Boise State Broncos (10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS) vs. Oregon Ducks (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS)
Las Vegas Bowl
Date/Time: Saturday, December 16, 2017 at 3:30PM EST
Where: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada
By Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: BSU +7.5/ORE -7.5
Over/Under Total: 59.5
The Boise State Broncos meet the Oregon Ducks on December 16 in the Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium. Its an interesting matchup between the Pac-12s Oregon Ducks, a dangerous team that had its hard of ups and downs this season against the Mountain West Conference champion in the Broncos. Boise St. was 10-3 this season, winning the MWC title game to Fresno State on December 2 by a 17-14 score. Oregon last played on November 25, hammering Oregon State, 69-10.
The Ducks saw a coaching change occur, just as theyre set to get ready for this game. Willie Taggart took the job at Florida State and the Ducks have decided to hire from within. New head coach Mario Cristobal, who served as co-offensive coordinator and O-line coach, will start here on the 16th. Oregon did well to get here, winning their last two games to finish 7-5. It was a competitive Pac-12 this season, with the Ducks beating Cal, Utah, Arizona, and the Beavers in conference. With QB Justin Herbert back behind center, the Ducks have seen their offense score a combined 117 points in their last two games. They have a really strong run-game, but alas, their defense has struggled, giving up over 28 points a game on average this season.
The Oregon offense was really piling it on to end the season. Getting Justin Herbert back is a great help and he had a good game against their in-state rival in the Ducks last appearance, though a lot of quarterbacks have thrived against the Beavers this season. In that game, they were bolstered by the ground-game, with Royce Freeman and Kani Benoit each rushing for 122 yards. Herbert even ran a score in for good measure. On the season, Freeman and Benoit combined for 26 rushing touchdowns, with Freeman leading the way with 1475 yards. Through the air, they have reliable targets like Charles Nelson, Dillon Mitchell, and Jacob Breeland, but their leading receiver has less than 400 yards this season. Its been the run-game thats been responsible for most of the heavy-lifting this season.
The Oregon defense hasnt been very special this season. Part of that has to do with some shortcomings in terms of personnel, while they have also played some awfully-tough offenses this season. But in the last month of the season, other than giving up 38 to a powerful Washington offense, theyve been fairly-respectable. Up-front, they get a pretty good pass-rush with Jalen Jelks and Henry Mondeaux, with linebackers Troy Dye and Jonah Moi also chipping in. Corners Ugo Amadi and Arrion Springs have been effective and made a lot of plays. And well see how it all translates against the Boise State offense in this game. After all, theyre not going to see anything new after playing the teams theyve played in the Pac-12 this season.
Boise State quietly got their season in order after a tough 2-2 start. They peeled off 7 straight wins, before falling to Fresno State. In a scheduling anomaly, they faced Fresno State a week later in the conference title game, scoring a narrow 17-14 win to become conference champs, avenging their only defeat in conference. They werent really that far off from one of their big seasons. Some injuries were costly, as was finding the right replacements on offense, especially in the running-game. The defense was able to make up for some of their issues and the bottom-line isnt so bad. Earlier in the season, they were more uneven, with an epic collapse against Washington State and a 19-point loss to Virginia at home. But other than an avenged loss to Fresno, theyve been solid coming down the stretch. In their last 9 games, they covered six spreads.
The Broncos dont flex as high-octane an offense as in some of their glory years, but there is a playmaking element on this side of the ball. QB Brett Rypien brings a lot of experience to the table and has really steadied the ship after suffering from some inconsistency and injuries earlier in the season. Aerially, Cedrick Wilson is the go-to sparkplug that has made a lot of plays this season among his 1290 yards, along with some big kick-returns. Also chipping in is AJ Richardson, Sean Modster, and RB Alex Mattison (questionable). The run-game lost the juice they had the last few seasons, but Mattison surpassed 1000 yards and is a useful weapon, if he is ready to go. Ryan Wolpin and backup QB Montell Cozart have also contributed on the ground this season and if TE Jake Roh is ready to go after missing a few games, he can also provide production.
Since losing to Virginia in their fourth game, the Boise State defense started really tightening up, giving up 14 or less points in their next five games. After winning a shootout with Colorado State, the Broncos have given up a combined 61 points in their last three games, entering this matchup with some decent showings under their belt. With wins over San Diego State and Fresno State, they acquitted themselves well against the elite conference teams this season. But it didnt transfer against a Pac-12 offense earlier this season against the Cougars and theyll see how it goes against a dangerous Pac-12 offense in this spot. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is one of the better defensive playmakers in this conference. On the line, they get a good push from DE Jabril Frazier and DT Curtis Weaver. In the secondary, Kekoa Nawahine and Tyler Horton have been getting after it all season.
After losing their head coach on the heels of a so-so 7-5 season, can the Ducks conclusively beat the better-than-a-touchdown underdog Broncos at a Mountain West venue? Will the internal hire somehow galvanize a Ducks team that has a little momentum after a strong finish? Can a middling Pac-12 team beat a Mountain West champion? While battered in some games, the Ducks beat teams recently like Arizona and Utah, which suggests they could be in OK shape here. I just see the Broncos defense being resilient enough to keep this one within distance. Im taking the Broncos.
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