Boise State and Oklahoma State possess two of the most entertaining college football programs in the country — and they’ve given their fans plenty of reason for optimism this season.
The Broncos and Cowboys are a combined 4-0 with 231 points scored and 57 points allowed. Their quarterbacks have combined for 1,395 yards and 13 touchdown passes. The teams are both ranked in the Top 25 — as has become expected for both programs.
Yet there’s reason for pessimism, too.
Those four wins have come against Troy, UConn, South Alabama and Missouri State. While Troy is a solid program reloading after an 11-2 season, the rest are coming off dreadful seasons.
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We don’t really know how good these teams are. We will know on Saturday, when No. 17 Boise State and No. 24 Oklahoma State meet at 1:30 p.m. MT in Stillwater, Okla. (ESPN). The Cowboys are a 2-point favorite (64.5 over/under).
Boise State’s recent history against Power Five schools is so mixed that it’s difficult to predict how they’ll react to this opportunity.
Last year, the Broncos won as 7-point underdogs against Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl, lost as 13.5-point home favorites against Virginia and squandered a 21-point lead as 7.5-point underdogs at Washington State.
In 2016, they fizzled in a blowout loss as 7-point favorites against Baylor in the Cactus Bowl, rolled as 13-point favorites at Oregon State and held on for a three-point win as 13.5-point favorites against Washington State.
The Cactus Bowl, Washington State and Virginia losses ended a run of success against the Power Five. From 2006 through early 2016, the Broncos were 14-5 against the schools from the major conferences. That included winning streaks of six and five games.
So is this year’s team more like the version that smacked Oregon in Las Vegas? Or the one that got outscored by 52 points in a span of roughly four quarters against Washington State and Virginia?
And are the Broncos equipped to win a Top 25 showdown in a true road game? That hasn’t happened since the 2003 Fort Worth Bowl, when No. 18 Boise State beat No. 19 TCU 34-31. Since then, the Broncos have played in four such games — losses to Georgia in 2005, Hawaii in 2007, Nevada in 2010 and Michigan State in 2012. Overall, Boise State is 4-11 on the road against ranked teams with the most recent win coming last season at then-No. 18 San Diego State.
My pick (2-0 overall, 1-1 ATS): The Broncos have the more experienced quarterback in senior Brett Rypien, who has seen just about everything you can send at a college quarterback, and the better defense. Oklahoma State’s new quarterback, senior Taylor Cornelius, already has thrown three interceptions and never has faced a ranked opponent. He had thrown 24 passes before this season. The Broncos will give up yards but force enough mistakes on defense to prevail behind big games from Rypien and tailback Alexander Mattison. Boise State 41, Oklahoma State 31
Oklahoma State perspective, from Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World (opposing view is 2-0, 0-2): For Oklahoma State, this one is way beyond the typical nonconference home game. This one is an event. Boise State is the most potent opponent to visit Stillwater since 2009 (when Georgia and Case Keenum-quarterbacked Houston played at OSU on consecutive Saturdays). The Broncos have a 38-2 advantage in career quarterback starts, but OSU’s backfield personnel are the driving force in a Cowboys victory. Oklahoma State 41, Boise State 35
Betting expert Lee Sterling of Paramount Sports, who appears Thursdays on KTIK (2-0, 2-0): “What scares me off (Oklahoma State) here is five turnovers, and three of those are interceptions by their quarterback against lower-level defenses. I think this Boise State defense could be special this year. ... Wrong team is favored here.” Boise State 34, Oklahoma State 28
College football spotlight
National game of the week — No. 4 Ohio State (-13.5) vs. No. 15 TCU, 6 p.m. Saturday, ABC: The Buckeyes are scoring 64.5 points per game. The Horned Frogs can’t match that — and will wish they’d played this game on campus instead of in Arlington, Texas. Ohio State 48, TCU 34
Mountain West game of the week — No. 23 Arizona State (-5.5) at San Diego State, 8:30 p.m. Saturday, CBSSN: This is a game that could boost the Mountain West’s profile and add some attention to the Aztecs’ Oct. 6 trip to Boise. Expect a low-scoring slugfest. Arizona State 23, San Diego State 17
Pac-12 game of the week — No. 10 Washington (-6.5) at Utah, 8 p.m. Saturday, ESPN: A night game in Salt Lake City the week before a potential Top 25 showdown/revenge game with Arizona State is a potential trap. But the Huskies are too good to blow this. Washington 31, Utah 13