Wednesday, November 24, 2010

PWtW Week 12 Preview (Part 2)

"We have immense confidence...We're at home...And we don't lose at home."

"There is not a person in this building who thinks we're not going to beat Boise."
~Brett Roy, quoted in articles here and here.

Pop quiz: in what alternate universe would the above quotes be considered mean-spirited and disrespectful? If you answered "Whatever alternate universe has currently swallowed up the entire state of Idaho", no shit.

Apparently, alluding to your team's 6-0 home record or putting the belief in the abilities of one's self and teammates on record is considered bad form. If your parents taught you growing up that you have to believe in yourself before others can believe in you, then you're full of it! Leave it to Bronco fans to consider displaying self-confidence (without -- I'd like to point out -- making a prediction of the outcome or directing any actual insult towards Boise State) as being disrespectful. I'd hate to see the bunched up panties that would result from a Nevada player saying something that was actually meant to be interpreted poorly.

But to be fair, when your favorite team goes this long without someone else actually stepping up to beat them, I guess remarks like those are what passes for bulletin board material in Broncoland. What else can be stirred up for controversy's sake when your team (almost) literally doesn't ever lose? When a Louisiana Tech player says their team will play well for their seniors next week, remind me to act righteously indignant and shout "HOW DARE HE?!" at my computer screen.

"Self-respect is disrespectful. KNEEL BEFORE BOISE STATE!!"

Anyway, angry rant done. Let's pour over some stats.

If you love offense -- I mean really LOVE offense -- these teams will make pretty much any telecast a must-see event. Nevada is currently third in the nation in average total offense and Boise State is right behind them at fourth, and first downs are close, too (26.7 to 25.6 per game, respectively), but they're very different in how they go about tearing their opponents apart. The Pistol favors the run (304.4 yards per game), while the Bronco offense prefers the pass (323.4 yards per game), but for the sake of balance both teams can also switch it up and have some success with the other component. Neither team turns the ball over much (+7 margin for Nevada, +6 for Boise), fails to convert many third downs (55.7% for Nevada, an even 50% for Boise), or gives up many sacks (6 for Boise, 7 for Nevada) or tackles for loss (32 for Nevada and 34 for Boise). If offense was solely how this game would be decided, chances are it would come down to whomever has the last possession.

But that's where defense enters the picture, and the Boise State defense is Legit with a capital "L". Seriously, this is where it ceases to sound like actual college football and begins to sound more like a video game where you're taking out frustrations on hapless computer opponents. The Broncos are second in the nation at 229.2 yards given up per game -- that breaks down to 72.3 rushing yards (1st nationally) and 156.9 passing yards (7th). That's supplemented by 39 sacks (2nd in the country), 88 tackles for loss (3rd) and being able to hold their opponents to just 26.6% on third downs (3rd). As much as Coach Buh has improved this team's defense, it obviously still doesn't compare to numbers like those. Remember the "Dark Knight" reference I threw out in Part 1? Think of the Pack ground game as the unstoppable force and the Bronco rushing defense as the immovable object; it's likely the first and most important place where this game will be decided.

There's not much separation between the special teams units, oddly enough. They're fairly close to one another in punting distance (about 42 yards per punt) and kick-off returns (23.8 per return for Boise, 23.1 for Nevada). Nevada gives up lots of yards on kick returns (nearly 26 yards per return, 7th to last in the nation), while Boise gives up lots of yards on punt returns (12.6 yards per return, 102nd in the nation). If the game is close from the outset, a big play in one of these areas could really break it open for good.

Best-Case Scenario

The mistake-free game against Boise State that has eluded Nevada so many times in the past is finally realized. The stout Bronco defense, though not repeatedly gashed like previous opponents, is nonetheless methodically chipped away at by a successful passing attack that paves the way for a trademark Nevada rushing performance. The Pack finishes +2 or better in turnovers, and ends up winning a back-and-forth contest by a single score.

Worst-Case Scenario

History repeats itself to a horribly familiar tune and then some. The Bronco defense sets the tone early on, allowing Boise to jump out to yet another early lead which they never look back from. First half mistakes doom the Pack to play catch-up for nearly all 60 minutes, and the defense surrenders big play after big play. Like the Blues Brothers, the Broncos are on a mission from (the football) God and Nevada is brushed aside by multiple scores in the end.

So there you have it. A lot will have to go right for a Nevada win, but this whole season has felt pretty different than what we're used to. And barring a truly sadistic change of date and time, the next meeting between these teams won't be on a holiday-shortened week. Hopefully my blogging muscles will be in better shape by that time. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, and Beat Boise.

1 comment:

Brent said...

As a bsu fan, I concede that many bsu fans are obnoxious on the internet. I think anonimity makes everyone feel entitled to stupidity.