Photo via Pam Davis

The Test of Common Opponents

November 24th is shaping up to be the most “important” game of the year. With the division title and conference championship hopes on the line, the Aggies and Broncos face off on a late, cold November night.

The Aggies have had a phenomenal year. They’ve reached their highest in polls in 57 years (previous high was #10 during the 1961 season, the same season Merlin Olsen won the Outland Trophy at Utah State). They’ve dominated their opponents like never before by averaging 46.9 points per game (3rd best in the country behind Oklahoma and Alabama). They have hit a school record 10-game winning streak.

The Broncos have had a few hiccups along their path in 2018. A road loss to an up and down Oklahoma State and a rare stinging conference home loss to San Diego State brought out the nay-sayers, the all-hope-is-lost-ers.  Many folks wasted no time wheeling out the head coach guillotine. But, the boys in blue have shown resilience even when the roster was devastated by injuries. Guys have stepped up and kept their fate in their own hands.

The playoff selection committee uses a variety of litmus tests in ranking the best teams in the country. The most controversial and subjective one is the so-called “eye test” – how good does the team look. That is silly.

In this day and age of a billion computerized metrics, the experts are going to revert to the old “eye test” that has plagued baseball – America’s original favorite pastime – for decades and was obviously exposed during the Oakland Athletics 2002 season!?

Even the death grip of “tradition” that has strangled baseball is starting to loosen up a bit – just look at metrics regarding the infield shift.

Fortunately, the playoff committee also references a much more objective measuring stick. The ruler of “common opponents” – how did two similar teams fare against the same foes?

Seeing as how Boise State and Utah State are in the same division, there are many matchups to compare.

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The Broncos opened up conference play with the Cowboys on September 29th. The resulting score was 34-14. Boise State went into the locker room at halftime, up 24-0. Rypien threw his fourth consecutive 300-yard passing game. The Cowboys forced the Broncos to punt only once in the first half and four times all game. The Boise State defense allowed only two touchdowns – each coming on a drive of 2 plays or less.

The Aggies also traveled to Laramie, WY. They beat the Cowboys 24-16 on October 20th. The Cowboys were the toughest MW defense the Aggies have faced this year (USU also played Michigan State, whose defense is the best run defense in the country). The Cowboys forced 9 punts, an interception, and a missed field goal. They also held the Aggies to a season low 24 points. Jordan Love never threw a touchdown pass, and only threw for 53 yards.

Air Force

Boise State traveled to Colorado Springs, CO for their first win ever in Falcon Stadium on October 27th. The resulting 48-38 score proved as a reminder of how the Broncos have struggled against Air Force. The Falcons’ triple-option offense was especially tricky this year as the Falcons were lead by an actual passing QB for the first time in forever. The back and forth affair that was tied 28-28 at halftime finally gave way to a Bronco victory as Rypien threw 399-yards and Mattison notched 136 yards on the ground.

Utah State hosted Air Force as their conference opener on September 23rd. The Aggies led early and came away with a 42-32 victory. Jordan Love threw a career-high 356 yards. The Aggies also had a hard time staving off the tenacious Falcons, as Air Force racked up 471 total yards. The Aggies also lost 2 fumbles, but ultimately secured the win.

Colorado State

Boise State hosted the Rams on The Blue on October 19th. Sporting all orange uniforms, the Broncos scored early and often putting any chance of a repeat of 2017’s nail-biter far from any fan’s mind. BSU lead 35-7 at halftime and brought the ultimate score to 56-28 after the defense seemed to ease up too much in the final minutes. The Broncos were outpaced in yards, however. The Rams ran up and down the field for 489 total yards even though they didn’t score much. The Broncos ended with 472 total yards.

The Aggies traveled to Fort Collins to face Colorado State just last week. It was not a pretty sight. The Aggies faced snow and freezing rain and a Rams team that looked determined to give USU their first conference loss. However, on the would-be winning Hail Mary pass, the Colorado State receiver stepped out of bounds and preserved the Aggies blemish-free conference record. The Aggies have won 10 games in a row for the first time ever, albeit with an ugly 29-24 win. The Aggie defense scored almost what the nation-leading offense did. Aggie defense 14 points. Aggie offense 15 points.

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New Mexico

Boise State had their last away game at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque, NM. It was a rather routine night for the Broncos. The marched down the field effectively. The defense played well and forced 3 turnovers including a strip-6. The Broncos looked the dominant team the entire 60 minutes on the way to a 45-14 win. Sean Modster was the receiver of choice that night with 3 touchdown catches, plus many more clutch 3rd down conversions.

Utah State thrashed the Lobos in Logan on October 27th. Jordan Love threw for another new career high 448 yards. The Aggies demoralized New Mexico in the first half outscoring the Lobos 52-5. Love only played a few snaps in the second half while the backups got some playing time in. The final score was The Aggies weren’t without blemish though, they lost 3 fumbles and allowed a safety after intercepting the ball on the 6-yard line.

Brigham Young

Boise State protected the Blue and BYU is still winless in Boise. The Broncos escaped another close game against the Cougars 21-16 on November 4th. After an early Bronco 14-0 lead, the Cougars scored 13 to bring it to a one point game. The Broncos responded with another touchdown and held BYU to only another field goal. Boise State defense came up big with a goal-line stop in the final seconds of the game. Again, the Broncos were outgained in total yards with only 327 compared to BYU’s 388. Boise State ended up winning the turnover battle with 3 takeaways while the Cougars managed 2.

Utah State met their in-state rivals with a smack in the face on October 4th. Utah State is perennially named the 3rd best team in Utah behind the Utah Utes and the BYU Cougars. The Aggies showed up big time to beat the Cougars in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1974. The Aggies looked dominant on both sides of the ball in their 45-20 drubbing in Provo, UT. Jordan Love tossed four touchdowns and ran for another. An early pick-6 for the Aggies was indicative of the night USU made a statement to set the in-state rankings straight.

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About Taylor Hart

Taylor was born and raised in the Treasure Valley. He developed a strong love for anything Broncos related. Even though he doesn't currently reside in the Boise area any more, his wardrobe mainly consists of blue and orange which he wears proudly and often, much to his wife's chagrin.

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