Boise State will celebrate Senior Day and play its last Mountain West home game Saturday against Colorado State.
The Broncos, who joined the Mountain West last season, move to the Big East next year. They need to beat Colorado State and Nevada on Dec. 1 to clinch at least a share of the Mountain West title.
It's been a difficult month for the program, which endured a rare home loss Nov. 3 against San Diego State and has dealt with growing personnel losses due to injuries and suspensions.
The absences have been most notable on the kickoff team, which has lost four starters and allowed 100-yard kickoff returns in back-to-back games.
"There are excuses for everything and that's not what we're about here," coach Chris Petersen said. "It's just interesting how in a couple weeks we can go from a great kickoff coverage team to all of a sudden we're on our heels."
The Mountain West has three one-loss teams in conference play-San Diego State (6-1), Fresno State (6-1) and Boise State (5-1). The Aztecs and Bulldogs have this week off.
Boise State's blue "Smurf Turf" has had its share of critics over the year, so much so that the Mountain West Conference put in a rule that the Broncos couldn't wear their customary all-blue uniforms on it this season for conference games.
San Diego State coach Rocky Long went as far as saying that the school should get rid of the turf because he thought it was an unfair advantage and that it took teams a quarter or so to get used to playing on.
But don't count Colorado State coach Jim McElwain, whose Rams (3-7, 2-4 Mountain West) visit Bronco Stadium for the first time in school history Saturday, among the critics of the blue turf.
"I think it's cool," McElwain told the Fort Collins Coloradoan.
McElwain, in fact, donated money to his alma mater, Eastern Washington, to replace its green artificial turf with a red one a few years ago.
"I think it's more just how you think about it," McElwain said. "You go back to (the movie) 'Hoosiers,' the gym. No matter how many it seats, no matter what the floor is, it's a 10-foot basket, the free throw distance is the same, the lines are the same."
• DE Demarcus Lawrence leads the Mountain West with 8.5 sacks. He has a sack in four straight games.
• Boise State is tied for fourth in the nation in takeaways with 29. Three teams are tied for first with 30.
• Boise State leads the Mountain West in scoring defense, rush defense, pass defense, total defense, pass-efficiency defense, red-zone defense and turnover margin-and yet the Broncos have not had a Mountain West defensive player of the week honoree this season.
• Colorado State limited UNLV to just 219 total yards and forced four turnovers in its 33-11 victory last Saturday in Fort Collins. It was the fewest yards allowed by the Rams since holding Northern Colorado, a Big Sky school, to 216 yards on Sept. 10, 2011.
• PK Jared Roberts was named Mountain West special teams player of the week Monday for the second time this season. He had a career-long 49-yard field goal in the win over UNLV to go along with another 32-yarder in the snowy conditions and is now 8-of-9 on field goals for the season.
• Colorado State held UNLV scoreless through three quarters, the first time since Sept. 3, 2003 against Weber State that the Rams accomplished that feat.
Quote To Note: "Our guys are playing with some resolve and with some resiliency and with the mindset to take the game into our own hands."-Colorado State coach Jim McElwain.
Quote To Note: "He's done a good job at end and maturity wise he can handle learning two different positions. If something were to happen, he could go back to end but right now we're going to keep him at tackle."-Boise State defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, on end Tyler Horn filling in at tackle
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
This Week's Game: Colorado State at Boise State, Nov. 17-The Rams make their first visit to Bronco Stadium and figure to be leaving rather blue. Boise State has allowed just two passing touchdowns this season, fewest in the nation, and has held four opponents under 100 yards rushing this season, including Hawaii (minus-14) last week. The Broncos embarrassed the Rams, 63-13, last season in Fort Collins.
The injury-ravaged Rams will run into an emotional Broncos team on Senior Day in Boise. The Rams were completely overmatched in last year's encounter.
Scouting The Ram Offense: The Rams, plagued by injuries at quarterback and the offensive line much of the season, rank near the bottom of the Mountain West in most key offensive stats including scoring offense (21.6 points per game) and total offense (342.6 yards per game). Freshman Conner Smith, who began the season as the team's No. 3 quarterback, will make his fourth straight start this week and has completed 57 of 89 passes for 715 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions.
