BOISE — Defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson said San Diego State’s offensive line will be the best the Boise State football team has seen this season.
Offensive coordinator Tim Plough said the same thing about the Aztecs’ defensive line.
Boise State, winners of four straight to stay in contention in the Mountain Division, already has road wins this season at BYU and Fresno State. The challenge that awaits on Friday morning appears to be their stiffest yet.
The Broncos will hit the road to face No. 22 San Diego State at 10 a.m. MST on CBS in the season finale for both games.
"They’ll be one of the most talented fronts we play all year, if not the most talented,” coach Andy Avalos said in agreement.
San Diego State (10-1, 6-1 MW) has wins over Utah and Arizona and also beat Nevada, Air Force and San Jose State in Mountain West play. The Aztecs’ only loss was a 30-20 loss to Fresno State.
The stakes are pretty simple for both teams. If San Diego State wins, the Aztecs win the West Division and advance to the Mountain West Championship. Boise State needs to win and hope Air Force somehow loses to UNLV to win the Mountain Division.
Black Friday at Noon EST on CBS is certainly a big stage for the game. But there might be only a handful of people watching in person with the game starting at 9 a.m. local time and being played 90 minutes north of San Diego in Carson, California, while the Aztecs’ new stadium is finished.
“The Broncos would be ready to play in a parking lot with nobody there,” Plough said of what figures to be not much of an atmosphere. “Line it up, throw the ball out there and we’re ready to go.”
As for San Diego State’s talented defensive line, Plough said “We’ve gone some really good units this year but their front is the best defensive front we’ve seen all season. … They are all tremendous players.”
Cameron Thomas leads the Mountain West with 18.0 tackles-for-loss and is tied for the league lead with 9.5 sacks. He’s also second on the San Diego State defense with 60 tackles.
Keshawn Banks has 8.0 tackles-for-loss and three sacks, while Jonah Banks has 7.0 tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks.
As a whole, San Diego State’s defense ranks No. 10 nationally in scoring defense at just 17.4 points allowed per game. The Aztecs also rank No. 3 in the country at stopping the run at just 77.4 yards allowed per game on the ground.
San Diego State also ranks No. 7 in the country in third down defense — allowing offenses to convert just 30.7 percent of the time.
“This will be a tremendous challenge for us,” Plough said.
But the challenge will be equally as tough for Boise State’s defense. As is typically the case San Diego State has a big and physical offensive line, which has paved the way for a strong running game.
Tail back Greg Bell has 907 yards rushing and seven touchdowns this season to lead an offense averaging more than 180 yards per game on the ground.
“The offensive line is going to be the best o-line (we play) when you put the tight ends in there — and the running backs hit this thing downhill,” Avalos said. “They are one of the best rush teams in the nation.”
A big key for Boise State’s defense will be on third down. San Diego State likes to run the ball, chew up clock and move methodically down the field.
“You have to get off the field on third down,” Danielson said. “You have to. You give them too many sets of downs and it’s not going to be good for your football team. We have to win those situations.”
A win would mean an 8-4 regular season for the Broncos — an impressive accomplishment considering they were 3-4 barely a month ago. And it would keep them alive for at least a few more hours in the Mountain Division race.
Air Force plays UNLV at 1:30 p.m. Friday right after the Broncos finish up in San Diego.
“This is the type of game you come to college football to play,” Plough said. “You want to play in a big game like this.”