The No. 10-ranked BYU Cougars aren’t buying it — at least not publicly.
Boise State, which visits LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday for a rare October afternoon contest in Provo, is not going to be a pushover for the second straight rivalry matchup, BYU players and coaches have spent the week saying.
Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally by ABC. The 5-0 Cougars believe the Broncos just might be the best 2-3 team in the country right now.
“I see a team that is a lot better than their record, I know that,” said BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick. “So they have got our full respect, our full attention. I don’t see a big difference in them from the past until now. They are the same guys, same good team. I just think they’ve had a couple bad breaks this season.”
BYU (5-0) will try to beat the Broncos for the third straight time in the relatively new series, which BSU leads 7-4. Boise State is out for revenge, still simmering after last year’s 51-17 loss ended with BYU players taking a team picture on the blue turf of empty Albertsons Stadium.
“I see a team that is a lot better than their record, I know that. So they have got our full respect, our full attention. I don’t see a big difference in them from the past until now. They are the same guys, same good team. I just think they’ve had a couple bad breaks this season.” — BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick on Boise State
The Broncos were extremely shorthanded last year — starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier was out and his backup, Jack Sears, suffered a concussion in the first quarter that sidelined him the rest of the way — and some claimed the outcome would have been different if they were healthier and they had their usual sellout crowd of 36,000-plus in the place for BYU.
Bachmeier will start this time around, while BYU is the team with quarterback issues. The Cougars could be forced to go with freshman Jacob Conover, the third-stringer, if first-stringer Jaren Hall isn’t ready after missing the past two games with bruised ribs.
Cougars linebacker Max Tooley said that Boise State and others saying the Cougars’ big wins last year were fluky in nature due to COVID-19 issues weakening their schedules has motivated them this year.
“Especially Boise State, they are a close rival to us,” Tooley said. “It is always going to be a big game when we play them. We want to get after them similar to what we did last year. We just want to make the point that we are legit and it wasn’t a fluke last year.”
Tooley said the Cougars will be wary of the upset, like the one they pulled on then-No. 14 Boise State in 2019 when they were 2-4 and BSU was undefeated.
“With them coming in as underdogs, if you don’t think they are coming in the same way we did two years ago, you are kinda dumb, in a sense,” Tooley said. “They are coming into this game expecting to win just as much as we were two years ago. … To come out with a win in college football in whatever fashion is impressive.”
Like Roderick, BYU coach Kalani Sitake said Boise State is underrated and fully capable of ruining the Cougars’ perfect season.
“Bachmeier is a really good quarterback,” Sitake said. “He is efficient and he knows how to spread the ball out and he has great targets. He can also run. He is athletic. … And then I think they have one of the most dynamic receivers in college football. I think (Khalil) Shakir is a really good player. And they are a well-coached team.”
Shakir has 162 career receptions for 2,279 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The Broncos’ issue has been line play and running back health — they are banged up on both sides of the line and at RB unless former BYU recruit George Holani can play.
“With them coming in as underdogs, if you don’t think they are coming in the same way we did two years ago, you are kinda dumb, in a sense.” — BYU linebacker Max Tooley
“They have been dealing with injuries and banged-up guys, but they are a really tough opponent,” Sitake said. “I know we are going to get their best shot. … They have active linebackers and DBs, so it will be a good matchup.”
Roderick said Boise State could easily be 4-1 if a couple breaks had gone its way.
“They have had a couple of tough losses in there,” he said. “They are the same Boise guys. They are tough guys. They do everything right. … The Oklahoma State game (a 21-20 loss), there were a couple of (questionable) calls against them where you could argue they should have won it.”
Boise State coach Andy Avalos said not knowing which quarterback will start for BYU has caused the Broncos to prepare or a couple of different styles. He said the game will come down to the trenches, and who wins the battle there.
“They are a physical program,” he said. “It is going to be a physical game at the line of scrimmage. Who establishes (control) at the line of scrimmage, who is able to take care of the football better, and make the explosive plays (is going to have the edge). And the last thing I would say is the game is always changed on special teams.”