Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:57 AM
Marshall at Boise State
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Marshall at Boise State
Venue/Location: Albertsons Stadium in Boise, ID
Time/TV: Friday, Sept. 6, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Line: Boise State -11, Total 55
After last week had a handful of great games on Friday, this week there are just two games that pit FBS programs against one another, and it's the later of the two out on the Smurf Turf that I'll be focusing on here.
Last week's piece ended up playing out alright, as Rutgers is going into Iowa this week off a win of 20+ over Massachusetts, staying away from Oklahoma State wasn't the best idea as they brought out their offense early and often against a bad Oregon State team, while the Best Bet on the 'over' in the Colorado-Colorado State showdown cashed with relative ease.
It was a nice start to a season of Friday Showcase breakdowns, and hopefully this week brings more rewards to all those inclined to join.
Marshall and Boise State both come into this game with 1-0 SU records, but while Marshall beat up on FCS Virginia Military (56-17), Boise State was on the road in Tallahassee, engineering a great 2nd half comeback to beat Florida State. The Broncos outscored FSU 17-0 in the final 30 minutes, as a combination of great in-game adjustments and a gassed FSU team who appeared to have shot their full shot in the opening 30 minutes enabled Boise State to comeback. Given that it was true freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier that orchestrated that comeback for the Broncos, this “rebuilding” year for Boise State may have turned into a “contending” year after just a single game.
But just like we will see next week when Week 2 of the NFL season arrives, Week 2 in college football is known for overreactions as well. Excitement for the season means football consumption is at an all-time high in Week 1 in terms of sheer volume of games consumed (bettors trying to get a handle on teams across the country), and there are always some snap judgements made after good/bad Week 1 performances. Keep that in mind as you navigate your way through the entire college football betting board this week, but Boise State contending for a Mountain West title this year with their youthful roster is still not something I'm sold on yet. That being said, Boise State is still Boise State, and you've got to give them the benefit of the doubt in terms of recruiting quality talent and coaching them up once they arrive on campus.
But it's that same positive, potential overreaction on the Broncos win that has seen early money for this game push the number Marshall's way after opening up at -12. An early week move like that is very understandable on multiple levels, as the perception of how good Boise State is this year is definitely inflated a touch after the Florida State win, and laying double digits with a freshman QB in his first career home start against FBS competition is still a big ask. Marshall's a team that's still projected to be the program that does very well in Conference USA this season, and relies on a great returning O-line to spark a highly explosive running game.
Yet, at the same time, Marshall was not challenged in any aspect of football in its Week 1 win over VMI, and taking that initial step up for a team can bring some issues. For one, it's a road game on a short week, meaning that travel cuts into prep time on the field in that regard for Marshall, and the home field advantage that the Smurf Turf brings Boise State is one of the better ones in the land.
There will likely be no 6.1 yards per rush for Marshall this week like they had a week ago, and their 55% 3rd down conversion rate on offense (6-for-11) should take a hit as well. Boise's State's comeback against FSU was fueled by the ability of their defense to get off the field on 3rd down – Florida State was 1-for-12 on 3rd down in the game – and the offense's ability to stay on the field on 3rd down (10-for-19) against what should be a quality program. Remember, Marshall went 55% on 3rd down against VMI, Boise State nearly did the same (53%) against Florida State. The opening number of 12 points was warranted and may even end back up there by the time kickoff arrives.
So while it's still fine to take a long-term cautious approach with Boise State this year – there will be some dud games for the freshman QB – I do believe backing them this week is the right move. Going against the early line move does bring some minor concerns, but you can't underestimate (or perhaps quantify) the confidence someone like Hank Bachmeier gained from that comeback win at FSU last week, and hopefully that rolls over into Friday's game as well.
With Marshall's defense still having a big question mark in terms of their ability to stop the run this year, Boise State should be able to use the running game – RB Robert Mahone had 142 yards rushing on 24 attempts vs FSU (2 TDs) – to open up the pass, because Marshall's secondary enters the year as the strength of the unit and one that's probably eager to get a crack at Bachmeier. But if they are forced to come down into the box to help stop the run – which I believe they will be – things can really start to open up for Bachmeier and Boise's attack can get on a roll from there.
Playing under the lights on the Smurf Turf typically is rough for visiting teams as it is, and with Marshall as a program on a 0-7 ATS run after allowing fewer than 20 points, and 3-7 ATS when coming off a win of 20+ points, the initial move on them makes sense, but it won't be the one that gets bettors to the payout window.