Broncos: After a poor performance by Grant Hedrick (two interceptions and just 200 yards passing on 35 attempts), fifth-year senior Joe Southwick is set to start the team’s final home game. No one outside the Boise State locker room knows if Southwick is merely staring because it’s senior day, or if he has re-taken the starting position from Hedrick.
Lobos: Triple-option running specialist Cole Gautsche was lost for the season against Colorado State after running for over 100 yards in five of nine starts. Clayton Mitchem is not the running threat Gautsche was, but might be a better passer, completing more than 70 percent of his passes without an interception against Fresno State.
Broncos: Jay Ajayi had another strong game – 103 yards and one touchdown – and is likely to have a monster game against one of the nation’s worst defenses. It’ll be interesting to see how far Ajayi moves up in the program’s record books for touchdowns and rushing yards in a single season. Since Aaron Baltazar went down earlier in the year, the Broncos have tried four different backs, all of whom could be fighting for snaps next season.
Lobos: Kasey Carrier surpassed 1,100 yards before suffering a season-ending injury early in the Lobos’ game against Colorado State two weeks ago. It’s a huge break for the Broncos, as Carrier had been averaging nearly six yards a carry the last two years in the triple-option. Carrier’s backup, Crusoe Gongbay, was injured last week and won’t start against Boise State. That likely makes sophomore Jhurell Pressley the starter.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Broncos: It was another poor showing for fifth-year seniors Aaron Burks and Geraldo Boldewijn against San Diego State in their disappointing careers. The two will want to make a couple of big plays in their final game on the blue, but the best outcome they can hope for is a bittersweet ending, to tease their potential one last time. Matt Miller has a chance to break into the 1,000 yard club if he finishes the season as he’s played the last three weeks. He was once again the lone bright spot among Bronco receivers last week. Tight end Gabe Linehan was open on multiple occasions but was not targeted.
Lobos: New Mexico has only thrown the ball 160 times on the season and its leading receiver, Jeric Magnant, only has 16 receptions. That said, New Mexico does create a few big plays every game off of their triple-option play fakes, as the Lobos’ 16 yards per completion ranks fourth in the country.
Broncos: A root of some of the Broncos’ first half struggles was poor pass protection, and many of the issues were rooted on the right side – where freshman Travis Averill was often uprooted. One thing the Broncos can be certain of with seniors Charles Leno, Spencer Gerke and Matt Paradis graduating – a healthy Rees Odhiambo is the key to offensive line success next season. The three fifth-year seniors composing the left side/center should receive hearty applause from the home crowd.
Lobos: The Lobos start three seniors up front, including 345-pound right guard Calvin McDowney, and they’ve helped open up consistent running lanes for the nation’s seventh-best running attack.
Broncos: Will Demarcus Lawrence leave for the NFL draft after the season? It’s hard to imagine one of the country’s most dominant defensive lineman choosing to stay for his senior year after what he’s accomplished the last seven weeks. Lawrence hasn’t just been a sack master (10.5), as he’s racked up at least four tackles in every game this season, and has 18 tackles for loss on the year along with two blocked kicks and three forced fumbles. Many draft projections have Lawrence going in the third round, but that might be low and based on Lawrence’s slow start to the season. Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe (who led the team in tackles against the Aztecs) and Kharyee Marshall make their last starts on the blue.
Lobos: The Lobos will be without their best defensive lineman, Brett Bowers, who has six of the defenses 15 sacks on the year. Like with each level of the defense, New Mexico is giving significant playing time to true freshmen like starting nose tackle Nik D’Avanzo.
Broncos: Ben Weaver returned to the lineup and had another strong showing, racking up eight tackles and helping shut-down a potent San Diego State running attack. He and fellow freshman Tanner Vallejo combined for 3.5 tackles for loss and are the most exciting players on BSU’s defense heading into next season.
Lobos: Freshman middle linebacker Dakota Cox leads the team in tackles, but New Mexico’s defense has been pitiful in every area, so it’s hard to know how much of Cox’s success is the product of poor players around him.
Broncos: Donte Deayon made a spectacular interception in the endzone against San Diego State quarterback Quinn Kaehler, and now has five on the year, one more than Bryan Douglas, who is now the team’s third cornerback. Long and physical defensive corner Mercy Maston – who might the Broncos’ most complete corner — got the start at boundary corner, and all of a sudden Boise State’s secondary looks promising heading into next season.
Lobos: Opposing quarterbacks have thrown 26 touchdowns and four interceptions with a near 170 quarterback rating against the Lobos. It’s a young secondary that has to improve at some point, right?
Broncos: Two turnovers created and a kick-off return touchdown, the fourth 100 yard kick-off return in program history, normally amounts to a great day for the third unit. But a missed game-winning field goal and punt return touchdown allowed in the second half had sports reporters re-writing their stories on what appeared to be a banner and season-saving day by the special teams.
Lobos: Carlos Wiggins has three kick-off return touchdowns on the season, as the Lobos are 16th in average kick-off return yardage. Kicker Justus Adams has made just seven of 11 field goals on the season, however, and while the Lobos don’t receive many punts, they haven’t been very effective returning them. Punter Ben Skaer does have a healthy 45.6 punt average.
Overall Edge: Broncos