Two coaches in their first seasons at the new school who hope to lead their teams to a Mountain West championship meet Saturday as Boise State and Utah State kick off a Week 4 doubleheader on CBS. Boise State hired former Broncos assistant Andy Avalos to replace now-Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin after last season, and while the Broncos' 1-2 start is not what he or the team expected and it has come with a pair of nine combined points from being 3-0. Saturday's game kicks off Boise State's Mountain West conference schedule, looking for the program's third conference title and fourth division title since the start of the 2017 season.
Utah State, also positioned in the MW's Mountain Division with Boise State, already has one conference win to its name thanks to a double-digit fourth quarter comeback against Air Force on the road in Week 3. The Aggies return home 3-0 for the first time since 1978 with its own new hire, Blake Anderson, and his former Arkansas State quarterback, Logan Bonner, emerging as two the league's stars here in the early part of the season.
It's going to be a great edition of breakfast ball with an early local kickoff time in Logan, Utah with two teams that both hope to pick up a key division win for the Mountain West title race.
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Boise State at Utah State: Need to know
Plenty of "what if's" in Boise State's 1-2 start: The way things have unfolded for the Broncos has been extremely frustrating, not just knowing how close the team is to being 3-0 but how well the team has played against similar competition. Credit Boise State's defense for keeping Oklahoma State scoreless in the second half of last week's home loss to the Cowboys but there's also some real frustration that the offense could not get a single score when that's all that was needed to pick up the win against a Power Five foe. Oklahoma State even turned the ball over late in the fourth quarter to set up a 36-yard Boise State field goal but that attempt was missed wide, leaving the score right where it was at halftime and right where it was for the final: 21-20 Cowboys. Starting conference play should be just what this team needs after last week's heartbreaker and the opening week 36-31 lightning-delayed epic against UCF, because winning against Mountain West opponents is core to this program's DNA.
Utah State has the clutch gene: The Aggies have owned the fourth quarter in their three wins against Washington State, North Dakota and Air Force, outscoring opponents by a 51-10 combined margin. The 49-45 thriller against Air Force included Utah State overcoming four different double-digit deficits against the Falcons, thanks in part to a balanced and prolific offense. Former Arkansas State quarterback Logan Bonner arrived along with Blake Anderson, and he's teamed up well with running back Calvin Tyler Jr. and wide receiver Deven Thompkins to lead an offense that averages over 40 points and 500 yards per game after scoring just 15.5 points per game a year ago.
Key game for the MW title race: In beating Air Force, Utah State moved into first place in the standings for the MW Mountain Division, which also includes Boise State. While Utah State was not considered a title contender in the preseason and does not currently have the kind odds that would suggest they're among the top picks even now, the Aggies could move one step closer to a surprise run at the conference title with a 2-0 start in league play and both those wins against division opponents. Boise State and Fresno State are currently the favorites, with Nevada, San Jose State and San Diego State rounding out that top tier. While the Broncos can be disappointed with how things have started for Andy Avalos they are still 0-0 in league play. This is a great opportunity play the role of team to beat in a statement spot on national television.
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Boise State at Utah State prediction, picks
From a "luck" perspective, Utah State is one of the hottest teams in the country. The Aggies have been winning games that the numbers predict should be losses, and still carry a fairly low power rating considering they are one of the 19 remaining unbeaten teams at the FBS level. While some predict oncoming regression I will point to the intangible ways Blake Anderson has taken a roster that won just a single game in 2020 and inspired them to be a team that simply doesn't quit. Coming up with the winning plays in crunch time week after week is not all luck, some of it is coaching and the character of this squad as a whole. Prediction: Utah State (+9)
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