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New Mexico at Boise State
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The Mountain West has the Thursday Night spotlight this week in a matchup of two of the three teams that finished tied on top of the Mountain division last season. New Mexico and Boise State both enter Thursday night coming off disappointing losses last Saturday with this being a critical game to keep the season’s goals on track.

Match-up: New Mexico Lobos at Boise State Broncos
Venue: At Albertson’s Stadium in Boise, Idaho
Time/TV: Thursday, Sep. 14, 7:00 PM ET ESPN
Line: Boise State -15, Over/Under 58½
Last Meeting: 2016, at New Mexico, Boise State (-18) 49, New Mexico 21

Productive veteran quarterbacks entered the 2017 season leading Boise State and New Mexico with both teams hoping to build on successful 2016-17 seasons though with two of the least experienced teams in the conference. Wyoming went to the MWC title game last season, but Boise State and New Mexico finished with respectable 10 and 9 win seasons going 6-2 in league play for a three-way tie on top of the division. After opening week wins, both teams lost last week in tight games and there are questions at the quarterback position this week on both sides.

2016 Mountain West first team quarterback Brett Rypien played sparingly in last week’s loss to Washington State. Commentators speculated he was benched but later it was announced he suffered an undisclosed injury after taking a sack. Senior backup Montell Cozart provided a spark for the Broncos with a rushing and passing presence and the Broncos would take a 31-10 lead early in the fourth quarter vs. the nationally ranked Cougars. The lead melted away with a Cozart interception returned for a touchdown with about six minutes to go being a critical play. Rypien’s status will likely be unclear until game day and it could change the Broncos offensive look and game plan.

While Rypien will be the starter if healthy, the situation for New Mexico under center might be less firm. Senior Lamar Jordan started four games last season and rushed for over 800 yards while passing for nearly 700 yards for the Lobos. With the team falling behind last week against New Mexico State, freshman Tevaka Tuioti was given a chance and he led the Lobos to 23 fourth quarter points with the team failing on a two-point conversion that would have tied the game late in a 30-28 home loss to rival New Mexico State. Bob Davie has announced that Jordan will continue to start, but the temptation to give Tuioti another opportunity could be there if there are more struggles with difficult games ahead the next three weeks.

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New Mexico rushed for 350 yards per game last season on 6.6 yards per carry, but this season the numbers are down significantly through two weeks despite what should have been two of the easier games on the schedule, averaging 217 yards on 5.6 yards per carry vs. FCS Abilene Christian and New Mexico State. With road games still remaining after this game at Tulsa, at Wyoming, at Texas A&M, and at San Diego State, it looks very unlikely that the Lobos will be able to improve in wins for a fourth straight season and the opportunity to get to a third straight bowl game will be in the balance the next few weeks.

In eight of the last 10 seasons, Boise State has won at least 10 games and the program has often been in the conversation about being a top team outside of the power 5 conferences. The Broncos have been surpassed by San Diego State as the Mountain West leaders the past two years and the opportunity for a New Year’s Day bowl game looks slim with difficult games remaining with Virginia, at BYU, at San Diego State, and at Colorado State. Bryan Harsin figures to be mentioned as a candidate for potential openings with a strong track record in three seasons in Boise State as well as a strong season at Arkansas State in 2013, but the program is not in as strong of a position as it was a few years ago.

While it didn’t matter last season, New Mexico figures to have a strong rushing edge in this matchup again. Even with Cozart adding over 100 yards on the ground from the quarterback position, the Broncos have gained just 3.5 yards per rush this season. An offensive line with three new starters appears likely to have a second straight disappointing season as the rushing averages for the Broncos have dropped each of the last two years. Senior Cedrick Wilson is on pace to be one of the top receivers in the conference with 13 catches and 212 yards this season as a big play threat for the Broncos.

Ultimately this game could come down to which team can handle the emotions of a difficult defeat on a short week. The Broncos always are a threat for an undefeated season and taking an early September loss could be a challenge though the Broncos have actually lost one of their first two games in now five of the last six seasons. For a New Mexico squad with a lot of key players missing from the best team the program has had in a nearly decade, losing twice in a row to a rival will sting. This could be a critical juncture in the season as the Lobos figure to be dogged in each of the next three games as a 1-4 start might become a reality for a program that has made great positive strides the last two years.

Last Season: A 4-0 nationally ranked Broncos squad that many pegged for a possible undefeated season went to Albuquerque on an early October Friday night and won with ease. After trading scores in the first quarter, the Broncos scored five consecutive touchdowns to take a 42-7 halftime lead. New Mexico added two scores in the final eight minutes to make the final score a bit more respectable and make for a bit of a deceptive box score with the Broncos only posting a 456-421 yardage edge, but with about half of that total for the Lobos coming on their final three possessions with the game out of reach. Brett Rypien had a huge game with nearly 400 yards passing and five touchdowns as the Broncos won and covered easily despite a 382-65 rushing edge for New Mexico with the only turnover of the game not leading to any points on a Hail Mary interception just before halftime.

Historical Trends:

-- These teams have met eight times since 1999 and in each of the last six seasons with Boise State winning seven of eight meetings but going just 3-5 ATS.

-- The last game in Boise featured a monumental upset for the Lobos, winning 31-24 as a +30½-point underdog and the Lobos had covered in every Mountain West meeting going back to 2011 until last season.

-- Boise State owns a 137-27 S/U mark at home since 1999 but a once amazing ATS record has deteriorated in recent years with the Broncos 13-29-1 ATS at home since 2010, including entering this game on a 0-9-1 ATS run the past 10 home games.

-- Since 2011, Boise State is on a 7-24-1 ATS run as a double-digit home favorite despite only losing S/U in four of those games.

-- Since Bob Davie took over in 2012, New Mexico is 28-37 S/U and 31-31-2 ATS heading into this game. In that span the Lobos are 16-11-2 ATS on the road and 21-18-2 ATS as an underdog, including 14-8-1 ATS as a double-digit underdog.

  
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