Is the Mountain West staking a claim as the best Group-of-5 conference, ahead of the so-called “Power-6” American Athletic Conference?
If 2019’s Week Zero and Week 1 results mean anything, then maybe there’s a G5 coup on the near horizon.
Hawaii got the party started by beating Arizona in Halawa in Week Zero. Then Colorado State, a putrid team in 2018, gave rival Colorado of the Big-12 something to think about. Fresno State capped-off the week by fighting and fighting in an uphill battle at USC, coming darn close to out-playing the proud Trojans at the Coliseum.
But – as has been the case so often in the past – it was the Boise State Broncos who made the biggest season-opening splash of anyone in the MWC.
The Boise Blue fell behind badly in the 1st quarter of a road game against the Florida State Seminoles, but by the end of 60 minutes, the program had added another legendary Power-5 scalp to its mantle.
Week 2 brings what should be a gala home opener at Albertson’s Stadium, and a surprisingly somewhat-tight moneyline of (-400) to beat the Marshall Thundering Herd of Conference-USA, along with a cautious point spread of just (-11) on the favored Broncos this Friday night.
Who: Marshall Thundering Herd at Boise State Broncos
When: Friday, September 6th, 9 PM EST
Where: Albertson’s Stadium, Boise, ID
Lines: Marshall (+11) at BSU (-11) / O/U Total: (57)
Boise’s offense is rightfully taking praise for its monumental comeback effort at Florida State. Robert Mahone stepped into a void at tailback and rushed for 2 touchdowns and almost 150 yards behind an OL that got better as the game went on.
Hank Bachmeier is the frosh QB who might become the next semi-household name to play signal-caller in Idaho – the youngster passed for over 400 yards on 51 attempts and has all the tools to pilot the multi-dimensional Bronco playbook.
But we’ve got to give some love to the defense too – a unit that was challenged by a 21-6 deficit after 1 frame and somehow responded to allow just 10 points from the ‘Noles the rest of the way.
On the box score, Boise State appears to have played ordinary defense against James Blackmon of FSU. Chip Patterson of CBS Sports argues that the Broncos actually played sneaky-good D on passing downs and punished the Seminole passer for 3 quarters:
If Florida State moves on from this game and improves dramatically on offense, maybe the memories of offensive ineffectiveness in the second half will be forgotten. Maybe as we’re discussing the best quarterback performances in the ACC this season, we’ll just be left with a stat line from the loss: 23-for-33 passing for 327 yards and three touchdowns. Left alone without context, that appears to be an excellent performance by the junior quarterback. A deeper examination reveals Florida State’s 1-for-12 conversion rate on third down and the frequency of Blackman ending up on his back. He struggled to find space or time against a Boise State defense that got stronger and more dominant late into the game.
A fierce pass rush has been the cornerstone of Boise’s legacy, an “RBI hitter” that protects leads and puts games away in the 2nd half.
Protecting a lead and icing it in the 2nd half is exactly what Bryan Harsin would like his favorites to do this Friday – but is Marshall big and strong enough at tackle to give QB Isaiah Green time to throw?
Marshall’s passing game was on-point in a lopsided win over Virginia Military in Week 1 as Green passed for 4 touchdowns while every tailback on the team averaged 4+ yards per carry. The Thundering Herd only allowed 1 sack, but allowed 6 QB hurries and a bunch of tackles-for-loss…hardly a shiny debut against an FCS also-ran despite the 620 yards and 56 points that the C-USA representatives were able to rack up by the finish.
Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday – yes, Doc Holliday – is spouting confidence about Friday’s potential gun-fight…ahem, potential shoot-out in Idaho:
“Young players made plays,” Holliday said. “That’s going to help us. We’ve got the ability to spread it around.”
“We have a lot of different receivers and I feel confident with all of them out on the field,” Green said. “We’ve been working hard since spring ball, so we’ve built a good chemistry.”
“We have a lot of weapons. That’s our edge,” Gammage said. “You don’t know what’s coming at you.”
Holliday sounds like a coach who’s chipper cockiness will come to an end at about 10 PM Eastern Time this Friday night, when the Boise edge-rush begins to chip away at Marshall’s pass blocking.
However, the willingness of the Thundering Herd to open things up this season could lead to a winner on the Over (57). If the Broncos step out to a 14 or 21-point lead as I expect them to, Marshall will have no choice but to run tempo and try to spring some type of big-play momentum of the Herd’s own. Meanwhile, if Boise State falls behind you can count on a surge from the host offense before the money is counted.
I can’t shake the thought that Marshall’s nice offense in Week 1 was illusory, though, and that the underdogs are now taking on a light-years better opponent in Week 2. Boise’s got a chance to simply crush the scoreboard this Friday night…which is a simpler win ATS than the high side of the total.
Take the Broncos ATS or Over (57) points in Idaho.