Boise State’s Bryan Harsin on inconsistencies, utilizing true freshmen and New Mexico
The Boise State football team played a Top 25 team last week.
It likely will play a Top 25 team next week.
In between, the Broncos face 3-7 New Mexico on Friday night in Albuquerque (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network).
There’s a name for this situation — a “sandwich game.” And it’s a time when bettors tend to take the underdog, expecting the favorite (the No. 23 Broncos) to lack motivation and focus in between two big games. Boise State is favored by 19.5 points.
“(The Lobos) are going to really want a piece of us,” Boise State offensive lineman John Molchon told reporters Wednesday. “It’s a 1-0 mentality. I really like looking at it only that way, because I don’t want any surprises. ... No one’s letting up. This is just as important of a week as the next one.”
That’s easy to say — but a lot more difficult to convince your mind and body to believe.
Coach Bryan Harsin, at his press conference Sunday, emphasized the Broncos’ need to focus this week — particularly with the rampant inconsistency the team has battled throughout its 8-2 campaign.
“You start looking ahead ... you’re neglecting what you have to do that’s right in front of you,” Harsin said. “When you show up on game day, you’ve got 3 1/2 hours to figure it out. If you haven’t done the work, you’re not going to figure it out — not quickly enough. ... Every team that loses, ‘We just ran out of time.’ No kidding. You could have made that time up earlier in the week.”
The Broncos are coming off a comeback win against then-No. 16 Fresno State. It was their first November win against a ranked opponent in school history.
“We had a really good win, we got some momentum and we want to carry that into this week and our preparation,” Harsin said. “If guys decide not to do that, then it’ll show up.”
Working in Harsin’s motivational favor is this fact: If the Broncos lose, they likely will be eliminated from the Mountain West championship race. No. 14 Utah State would just have to beat dreadful Colorado State on Saturday to clinch the Mountain Division.
If Boise State wins, it will host Utah State on Nov. 24 in a battle for the division title and the right to host the Mountain West championship game.
“Everybody on the team knows if we want to make it to the championship, we have to win out,” Broncos linebacker Tyson Maeva told reporters Wednesday. “Utah State is a really good team, but that’s not the team we’re focusing on. We have to beat New Mexico first.”
This week’s predictions
Boise State is a 19.5-point favorite and the over/under is 63 points. The Broncos have covered the spread the past five times they’ve been favored by more than 14 points but are 1-6 against the spread vs. New Mexico since joining the Mountain West. The Lobos are 2-4 in their past six games as more than 14-point underdogs.
My pick (7-3 straight up, 3-7 ATS): The Broncos’ inconsistency continues to baffle me. They seemed bound for a home loss to Fresno State last week even before kickoff; it seemed a sure thing when they were down 17-3. And then they won 24-17. Coaches are harping on the need for improved consistency, but it seems too late for that. Inconsistency is just in this 2018 team’s nature. It makes for interesting finishes — the Broncos have won one game by more than 10 points since the calendar flipped to October — but impossible predicting. Tailback Alexander Mattison’s weekly improvement combined with New Mexico’s porous defense tells me the Broncos’ offense will have a strong outing this week. The defense is making critical plays despite the injuries. Expect a lull in the third quarter, but I say the Broncos finally put together another dominant showing. Boise State 45, New Mexico 17
New Mexico perspective, from J.J. Buck of The Sports Animal in Albuquerque (opponent view is 8-2, 4-6): A new style of offense and injuries at the quarterback position have left New Mexico without an offensive identity this season. It has even led to coach Bob Davie questioning whether his team can win playing a more spread style of offense. Before the season coaches felt the defense was going to be a strong unit. However, the Lobos have given up 35.8 points and 482 yards of total offense per game. The offensive issues have only compounded the defensive struggles. At Air Force, the Lobos trailed 21-17 at half. UNM only managed 55 yards of total offense in the second half as it was outscored 21-7, and the seven points came from the defense. The program’s biggest moment under Davie was the upset three years ago of Boise State on the blue turf. An upset shouldn’t be in the making on Friday. Boise State 45, New Mexico 14
College football spotlight
National game of the week — No. 19 Cincinnati at No. 11 UCF (-7), 6 p.m. Saturday, ABC: The Bearcats rank No. 7 in the nation in scoring defense. They pull the upset — and start a fascinating debate with the Mountain West for the New Year’s Six spot. Cincinnati 34, UCF 27
Mountain West game of the week — San Diego State at Fresno State (-13), 8:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS Sports Network: Fresno State can clinch its fourth West Division title in six years with a win. Fresno State 12, San Diego State 9
Pac-12 game of the week — Arizona State at Oregon (-3.5), 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Pac-12: Herm Edwards has the Sun Devils in Pac-12 title contention, one of the bigger surprises in college football. Oregon 17, Arizona State 15
Chadd Cripe is the Idaho Statesman’s sports columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @chaddcripe on Twitter.