Should be a Breeze

After grabbing a share of the Western Athletic Conference lead, Boise State shouldn't have trouble staying on top before its regular season finale that could determine the league champion.

The No. 19 Broncos look for an eighth consecutive victory and seventh straight over winless Utah State in a road matchup Saturday.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Boise State -24 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 77% of bets for this game have been placed on Boise State -24 (View College Football bet percentages).

Boise State (8-1, 5-0) moved back in the Top 25 last week for the first time since early September, and climbed two spots after a 42-7 home win over San Jose State on Saturday.

The Broncos fell out of the poll after a 24-10 loss at Washington on Sept. 8, but have since averaged 44.3 points and are playing well in all phases of the game.

Last week's victory moved Boise State into a first-place tie with undefeated and 14th-ranked Hawaii, which was idle. The Broncos close out their conference slate Nov. 23 at Honolulu in a matchup that, barring an upset, will be for the WAC crown.

The Broncos, who have won or shared the conference title the last five seasons and will be trying for a 16th straight victory over a WAC team Saturday, should have little trouble arriving in Hawaii unbeaten in league play.

After taking on Utah State (0-9, 0-5), loser of 15 in a row, Boise State hosts Idaho, also winless in the WAC.

Hawaii, meanwhile, plays at home against Fresno State before facing a tough Nevada team on the road.

The Broncos' Taylor Tharp went 28-for-35 for 259 yards and three touchdown passes against San Jose State, while star running back Ian Johnson rushed for two touchdowns and 33 yards after missing two weeks with a bruised kidney.

"I felt amazing ... no pain whatsoever,'' said Johnson, who's run for eight of his 11 TDs in his last four contests. "This is kind of the test to see if the doctors were right about letting me back."

While the offense is in good shape with Johnson back and Tharp playing well, the Broncos defense and special teams continue to make strides.

Boise State allowed 150 total yards - 50 on the ground - against the Spartans, its fewest since giving up 89 total in a 58-0 victory over New Mexico State on Nov. 10.

The Broncos also benefited from a long kickoff return and two long punt returns that set up scores.

"Special teams can swing a game big time,'' said safety Marty Tadman, who had a 48-yard punt return to set up a touchdown in the third quarter, and added a cross-field lateral that led to a 44-yard punt return by Orlando Scandrick. "It all leads to field position and field position is huge."

Boise State shouldn't have trouble with field position against Utah State, which joins Florida International as the nation's only winless Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

The Aggies lost 38-27 at Fresno State last week and haven't won a WAC contest since beating the Bulldogs 13-12 on Oct. 7, 2006.

Utah State allowed 255 yards on the ground and is yielding 204.3 rushing yards per contest.

Senior receiver Kevin Robinson caught five passes for 87 yards and a touchdown against Fresno State. He had three receptions for 58 yards Nov. 18 at Boise, but the Aggies fell 49-10 in the teams' most recent meeting.

Utah State's last victory in the series came Nov. 1, 1997 by a 24-20 score.

"We've got a great challenge on our hands with Boise State, because they're a team that will jump out and can jump on you fast if you make mistakes," coach Brent Guy said.

Utah State is 0-2 versus ranked teams this season, losing 54-3 at then-No. 3 Oklahoma on Sept. 15 and 52-37 at then-No. 16 Hawaii on Oct. 6. The Aggies will be trying to avoid a 19th consecutive loss to a Top 25 opponent, dating to a 20-19 victory over then-No. 24 Fresno State on Nov. 2, 1991.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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