's break down this matchup, and see what it will take for Boise State to get another win on the season and how Southern Miss might be able to create upset waves on "The Blue."
Bring the Mississippi Molasses
You have probably heard the old saying, "slower than molasses," or "slower than molasses in January." Well, Southern Miss will need to bring a big bucket of Mississippi molasses with them if they want to have a chance against these Broncos.
That molasses, of course will have to come in the form of sticky, stingy defense.
Last week, the Boise State offense moved the ball effectively against Fresno State, amassing 561 yards of total offense and running 100 offensive plays in the game.
To have a chance against Boise State, the Golden Eagles will need to find a way to slow down Joe Southwick and company.
It won't be easy, but it would start with shutting down the running game and getting pressure on Southwick. If they can do those two things, they have a chance.
Serve Up Some Fresh Fumblia
The third thing the defense will need to do is force turnovers.
It cost Boise big time against the Bulldogs, and to have a shot at an upset, Southern Miss will need to have some takeaways.
Boise State running back Jay Ajayi has found himself in quite a pickle. He has fumbled in the red zone twice this season, and it got him yanked from the game Friday.
True freshman Aaron Baltazar did good in his replacement of Ajayi, but Boise State needs both of them as they continue this season.
As nervous as Ajayi might be, the Golden Eagles will, no doubt, be gunning for stripping the ball from his grip. If that happens, it could help reverse points and neutralize Ajayi, who would probably get pulled quickly.
Forgo Southern Hospitality
Although not hosting this game, to win, the Golden Eagles will need to play this game with a serious chip on their shoulder and forgo all niceties.
They will need to be aggressive and fearless, as they take on the Broncos in Bronco Stadium.
They did some of that against Arkansas last week, but they will need to raise the bar even higher this week to beat Boise State.
Boise State need only do two things Saturday to bring home the victory. However, this game could set the tone for how the Broncos finish.
Step Up the Horse Power
Australian poet Pam Brown once wrote, "A horse is the projection of peoples' dreams about themselves - strong, powerful, beautiful - and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence."
Well, that has been the story of the Broncos offense over the last decade or so.
However, this season, even with the large number of plays the Broncos are getting on offense, the creativity has faltered. At times, the runs up the middle for one or two yards seem mundane and very un-Bronco like.
You have to believe that as this new offense of Boise State matures, the creativity will grow. Well, this would be the perfect game to bring some of the horse power back to the Broncos offense.
It's Time to Get Angry
The late Darrell Royal was a great college football coach. He also had some amazing quotes about the game.
Royal once said, "Don't matter what they throw at us. Only angry people win football games."
This young Boise State team has so much talent, and so much potential. The only thing missing, that I can see, is the chip on the shoulder that previous Chris Petersen teams carried.
However, after two losses in the first four games of the 2013 season, the chip might have re-emerged.
All of Bronco Nation hopes so, and if Boise State wants to make a statement in the game Saturday that they are going to contend for a Mountain West title, they are going to need to rekindle the flame of the underdog.
Senior Quarterback Allan Bridgford
On the season, Bridgford has thrown 121 times for 66 completions, 732 yards and two touchdowns. However, he has thrown seven interceptions and has completed just 54.5 percent of his passes.
Still, he is talented, and after Derek Carr had his way with the Broncos secondary last week, Bridgford might be chomping at the bit to get his shot at the Boise State defenders.
Sophomore Running Back Jalen Richard and Senior Running Back Kendrick Hardy
Jalen Richard gained 94 yards against Arkansas last game and looked good doing it. However, when Kendrick Hardy is healthy, he is quite a force.
Both of these backs should be good to go against Boise State, and the Broncos will need to give them some attention if they want to shut them down.
Senior Linebacker Alan Howze and Sophomore Defensive Back DeBarriaus Miller
Howze leads the team in tackles with 34, but Miller isn't far behind at 31, according to cfbstats.com. Both of these players will be crucial in shutting down the Broncos.
The Golden Eagles have struggled shutting down the run, but have done a good job keeping the pass in check.
