WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL
Take your shots: In most games this season, Baylor has played plenty of man-to-man coverage with little safety help. Two teams that played Boise State that way were New Mexico and Air Force, and the Broncos averaged 25.6 yards per completion.
“That’s kind of what New Mexico did, so hopefully they can keep that going,” junior wide receiver Cedrick Wilson said. “One of our aspects is going to start popping this game.”
Come out hot: Boise State lost its only two games in which it trailed at halftime this season. When the Broncos won their previous two bowl games under Bryan Harsin, fast starts were vital. Putting a Baylor team that has lost six straight on the ropes early could make it three straight bowl wins.
“I think it’s huge. Whenever we’ve done it, we’ve come out on top,” sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien said. “Offensively, you get that first first down, that first score, you feel like you can keep that rolling.”
WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL
Don’t hurt yourself: Baylor said in the days leading up to the Cactus Bowl that Boise State is one of, if not the most physical team the Bears have faced this season on both sides of the ball. Baylor is tied for 109th in turnover margin (minus-0.58 per game) and last in penalties (10 per game for 79 yards). It needs to be strong, but also smart, or risk getting run over.
“They’re going to fly around, and they’re going to be physical,” Baylor quarterback Zach Smith said. “We can’t go out there and play patty-cake. We have to get out there, get after it and grind.”
Help the young man: Smith, a true freshman, was pressed into a much larger role as the starter last month when Seth Russell suffered a broken ankle. He said he has felt more comfortable getting the first-team snaps, but still needs help from the line. Opponents have nine sacks in the games Smith has started.
“We need to protect for him a little bit better,” Baylor coach Jim Grobe said. “We need to run better routes, the receivers. We need to have a good running game to take some pressure off him.”
Not much room to run: Sophomore punter Drew Galitz has been decent for the Bears, averaging 41.3 yards per punt, but he has done a better job at preventing returns. Oppponents have just six returns for 11 yards, the third-best average in the nation.
Inconsistent kickers: Baylor kicker Chris Callahan is 9-of-14 on field goals, making 4-of-9 beyond 40 yards, while Boise State’s Tyler Rausa is 7-of-11 with growing confidence after making four of his past five.