Boise State (3-2) at Utah State (3-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 12, 8 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Romney Stadium (25,513) -- Logan, Utah. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: BSU 3-0, USU 1-1. Away Record: BSU 0-2, USU 2-2. Neutral Record: BSU 0-0, USU 0-0. Conference Record: BSU 1-1, USU 2-0. Series Record: Boise State leads, 13-4.
GAME NOTES: Life without star quarterback Chuckie Keeton begins this weekend for the Utah State Aggies, as they host the Boise State Broncos in Mountain West Conference action at Romney Stadium.
One of the hottest passers in the country and a record-setting player for the Aggies, Keeton went down with an injury in the loss to BYU last week, 31-14, and news out of Logan has him tearing both his ACL and MCL in his left knee. Despite the loss on the field, USU still leads the Mountain Division standings in the MWC with a 2-0 record.
As for the Broncos, the team that was expected to challenge for the division title, they enjoyed a week off to begin the month of October. A team which is not accustomed to losing, particularly under head coach Chris Petersen who has a record of 87-10 now in his eight seasons at the helm, BSU is coming off a 60-7 thrashing of Southern Miss on Sept. 28 at home. While it may sound like a resounding victory for the Broncos, one has to keep in mind that the Golden Eagles are currently tied for the longest active losing streak in the nation at 17 games.
It has been three years since the Broncos last tangled with USU, but you can be sure that the Aggies have not forgotten the 50-14 beat down brought on by BSU. With that loss, Utah State fell behind Boise State in the all-time series, 13-4.
Coach Petersen may not have the amount of game experience that he is used to this season, but that hasn't stopped the Broncos from registering four straight games with at least 40 points, a feat that hasn't been matched by a BSU squad since it turned the trick in seven consecutive games back in 2010. Quarterback Joe Southwick, while not a flashy performer, has been the one directing the offense for the Broncos this time around. Converting 73.5 percent of his pass attempts, Southwick has tossed nine touchdowns and just three interceptions in order to keep the unit moving along.
Another solid performer for the Broncos is receiver Matt Miller who has 35 catches for 388 yards and two scores. Miller is one of four players with at least 20 catches through five games, each of them having scored at least once.
Jay Ajayi has all the makings of a spectacular runner, leading the team with 435 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, but he is also prone to fumbling the ball, which is why he is sometimes watching from the sidelines instead of being directly involved in the action.
The scoring defense for the Broncos has been pedestrian at best in 2013, being torched for a combined 79 points in the two losses to Washington and Fresno State, both on the road. Unfortunately, when the group is on top of its game, permitting only 41 total points to UT Martin, Air Force and Southern Miss, it is easy to point out that one of those teams operates in the FCS and the other two have just one win between them.
The Aggies lost their in-state meeting against BYU last Friday night by 17 points, but the bigger story was the loss of Keeton to the season-ending knee injury. Keeton converted 4-of-10 passes for 26 yards and a touchdown, but he was also picked off on the first play from scrimmage by BYU's Kyle Van Noy who then returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.
Backup quarterback Craig Harrison stepped in during a difficult situation and completed 18-of-41 passes for 185 yards and a late TD. Joey DeMartino accounted for a team-best 80 rushing yards on 16 carries for a USU squad that turned the ball over three times. The defeat snapped a nine-game home win streak for the Aggies.
The USU pass defense was somewhat exploited as BYU's Taysom Hill, more accustomed to running the ball than most quarterbacks, connected on three scoring passes. Still, the secondary is still performing quite well for the Aggies overall on the season, allowing just 203.7 ypg to rank 28th in the country.
While Jake Doughty may be the leading tackler for USU with 64 stops through six games, the heavy hitter for the unit is Kyler Fackrell with his eight tackles for loss and four sacks, not to mention two forced fumbles and one recovery. Zach Vigil has also shown a nose for the ball with 57 tackles, three forced fumbles and two recovered thus far.
Obviously, when it comes to the Utah State offense all eyes will be on Harrison to see how he deals with the pressure of being the starter and not just a quarterback who steps in for a few plays here and there. Unfortunately, the loss of Keeton also means USU will be missing a key element in the running game as well, something that Harrison cannot necessarily duplicate.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Boise State 34, Utah State 24
10/09 10:34:46 ET