On Saturday afternoon, no. 10 BYU takes on rival Boise State on ABC. The Cougars are seeking their third consecutive victory in as many seasons over the Broncos. Here are three keys to a BYU victory over Boise State.
1. A heavy dose of Tyler Allgeier
BYU won't announce its starting quarterback against Boise State until a few hours before kickoff. Starter Jaren Hall has missed multiple games after suffering an injury against Arizona State. Backup Baylor Romney, who has played very well in limited opportunities, left the game against Utah State with an apparent head injury. BYU has not ruled either Hall or Romney out against Boise State, but the Cougars could be starting third-string quarterback Jacob Conover against the Broncos.
Whether Conover starts or not, expect a heavy dose of star running back Tyler Allgeier. Allgeier, who is ranked eighth in college football with 569 rushing yards, is coming off a career night against Utah State. Allgeier tallied 218 rushing yards on 22 caries (9.9 avg) and 3 touchdowns against the Aggies.
Boise State has struggled to consistently stop the run as a team. The Broncos allow 4.41 yards per carry, that ranks #104 in college football. This plays into what BYU wants to do on offense - run the football and take play-action shots downfield. If BYU can establish the run and hit on downfield opportunities, they will score regardless of who is under center on Saturday.
2. Contain Khalil Shakir
Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir is one of the best playmakers BYU will face this season. Through five games, Shakir has tallied 31 receptions for 518 yards (16.7 average!) and 4 touchdowns. He gets open seemingly at will and is very dangerous with the ball in his hands.
If BYU is going to beat Boise State on Saturday, they need to contain Khalil Shakir. On critical downs, Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier will do everything in his power to put the ball in Shakir's hands. Shakir will make the Cougars pay if they play single coverage.
3. Make winning plays
After five games, BYU is 5-0 and ranked #10 in the AP poll. The Cougars statistical output, however, has not been as impressive as their undefeated start. BYU ranks #63 in total offense and #73 in total defense. What has set this BYU team apart, at least in this author's opinion, is their ability to make winning plays in critical moments.
Whether it be Tyler Allgeier forcing a fumble on an interception against Arizona State, Tyler Batty coming up with a critical sack against Arizona, or Jaren Hall icing the Utah game with his legs, BYU has found ways to win when it matters most.
Last week, it was a 67-yard Tyler Allgeier run to seal the deal against Utah State. The play was made possible by wide receiver Puka Nacua. Nacua made two critical blocks on the outside that allowed Allgeier to run free down the sideline.
In my opinion, this is the biggest difference between BYU and Boise State this season: the Cougars have made winning plays in critical moments, the Broncos have not. The Broncos are 2-3 this year, but they are a few plays away from being 4-1. Against UCF, Boise State was driving late in the fourth quarter with an opportunity to take the lead. Quarterback Hank Bachmeier threw a costly and unnecessary interception trying to do too much and UCF won the game. Against Oklahoma State, Boise State attempted a field goal down 21-20 with 2:05 remaining. Oklahoma State blocked the field goal and went on to win 21-20.
Boise State has the talent to make this a close game, and if it is, the Cougars need to do what they have done all season: make winning plays.
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