Scouting The Ram Defense: The Rams scored two defensive touchdowns against UNLV and now have four defensive scores for the season, the most since 2007. Despite a rash of injuries on the defensive line and in the secondary, the Rams have managed to stay in the middle of the pack in most Mountain West defensive statistics including scoring defense (30.1 points per game) and total defense (402.2 yards per game).
Keys To The Game For Colorado State: Boise State has allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown in two straight games so special teams will have to come up big for the Rams to have a chance. Colorado State's battered defense, which has produced four defensive touchdowns in the last three games, also needs to have a big day against a Boise State offense that is averaging just 374.3 yards per game.
Ram Players To Watch:
RB Donnell Alexander-Some eyebrows were raised when CSU head coach Jim McElwain benched preseason all-Mountain West pick Chris Nwoke in favor of this freshman a few weeks ago but no more. Alexander has rushed for 100 yards in two straight games, including 139 yards and two touchdowns in last week's win over UNLV.
OLB Cory James-The freshman ranks second in the Mountain West with 7.5 sacks to go along with 10.5 tackles for loss.
P Pete Kontodiakos-Leads the Mountain West and ranks third nationally with a 46.8 average.
Ram Roster Report
• MLB James Skelton, a senior starter, will miss the rest of the season after breaking his ankle against UNLV.
• OT Jared Biard, a junior starter, is out for the season with an ankle injury suffered against UNLV.
• LB Shaquil Barrett (ankle) is expected to play at Boise State.
• QB Garrett Grayson (left collarbone) did not practice Monday and may be done for the season.
Scouting The Bronco Offense: The Broncos capitalized on five Hawaii turnovers last week to score 49 points, including a defensive touchdown, but the offense remains inconsistent. Junior wide receiver Aaron Burks became the first Bronco to accumulate 100 receiving yards in a game this season. Quarterback Joe Southwick tossed three touchdown passes, including two from within the red zone, which was a step in the right direction. But the up-and-down run game struggled against a porous Hawaii defense.
Scouting The Bronco Defense: The Broncos have quietly had a phenomenal defensive season. The defense hasn't allowed a first-half point to the opposing offense in seven of the past eight games. The first-teamers haven't allowed a touchdown play of longer than seven yards. And if you take out touchdowns in mop-up time, non-offensive touchdowns and an 8-yard drive (after a blocked punt) by San Diego State, the defense has surrendered just three touchdowns in the past six games. Last week, the group forced five turnovers and recorded six sacks. The Broncos rank eighth in scoring defense (14.4 points per game) and fifth in pass defense (168.6 yards per game).
Keys To The Game For Boise State: Colorado State will start its third-string quarterback, which could spell trouble against a defense that has allowed one TD pass to a quarterback all year. The Broncos have allowed a total of two TD passes, the fewest in the country.
Bronco Players To Watch:
LB J.C. Percy-He has 82 tackles in 10 games, a career-high and 32 more than any other player on the team.
DE Demarcus Lawrence-He's fourth on the team with 41 tackles and first in the Mountain West with 8.5 sacks as a sophomore transfer. He also has forced three fumbles and returned a fumble for a touchdown last week.
WR Aaron Burks-The junior's breakout game last week at Hawaii nearly doubled his season receiving yardage. He has 15 catches for 264 yards and one touchdown this season.
Broonco Roster Report
• S Lee Hightower, a starter, and TE Hayden Plinke remain suspended. They have missed the past three games.
• Special-teamer Hazen Moss has missed two games with injury and is questionable this week.
• Nickel Dextrell Simmons has missed two games with injury and is probable this week.
• Senior long snapper Chris Roberson returns from a two-game suspension this week.
• Junior tight end Gabe Linehan, the co-starter going into the season, will not play again this season. He left the Sept. 29 game at New Mexico with a lingering hamstring injury.
• Junior offensive lineman Jake Broyles aggravated the injury that had sidelined him since a one-play appearance against New Mexico. He's doubtful.
Series History: Boise State leads Colorado State 1-0 (last meeting, 2011, 63-13 Boise State)