VIZIO FIESTA BOWL
#20 BOISE STATE VS #10 ARIZONA – Wednesday, Dec 31st – 2:00 MT (ESPN)
The Mountain West had been hoping that it would get an invite to one of the Big Six Bowl games and Boise State’s convincing win over Fresno State in the Championship game secured what I feel is well deserved recognition for the Conference & #20 position in the CFB Playoff rankings. The Broncos will get to sit at the “Big Boy” table over the holidays and they do so with the nation’s ninth leading scoring offense led by quarterback Grant Hedrick. Hedrick and his teammates amassed 39.8 points per game on the road to an 11-2 record and a current 8 game winning streak.
Running back Jay Ajayi, a first team All-Conference selection behind 1689 yards & 25 rushing TD’s, along with a bevy of 5 receivers with over 300+ yards, led by Shane Williams-Rhodes’ 68 receptions, put pressure on opposing defenses as one of college football’s top Big Strike attacks. The Broncos are as balanced as any team in the country, averaging 278 passing and 217 rushing yards per game.
The Broncos defense has played its best football over the course of the last month, and I think that’s reflective of the production from All-Conference players like LB Tyler Vallejo, who recorded 13 tackles against the Bulldogs in the Mountain West Title game, and DE Kalamei Correa’s league leading 10 sacks.
#10 Arizona has its own explosive attack led by a trio of youngsters. Freshman QB Anu Solomon threw 27 TD’s to only 7 interceptions, and tallied almost 3500 yards passing for the season. Freshman RB Nick Wilson rushed for 1289 yards and 15 scores, and sophomore receiver Caleb Jones added 902 yards on 65 receptions. The Wildcats had 1033 total plays from scrimmage, 2nd in the nation only to Baylor’s 1064, and averaged 5.81 per play.
Wildcats Defense & The Key To The Game
This game will come down to whether or not Arizona’s defense can put the pressure on Boise State’s QB. The Wildcats are 14th nationally in sacks with 37, have recorded 92 tackles for losses (tied for 12th), and forced 24 turnovers. Its leader is SO LB Scoobie Wright. Wright played most of the time on the other side of the line of scrimmage, recording 14 sacks & 27 tackles for losses. But Rich Rodriquez’s version of the “Desert Swarm” defense is as suspect to the big play as any in major college football, and it’s “feast or famine” when they bring the heat. Only Iowa State and Cal were worse from the Power 5 Conferences.