The UConn Blog: Can you give us the 60-second scouting report on this year's Boise State football team?
Boise State runs the ball very well, but is all in on Jay Ajayi...he is pretty much Lone Wolf McQuade in the backfield. Boise State passes the ball moderately well...Grant Hedrick completes a high perecentage of passes, but hasn't spread the ball around very much and has been a tad interception prone (3 TDs/ 5 INTs). Boise State's defense is the most consistent unit on the team-- they will shut down the run, but have had trouble containing the passing game for 4 quarters.
TUCB: Be honest, what were Bronco Nation's thoughts when you signed up to play UConn? (We'll be better in 2018, I promise!)
I'm all for adding intriguing out-of-conference matchups to the schedule that aren't FCS and UConn looked like they'd be a future conference-mate so everything looked great at the time of scheduling. Obviously, the Big East thing never panned out, but UConn has been a solid team over the last 10 years, and travelling out of our general "footprint" areas is never a bad thing-unless we lose (which won't happen this Saturday, right...RIGHT?!)
TUCB: Just like UConn, Boise State is led by a new head coach this year. How have the first few months of the Bryan Harsin era been treating you?
Honestly, the Harsin era is off to a fantastic start...much more fantastic than anyone had imagined. Sure, the on-field stuff needs a bit of fine-tuning, but the fact that Harsin and company have made people less-than-wistful about the Petersen era is a minor miracle. Pete is a Bronco legend...that won't change, but Harsin's innovation and personable nature have really endeared him to the fanbase.
Plus, the guy can recruit. Petersen landed just two four-star players in his 8 years at the Bronco helm (one of which never played a down); in just a few months on the job, Harsin and his crew have already landed FOUR. The Petersen era obviously taught us that stars aren't everything, but the Harsin era has already shown the promise of breaking down some of Boise State's historical barriers.
Harsin's other big "win" was assembling his staff chock-full of Bronco alums who "get" the Bronco culture and have a certain level of personal accountability in restoring the team to the gold standard that was set over the last decade.
TUCB: What would a less talented team have to do in order to beat Boise State? (Asking for a friend)
I'd tell your friend that they have to tackle well. Boise State doesn't utilize 18 different players on offense...they pretty much have a "Big 3" that they ride for the duration of the game. Those 3 are running back Jay Ajayi, and wideouts Shane Williams-Rhodes and Matt Miller. All 3 are "big play" guys that do their damage after first contact. If this theoretical team doesn't tackle well, it could be a looong day. Also, your friend needs to know where the Broncos relative defensive weaknesses are. You likely will not have success running against the Broncos, but you can find some in the running game by targeting the tight ends and larger receivers-Boise State doesn't match up well with size and thus far haven't put together a 4 quarter effort on D. If the team can keep the game close until the 4th quarter, they'll be in good shape.
TUCB: At one point in time it looked like we would be dance partners together in the Big East. I certainly can't fault Boise State for wanting to leave before they got there after the dissolution of the Big East, but how did your fanbase take conference re-alignment? Are they happy in the Mountain West?
Re-alignment initially looked like Boise State's ticket to the big leagues. The Boise State fan base, after years of battling the BCS system, finally felt that the TV money, exposure and access we'd felt were due were headed our way. Then other dominoes began to fall and it looked like the Big East move would be an extremely temporary fix to the Broncos BCS woes. Once the other marquee football names began to flee...taking the money with, and the "Big 6" became the "Big 5", the writing was on the wall-it made no sense for Boise State to leave a great geographical fit in the MWC for "slightly" more money and no better access to lucrative postseason events. The silver-lining was that the MWC, having lost TCU, BYU and Utah needed Boise State to return...and they needed us badly. Their concessions sweetened the deal for Boise State's return and the fan base, realizing that the Big East experiment was not going to be as advertised, begrudgingly accepted their fate. Regional rivalries will always trump cross-country expeditions (unless you can land a big TV contract, am I right?).
TUCB: What are your thoughts on how the Power Five autonomy and the O'Bannon rulings could affect the long-term future of your program?
Boise State got to where they currently are by investing in the program...sometimes with money that we didn't even really have in-hand. Boise State will continue to do so because there's a belief (and historical precedence) that shows they can compete at the highest levels of college football. Currently, the highest levels of football want to keep the little guys on the periphery, but some (myself included) believe this won't last forever. The CFB playoff is a step in the right direction. If in the next few years that playoff can get expanded to 8 or 16, it may prompt the Power Five conferences to scoop up on-the-cusp teams to shore up their conferences...this is Boise State's only hope.
Boise State is in a better financial situation than many of our peers, but can only keep up for so long. The Broncos need something to break our way in conference re-alignment if they hope to truly secure their futures. Ironically, further conference consolidation could kill some of our peers-forcing them to a true second- or third-tier of FBS, but unfortunately that's the current landscape of college sports.