This week, however, it will be far more challenging for them to keep the new hurry-up offense of the Broncos from gaining ground through the air.
Sophomore Running Back Jay Ajayi
As mentioned in a previous slide, Ajayi has struggled with holding on to the ball this season. He has fumbled twice, so far, in the red zone, and it cost the Broncos dearly last week.
It will be interesting to see if he can get his confidence back this week against Southern Miss. Boise State needs his talent, but they can't afford too many more fumbles when in scoring position.
True Freshman Running Back Aaron Baltazar
The player backing up Ajayi is a Aaron Baltazar. The true freshman running back is definitely talented. He and Ajayi are quite the tandem.
Look for him to have a big day against the Golden Eagles—especially if Ajayi gets another case of the dropsies.
Backup Junior Quarterback Grant Hedrick
Starting quarterback Joe Southwick was banged up a bit last week against Fresno State. However, there is no definite word on whether Southwick will be back this week.
Last week, when Southwick was out, backup Grant Hedrick stepped in and threw a touchdown pass. If he has to play more this week, it should be interesting for Boise State fans to get a glimpse at the possible 2014 starter on The Blue this Saturday.
Even if Southwick is good to go Saturday, expect Hedrick to get his reps in the second half.
The entire defensive secondary will be on front street, once again, as they take on a pass-happy offense this Saturday.
Cornerbacks Donte Deayon, Bryan Douglas, Cleshawn Page and Mercy Maston will get tested as will true freshman Jonathan Moxey, who continues to impress.
At safety, Jeremy Ioane and Darian Thompson will need to be on their game as will their backups Ebo Makinde and Dillon Lukehart.
Southern Miss offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo hasn't said much about Boise State, but he has said some things this week about his quarterback.
Arroyo was quoted in the Idaho Statesman when he said:
What an unbelievable job Allan Bridgford did, when you think about a guy who wasn't here in the spring, wasn't here in the summer ... He came a week before camp and then had just fall camp to really try to understand what we’re doing and to move forward. I mean, that’s a credit to him.
For him to come out and really throw the ball accurately, to really, honestly run our offense the way he has is really almost unprecedented when you think about it.
Defensive coordinator Dave Duggan of the Golden Eagles knows what his team will be facing, and he is hoping to get all of his players back from injury before making the trip.
In the Clarion Ledger, Duggan was quoted as saying:
Every day, they get their legs back underneath them ... and getting those guys back adds to depth, and it’s an important week to get everybody we can back, with as many plays as Boise is going to run. Last week, they ran 100 plays, so we’re going to need every available body to rotate them in and out to keep guys fresh.
Duggan went on to compare the Broncos new offense to a hockey game with no breaks in between plays.
Head coach of the Golden Eagles, Todd Monken was quoted in the same article. Monken explained what it would take to slow down the Boise State offense. He said:
You just try to avoid sequences that lead to long drives ...I think that’s where it becomes taxing, when you’re out there for a long time and you’re trying to sub out. But we can only control what we can control, and that is moving the ball and scoring points.
The Boise State coaching staff hasn't said much this week, but you know they won't let their team overlook the Golden Eagles.
Chris Petersen was obviously not happy with his teams mistakes in Fresno. One of his funniest quotes came in his Monday press conference when he said, "show me a good loser, and I will show you a loser."
Perhaps the loudest words coming from the Boise State coaching staff were the ones not spoken.
In regards to the possible injury of starting quarterback Joe Southwick, Petersen wouldn't say much.
Petersen did say, "unless a guy is out long term, I'm not commenting on it. It just doesn't help us. Southern Mississippi is going to sit here and watch every single word I'm saying."
Boise State has a potent offense, and that fact alone gives them the edge in this game.
The Golden Eagles are averaging just 10.3 points per game on offense, which ranks them at 123 in the FBS. They are also giving up 34 points on defense per contest, which is 102nd in the nation.
Boise State should be able to rebound nicely against Southern Miss, unless they overlook them. However, that won't happen with Chris Petersen driving.
Look for Boise State to dominate.
Prediction: Boise State 49, Southern Miss 13