The 2013 Boise State Broncos have been an interesting team to follow. On some weekends, Chris Petersen’s squad has looked dominating, albeit against somewhat weaker competition. On other weekends, the Broncos looked overmatched and inexperienced.
At any rate, when evaluating the Broncos’ season statistically, some startling revelations appear. Some would make one think that Boise State should be a Top 25 team. Others validate that the Broncos are definitely in the midst of a frustrating campaign.
In this article, we’ll take a look at several of those revelations. For reading purposes, it should be noted that the statistic will be highlighted at the top of each slide and will be explained in more detail in the body of the slide.
Let’s take a look at five startling statistics from Boise State’s 2013 season.
Boise State may have only returned seven punts through five games, but the Broncos are making the most of those returns.
With an average of 26.71 yards per return, the Broncos are second in the nation in the category. In addition, Chris Petersen’s squad is tied for first in the country in returns of more than 20 yards, returns of more than 30 yards and tied for third in returns more than 40 yards.
Why are the Broncos such a threat in the special teams game?
Fans have sophomore wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes to thank for that. Williams-Rhodes, who is the Broncos’ current leader in all-purpose yards, has capitalized on his strong showing in spring practice by being a consistent performer in several ways. This is most apparent in the return game, where his combination of speed and vision makes him difficult to take down.
As the Broncos enter the most difficult part of their Mountain West Conference slate, the return average may take a dip. However, Williams-Rhodes has delivered a message to opponents through the first five games of the season: Give me the ball in open space, and I can make you pay.
There have been several opinions offered as to how the Broncos can improve on defense (and one of them is to simply wait—the team is very young in the secondary). However, one of the easiest ways for Boise State to flex its muscle on the defensive end would be to step up on third down.
The Broncos allow teams to convert third downs an astounding 48.1 percent of the time, which puts the team at 114th in the country in the category. Granted, two of the teams Chris Petersen’s squad has faced (Washington and Fresno State) did a very nice job of setting up 3rd-and-manageable situations all game. But the answer may lie in bringing pressure more often on first and second down. The Broncos aren’t exactly a sack machine, either, with just eight on the year.
Allowing opponents to convert on third down seems to be a conference-wide epidemic, though. As bad as the Broncos have been, they still rank above Nevada, New Mexico State and Air Force. Remember, the Broncos are 114th out of 125 teams in the FBS division.
Imagine what fans of the Wolf Pack, Aggies and Falcons are thinking…
Although the defense is struggling to stop teams from converting on third down, the Boise State offense has been doing an extremely good job of giving opposing defenses the same problem.
The Broncos are converting an impressive 53.75 percent of their own third-down conversions, which is one of the reasons why the team has been able to keep drives alive and score so many points. A lot of this success can be contributed to the running game, which has been spearheaded by backs Jay Ajayi and Aaron Baltazar.
What is so amazing about this stat is that the Broncos were actually struggling to convert on third down after the first two games of the season.
Boise State is 10 in the country in third-down conversion rate, which puts the Broncos in pretty elite company. Of the nine teams ahead of Chris Petersen’s squad, only one (Georgia Tech) has more than one loss on the season. The overall record of those nine teams is a combined 38-6, and seven of those teams are ranked in the most recent AP Poll.
Translation: Success at converting third downs is a key statistic for some of the best teams in the country. It would be foolish to assert that the Broncos are amongst the best, but it is a good sign that the offense has been so efficient on third down.
The conference slate might not be so painful, after all.
The pass defense for Boise State hasn’t exactly been stellar—the Broncos are allowing an average of just over 251 yards per game through the air—but surprisingly enough, the secondary has been forcing plenty of turnovers.
The Broncos have eight interceptions on the year, seven of which have been by defensive backs. Leading the charge is redshirt junior Bryan Douglas, one of the few players in the secondary who can be considered a veteran presence. The fast start is a great to see, as Douglas’s 2012 season was cut short by a knee injury.
Boise State is currently tied for the conference lead in the category and tied for 15th overall in the country. If the team can continue to work on the pass coverage in general and keep up the high volume of takeaways, fans might have a much different opinion of the Bronco defense by the end of this season.
If there is one stat that can sum up Boise State’s 2013 campaign so far, it would be this one.
Looking at this information, even a non-football fan could tell you the Broncos’ two losses probably came at the hands of the Top 25 teams they faced.
It is interesting that Boise State seems to play so well against the weaker competition but has had such trouble defensively against the stronger teams. Chris Petersen-coached teams do not usually fall victim to that conundrum. The Broncos are candidates for this year’s version of college football’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
On the bright side for Boise State, it is unlikely the team will face another Top 25 opponent during the regular season. The next time the Broncos may have to face a ranked squad is if they make it to the Mountain West Conference Championship Game.
However, critics of the Broncos have a fairly legitimate argument, at least for this season. It is apparent the Broncos have struggled mightily against good teams, and this statistic is strong evidence to support that notion.