Game Preview: UVA has a chance at Boise State

Vegas and the ESPN Power Index don’t give UVA much of a chance to win at Boise State on Friday night.

uva boise stateThe betting line favors Boise State by 13. The ESPN Power Index gives the Broncos the nod by 12, and has the win probability for UVA at just 20 percent.

But don’t sleep on the Cavs’ chances out west. This game is there for the taking.

For one, Boise State (2-1) hasn’t been tearing the college football world apart through the first quarter of the season. Week 1, Boise State struggled in a 24-13 win over Troy (ESPN PI rank: 82), only salting the game away with a touchdown with 2:13 to go.

Week 2, the Broncos blew at 31-10 lead at Washington State (ESPN PI: 28) in what turned into a 47-44 loss.

And then Week 3, it was a middling 28-14 win over New Mexico (ESPN PI: 100) in a game that was 14-7 Boise State heading into the fourth quarter.

Virginia (2-1) has one win over an FCS opponent (a 28-10 win in Week 1 over William & Mary), a demoralizing 34-17 loss at home in Week 2 to Indiana (ESPN PI: 52), and a nice rebound in a 38-18 win over UConn (ESPN PI: 118) in Week 3.

In that win, the Cavs seem to figure out what they needed to do to move the ball on the ground, gaining 171 yards and 5.5 yards a carry after gaining a total of 147 yards (2.9 yards a carry) the first two weeks combined.

Senior quarterback Kurt Benkert, for his part, had a school-record performance, throwing for 455 yards and three TDs in the rout.

Boise State, on the other sideline, has an unsettled quarterback situation, with Week 1 starter Brett Rypien missing the New Mexico game with an undisclosed injury. Montell Cozart threw for 137 yards and two touchdowns in Rypien’s place, but coach Bryan Harsin seems to be leaning toward giving the ball back to Rypien this week, assuming Rypien is a go.

Another issue for Harsin is junior defensive tackle David Moa, who was arrested early Saturday morning on a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace. Harsin would not say on Monday whether Moa, who led Boise State with 8.5 sacks last season, would play on Friday, saying discipline will be handled in-house.

The Broncs’ D, ranked 13th in the ESPN Power Index, allowing 315.7 yards a game, is the strength of the team, with the offense struggling (340.7 yards per game, ranked 102nd in the ESPN PI).

It’s one game, but the UVA offense did gain 626 yards against UConn last week, so how that unit fares against the Boise State defense will be significant.

And the Virginia defense is nothing to sneeze at – allowing a respectable 327.3 yards per game, with UConn gaining 153 yards against subs in garbage time in the fourth quarter.

The game is out west, on the blue turf, on a Friday night, meaning UVA is coming in on a short week, while Boise State, which last played on Thursday night, actually has an extra day of prep time.

Those factors favor the Broncos, certainly, but the unit analysis, at least, suggests that Virginia can be competitive.

Even if Vegas and the computers don’t necessarily agree.

Story by Chris Graham

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