WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL
Mind McNichols: Boise State junior running back Jeremy McNichols was a focus of New Mexico’s game plan, as they stacked the box and put safeties close to stop the run. He ran for 54 yards on 21 carries, a career-low 2.6 yards per carry in games in which he started. Expect the Broncos to feed him often, and move him around to get the ball in his hands. Colorado State’s defense has allowed 15 rushing touchdowns, compared to just six through the air.
Brace for blitz: A common tactic to throw the Broncos off balance last season was to blitz then-freshman QB Brett Rypien and force him into quick decisions. The Broncos allowed 31 sacks last season, but have yielded just four in five games thus far. Rypien threw for 391 yards against New Mexico, often under pressure, being patient to get receivers open in one-on-one situations. The Rams’ 17 sacks are third-most in the Mountain West.
“We’re going to see another big test with Colorado State,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “They bring pressure, they talked about bringing pressure. ... We’ve got to be ready for that.”
WHEN THE RAMS HAVE THE BALL
Pound the ground: Colorado State has used plenty of options out of the backfield this season, which it should try to exploit against the Broncos, especially if it gets a little wet. Four backs or receivers have at least 16 carries and 122 yards, led by junior RB Dalyn Dawkins (67 for 328). Mixing it up could also help QB Nick Stevens get comfortable in his first start since the season opener.
“Their run game is really, really good, they do a great job up front with the O-line,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “They have great vision, they’re patient.”
Shorten the game: If the Rams can keep the Broncos’ offense off the field, it can only help. But what also will help is making it less difficult on themselves. Colorado State has an excellent punter in Hayden Hunt than can pin teams deep, then hopefully get the ball back in good position. The Rams are strong in the red zone, scoring on 20-of-21 attempts, but they’re 96th nationally on third downs (36 percent). If they can get into shorter situations, it will be of huge importance, because the Broncos will feed off third-and-long situations.
-37Colorado State’s opponents have scored 44 points off the nine turnovers they’ve created, while the Rams have seven points off the seven turnovers they’ve forced.
A new look: Boise State special teams coordinator Kent Riddle said this week punt returners are now advised to field punts between the 10- and 5-yard lines, a shift from past logic when returners would let most kicks go inside the 10. The way punters tend to kick now, rarely does the ball go out of the end zone for a touchback. It will be an interesting facet with Hunt one of the nation’s best, and the Broncos likely to give junior receiver Cedrick Wilson his first extensive action on punt return Saturday.
On your toes: Neither team has been shy about keeping it interesting on special teams. The Broncos faked a punt against Utah State, and the Rams executed a 29-yard pass from Hunt to defensive back Braylin Scott in the fourth quarter of a 31-24 loss at Minnesota.
“They do some different things on special teams, they will take some chances, and they’ve done a good job in those areas,” Harsin said.