No. 14 Utah St faces No. 21 Boise St for division title
Utah State coach Matt Wells was emotionally exhausted when he finally got home. So were his players, going from a crushing loss on a last-second touchdown to a penalty erasing the score and creating the exhilaration of a late escape.
“You go from thinking everything that you’ve been working for just came crashing down when you lose to Colorado State and then it flips right around and you end up winning. It’s kind of hard to describe,” Utah State linebacker Chase Christiansen said. “The whole last part of the fourth quarter was just an absolute roller coaster of emotions. It was pretty crazy.”
A week after the late win, the 14th-ranked Aggies go back on the road once again for a huge matchup with No. 21 Boise State. At stake on the blue turf on Saturday night is the Mountain Division title in the Mountain West and hosting duties for the conference championship game against Fresno State next week.
Utah State (10-1, 7-0, No. 21 CFP) was in this position in four years ago. It was a forgettable night for the Aggies, getting run over in a 50-19 loss to the Broncos in Boise. But this is a different Utah State team, thanks to an offense that has put up points at a dizzying rate.
Utah State’s hopes for a division title and possibly a New Year’s Six bowl nearly crashed last weekend. The Aggies needed a penalty for illegal touching on the final play to take a desperation touchdown by Colorado State off the board and give Utah State a 29-24 win.
“I’m drained; you’re drained emotionally,” Wells said. “You go down the field, take the lead, then they retake the lead and look up and see zeroes on the scoreboard. You see arms up in the air and your heart sinks. You are then given a little bit of hope and the call is made, which was the correct call. I applaud them (the refs) that they had the courage to make the correct call.”
Boise State (9-2, 6-1, No. 23 CFP) got the win it needed two weeks ago to be in position for a division title when it knocked off Fresno State at home. The Broncos could end up hosting the conference title game for a second straight year, but will need another strong performance from its defense to make it happen. The Broncos have allowed just 47 points in the last three games combined — wins over BYU, Fresno State and New Mexico.
“I hope we play our best football at this time, and we’re getting to play against someone playing their best football, too,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.
Here’s what else to know about the matchup:
Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien would like to play at least one more home game on the blue turf. The senior has quietly been very good this season. He has thrown for 28 touchdowns and just seven interceptions — five of those coming during a shaky two-game stretch. In his last five games Rypien has 14 touchdowns and two interceptions. If Utah State’s offense is clicking, Rypien will need to match.
Colorado State proved a week ago it is possible to slow Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. The 29 points scored by Utah State were its second-fewest all season. It had scored at least 30 in every game but one.
Love has been the leader of that offense, but he was limited to 169 yards passing against Colorado State a week after throwing for 491 yards. Boise State’s defense has been stingy enough since giving up 38 points in a win over Air Force. But the Broncos have shown they can be vulnerable against the pass. Boise State is 63rd nationally in passing yards allowed.
END THE DROUGHT
Utah State hasn’t enjoyed much success against Boise State no matter the location, but it has been particularly bad on the blue turf. Utah State is 2-9 all-time against the Broncos in Boise, the last win coming in 1996. Since beating the Broncos in Logan in 1997, the Aggies have just one win over Boise State, a 52-26 victory at home in 2015.