TV Schedule: Saturday, September 12 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT
Line: Boise State (-2.5)
The Boise State Broncos are the leading contenders from the mid-major tier of college football to crash the College Football Playoff as the only program not from a Power Five conference (other than Independent Notre Dame) ranked in the top 25. Right behind them, however, would have to be the BYU Cougars. The margin for error for non-Power 5 conference teams is non-existent so the stakes for this matchup in Provo could not be greater. A loss means the end of the national title dream (even if it’s a faint possibility to begin with).
Boise State opened their season at home with an emotionally charged victory over their former head coach Chris Petersen and the Washington Huskies 16-13. It was far from an inspiring performance, particularly from the offense in the second half, as they barely hung on to the 16-0 halftime lead they built up. They did put together a pair of impressive long drives and running back Jeremy McNichols stepped up in the running game with career bests in carries (24), yards (89), and touchdowns (2) as Boise State continues their search to replace 2014 workhorse Jay Ayaji. Ryan Finley needs to improve as well after underwhelming in his debut last week, completing 16 of 26 passes for 129 yards and an interception. The Bronco defense was the saving grace of the team holding UW to just 179 yards of total offense, including a meager 29 yards rushing on 22 carries, and forcing three three-and-outs.
BYU had one of the more exciting finishes in Week 1 when they went into Lincoln and beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers 33-28 on a Hail Mary as time expired. It wasn’t all good news after the win, however, as star quarterback Taysom Hill, returning to the field for the first time since suffering a leg injury October 3, 2014, against the Utah State Aggies, left the field twice with an injury that later turned out to be a season-ending Lisfranc injury in his foot. Freshman Tanner Mangum stepped in and played well, going 7-for-11 and 111 yards with the game winning touchdown along with 26 yards rushing on five carries. Mangum will have to step up in a major way, though, in Week 2 to prove he’s capable of replacing a special player like Hill.
Despite both teams coming in as top-tier mid-major programs, they have some questions stemming from their Week 1 performances that they have to answer. Whichever team does a better job making positive growth from Week 1 to Week 2 will have the edge in this mid-major showdown on Saturday.
Prediction: BYU 24, Boise State 21