KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
SITE: MacKay Stadium, Reno, Nevada
SERIES: Boise State leads 25-13 (last meeting, 2011, Boise State 30-10)
RECORDS: Boise State 9-2, 6-1 Mountain West; Nevada 7-4 4-3 Mountain West
POLLS: Boise State (No. 25 AP, No. 15 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Boise State 31-24
PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB D.J. Harper — He needs 65 yards to reach 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career. He has rushed for 14 touchdowns.
DE Demarcus Lawrence — He leads the Mountain West with 9.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. He ranks fifth among defensive linemen with 44 tackles.
CB Jamar Taylor — The Broncos’ likely Mountain West defensive player of the year nominee is fifth on the team with 43 tackles, tied for first with three interceptions, first with eight pass breakups and second with three forced fumbles.
LB Albert Rosette — Rosette has 113 tackles this season, which is the 11th most in program history. With two games remaining, Rosette is on pace to finish with the third-most tackles in one season in Nevada history. Over the past three games, he has 51 tackles (17 per game).
WR Brandon Wimberly — The wide receiver missed 2011 after being shot in the stomach and is listed as a senior, but he decided last week to petition the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility for the missed season. Wimberly hasn’t shown much rust after missing 2011. He has 61 catches for 749 yards and four touchdowns this season.
DE Brock Hekking — The sophomore has seven sacks this season, but he has gone four straight games without a sack. Two of those games were against run-heavy teams Air Force and New Mexico (who combined for just nine pass attempts)..
WR Mitch Burroughs (wrist, questionable), S Hazen Moss (undisclosed, out).
PK Allen Hardison (knee, probable), FS Marlon Johnson (ankle, probable).
TO THE GAME:
– For Boise State: Stop the run. Boise State’s defense has been stout all year, but it’s better against the pass than the run. Nevada’s dynamic running game could be difficult to handle.
– For Nevada: Get a good start. The Wolf Pack has struggled early in games against the Broncos over the years. In 23 games over the past two seasons, the Wolf Pack has scored on its first drive just three times.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
Boise State has played well on offense the past two games, but the group has not performed well in big games all season. The Broncos offense had only six offensive points against Michigan State, none against BYU , 20 against Fresno State and only 19 against San Diego State (19). The Broncos have averaged only 386 yards a game in total offense with less than 217 passing.
Boise State’s defense has been consistently dominant this season. The Broncos posted their sixth first-half shutout this season, tying the school record. Two other first-half shutouts were spoiled by kickoff returns for touchdowns. In the past nine games, the defense has allowed a total of seven first-half points. That consistency is showing up in the national rankings. The Broncos rank in the top 10 in pass defense (fourth), turnover margin (fourth), scoring defense (fifth), total defense (eighth) and pass-efficiency defense (third). They allow 293.3 yards and 14.4 points per game.
Nevada is the only team in the country that has scored at least 30 points a game in every game this season. This week it faces a Boise State defense that hasn’t allowed 30 points in any game this year. Nevada’s offense hasn’t been quite as sharp of late. QB Cody Fajardo’s accuracy, usually one of his strengths, has waned recently. In the past three games, Fajardo has completed just 58 percent of his passes (he’s usually around 70 percent) for 186 yards per game (he’s usually around 250). He has five touchdowns, four interceptions and one lost fumble.
The much-maligned Nevada defense came up big in a 31-24 win over New Mexico two weeks ago. Nevada allowed a season-low 24 points and shut down the Lobos’ rushing attack, which is top 10 in the nation, in the second half. The unit was coming off a series of games in which it had struggled. In the previous four games, the Wolf Pack defense allowed an average of 44 points per game. The defense is allowing 33 points per game under first-year coordinator Mike Bradeson. That’s the most points allowed by the team since 2004.
Broncos: Boise State needs to put on a show for poll voters to have a chance to get into the BCS. The Broncos also are playing for a share of the Mountain West championship. … Boise State has not lost a game in December or January since the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl, a one-point loss to TCU. … Boise State has won the coin toss at eight straight games. The Broncos always defer and put their dominating defense on the field first. … TE Holden Huff, a redshirt freshman, has seven catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns in the past two games. … Sophomore S Lee Hightower and true freshman TE Hayden Plinke have been suspended for the past four games. No return date has been announced.
Wolf Pack: Nevada has already accepted an invitation to play in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 15 in Albuquerque. The opponent will come from the Pac-12. … The Wolf Pack snapped a three-game losing streak with its 31-24 victory at New Mexico in its last game. … The Wolf Pack has been remarkably healthy this season, losing just nine starts out of a potential 242 due to injury. The only start missed by a star player came midway through the season when QB Cody Fajardo missed the UNLV game with a back injury. … RB Stefphon Jefferson is second in FBS statistics in rushing with his average of 142.3 yards per game. He had been No. 1 until settling for 128 Nov. 17 at New Mexico. … LG Chris Barker will start his school-record 52nd consecutive game. He and LT Jeff Nady have combined for 85 starts in their careers.