2017 Las Vegas Bowl Preview
It’s not often in the bowl season that we get a game where two teams that genuinely don’t like each other, but we have it here. Revenge could be a factor for the Ducks here as losses against Boise State in 2008 and 2009 still loom large in the program. Whereas, bad blood is still felt in the Bronco camp after the LeGarrette Blount punch in the 19-8 win in the last meeting. The Boise State Broncos (10-3) face the Oregon Ducks (7-5) in sin city for the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl.
What: 2017 Las Vegas Bowl
Where: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada
When: 3:30 PM EST, December 16th, 2017
Spread: Oregon by 7 1/2
Scouting Oregon: In Herbert We Trust
Oregon has been a much different team with Justin Herbert in the lineup for the Ducks. With him, the Ducks are 6-1 and averaged 52 points per game. With him out of the lineup, they are 1-4 and averaged 14 points a contest. To say he’s a critical component of the offense would be an understatement. Having him back in the lineup after the collarbone injury should put plenty of pressure on the Boise defense.
The Ducks have been a heavy run team in 2017. They have run the football on 68% of their snaps. Oregon will be missing what has been an anchor to that running game this season. In what has become a disappointing trend in bowl games as of late Royce Freeman has elected to skip the Las Vegas Bowl to focus on his NFL career. Oregon will have to rely on Kani Benoit and Tony Brooks-James to carry the load on the ground. Benoit and Brooks-James have 573 and 485 yards rushing this season respectively in backup roles.
With throwing the ball a little more than 30% of the time, that does not allow for gaudy receiving statistics. Interestingly enough, Oregon’s leading receiver has less than 400 yards through the air. Having said that, Herbert has shared the wealth amongst his receiving corps. Leading that unit is Charles Nelson, Dillon Mitchell, and Jacob Breeland. Nelson is the leading receiver in terms of yards, but Mitchell might be the best of the bunch and certainly the hottest. He had six grabs for 119 yards and two scores in the Civil War against Oregon State. Finally, Breeland has been the reliable security blanket for Herbert at the Tight End position.
Scouting the Broncos: Lucky Number 14?
14 is most certainly been a lucky number for Boise State in 2017. In one of the strangest statistics, the Broncos have held their opponent to exactly 14 points on six occasions this year. They were 6-0 in such games. Contrary to Oregon, the Broncos are quite star-driven on the offensive side of the ball. Boise State has three student-athletes that have accounted for 76% of the passing yardage, 57% of the rushing yardage, and 39% of the receiving yardage. Leading the charge is Brett Rypien. He is a three-year starter in Boise but has arguably had his worst season this year. With that, he is still a very solid starter as he is completing 64% of his passes and has only thrown four interceptions all season.
Coming into the season, Boise had the challenge of coming up with a way to replace all-everything back Jeremy McNichols. While not being quite as productive, Alexander Mattison has done a solid job as lead back in 2017. He has over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. Ryan Wolpin has served as Mattison’s backup and had nearly 400 yards with four touchdowns.
The leader of this team on the offensive side of the ball is Cedric Wilson. He has 73 receptions and 1290 yards with six touchdowns. He has been especially hot during the stretch run for the Broncos. He has three consecutive 100-yard receiving games with his second most productive game last week in winning the Mountain West title over Fresno State.
When breaking down a game, it’s always good to have strength vs strength. That is exactly what we have here. With the exception of two games against Virginia and Colorado State the Boise State defense has been solid and the strength of the team. Comparatively, Oregon’s offense has been nearly unstoppable with Herbert healthy for the Ducks. Oregon almost certainly wants this game to be a shootout as they would have the advantage in offensive explosiveness. Boise State won’t be able to win a high-scoring affair. Look for Boise to run a lot of ball control offense to attempt to keep Herbert and company off the field as much as possible.
Mindset is always an interesting intangible in bowl games. You always wonder which teams will be motivated to play hard in their final game of the year and which will have more distractions. Oregon will have a bit of a distraction with former head coach Willie Taggart on to coach Florida State as well as not having one of their top offensive weapons. But, the promotion of offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal to head coach should be a pretty seamless transition.
Both teams will be motivated to play this game and play well. Without Freeman, Oregon may rely on the passing game a little more than they have in the past. But, Oregon still will have too much firepower and win a back and forth matchup.
Oregon 38, Boise State 34