I was all prepared to pick Washington State to crush Boise State on Saturday in my weekly game prediction.
My first instinct: 31-10. The Broncos’ offense, after all, was unimpressive at best in last week’s win against Troy. The No. 20 Cougars are 10-point favorites in the eyes of Las Vegas.
My second thought: Maybe 31-17 — after all, junior quarterback Brett Rypien is better than some fans give him credit for, and the Broncos are likely to increase the creativity in the game plan for the game that will determine whether this is a Top 25 team.
But then I started looking into the Broncos’ underdog history.
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When was the last time they weren’t expected to win? The 2014 Fiesta Bowl against Arizona — a game the Broncos won as 2.5-point underdogs.
The last time the Broncos were double-digit underdogs? The 2008 game at Oregon (10 points) with an inexperienced roster and freshman quarterback Kellen Moore — another Boise State win.
The time before that? The 2001 game at No. 8 Fresno State (16 points). Also a win.
In fact, the past five times that Boise State has been a double-digit underdog, according to oddsshark.com, the Broncos have at least covered the spread. Add in the Cougars’ history of underperforming when expectations are high, and you’ve got a recipe for a Lee Corso “closer than the experts think” matchup.
But is that realistic? Could the team that we watched sputter on offense against a solid Troy team go on the road and beat a potential Pac-12 contender?
The Broncos will need another stellar effort from the defense, which didn’t allow a touchdown against Troy, and a couple big plays from the special teams units, which were critical to the opening win. They’ll need Rypien, senior wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, senior tight end Jake Roh and sophomore tailback Alexander Mattison to play at a high level. And they’ll need that young, mistake-prone offensive line to take huge leaps in week two.
All possible. But that’s a lot to ask.
Washington State 31, Boise State 23
College football spotlight
National game of the week — No. 5 Oklahoma at No. 2 Ohio State (-7), 5:30 p.m., ABC: Two quarterbacks who have finished in the top five of Heisman Trophy voting share the field: Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett. Mayfield is better now. Oklahoma 31, Ohio State 28
Pac-12 game of the week — No. 14 Stanford at No. 6 USC (-6), 6:30 p.m., Fox: USC is supposed to be back in charge of the Pac-12. But we’ve heard that before. Are the Trojans, who haven’t won the conference title since 2008, for real this time? USC 27, Stanford 24
Mountain West game of the week — San Diego State at Arizona State (-3.5), 9 p.m., Pac-12: Arizona State gave up 549 yards to New Mexico State last week. Why are the Sun Devils favored? San Diego State 34, Arizona State 24
On TV: Raiders at Titans (11 a.m., CBS), Eagles at Redskins (11 a.m., Fox), Seahawks at Packers (2:25 p.m., Fox), Giants at Cowboys (6:20 p.m., NBC), Saints at Vikings (4:55 p.m. Monday, ESPN), Chargers at Broncos (8:15 p.m. Monday, ESPN).
Broncos in the NFL: With none of the former Boise State running backs playing this week (Doug Martin, suspended; Jay Ajayi, game postponed; Jeremy McNichols, practice squad), you need to look a little harder to find former Broncos on the field. The most intriguing this week: Rees Odhiambo will make his first NFL start at left tackle for the Seahawks against the Packers at Lambeau Field. The third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft was an All-Mountain West first-teamer as a senior in 2015.