Oregon Ducks vs. Boise State Broncos
The departure of head coach Willie Taggart for Florida State has induced Oregon players to express sundry emotions: frustration, disappointment, outrage, betrayal but also gratitude for leading them past adversity from when quarterback Justin Herbert missed 5 games due to injury. The chaos in Oregon can only impede the players' ability to concentrate and prepare for Boise State.
Co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Mario Cristobal was named interim head coach and will lead Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl. Cristobal's only head coaching experience was at FIU from 2007-2012, when he produced a 27-47 record before being fired. His counterpart at Boise State, Bryan Harsin, is significantly more accomplished with a 48-17 record.
Coaching departures are historically significant for bowl games. When the coach was well-liked, as Taggart was, they tend to negatively affect the players' motivation in addition to the team's tactical abilities. Two examples from last season were Houston vs. San Diego State, in which Houston's superior talent prevailed for the first quarter after losing coach Tom Herman to Texas, but couldn't answer San Diego State's tactical adjustments in a 34-10 defeat. Also, Colorado vs Oklahoma State, in which the previously solid Colorado defense, formerly led by their departed defensive coordinator, surrendered 38 points in a blowout loss.
The early line movement for Oregon reflects bettors' love for a team that repeatedly achieves high-scoring victories: with Herbert, they scored 40+ against Nebraska, Wyoming, Arizona and Oregon State. The Ducks loved to inflate the score against teams whose total defense ranks outside the top 100. The one exception to this trend is Wyoming, which Oregon wore down with 95 plays because they shut down their offense.
Even with Herbert, Oregon is a run-first team. For instance, in the last two weeks of the season they ran 29 more times than passed vs. Arizona, and against Oregon State they had 23 more running plays than passing. Oregon's running game ranks 20th with 5.2 yards per carry.
But Boise State is proven against elite rushing attacks. San Diego State's 2,000-yard rusher Rashaad Penny had his worst game against the Broncos, producing only 53 yards on 2.5 yards per carry. Overall, Boise State ranks 17th in allowing 3.5 yards per carry. Their rush defense will need to keep being elite against Oregon, which is 0-6 ATS when rushing for fewer than 300 yards. Herbert's sole mediocre effort came against Wyoming. Boise State's pass defense ranks slightly better than Wyoming's, 24th in opposing quarterback rating.
The Broncos feature two capable quarterbacks. Brett Rypien hasn't been intercepted since Oct. 6 and boasts a 63% completion rate. Montell Cozart also completes 63% of his passes and enjoys a 10:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Tight end Jake Roh has 9 touchdowns in 11 games and, with his size and strength, can be effective against Oregon's bottom-ranked red zone defense. The crucial question will be the health of running back Alexander Mattison, who leads Boise State with over 1,000 yards and 5.1 yards per carry behind his team's improved offensive line.
The Broncos' advantage in coaching and defense will keep them within the spread on our NCAAF Picks. Boise State backers should increase their wager size if Mattison is healthy because he would make the offense more balanced.