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Mailbag - Boise State Edition

The Huskies are set to battle with the Broncos of the flagship university in our nation's 51st state, which of course is Boise. You can't hold Boise back. You can only hope to contain it.

William Mancebo/Getty Images

First, your weekly dose of useless facts.

Coca Cola would be green if coloring wasn't added to it.

In Germany, there are fake bus stops outside many nursing homes to prevent confused seniors from wandering off.

All polar bears are left handed.

Elephants use the skin folds on their backs to crush mosquitoes.

If you ship too many pistachios in a single container, they can self-heat and experience spontaneous combustion.

Dueling is legal in Paraguay, as long as both parties are registered blood donors.

In Singapore, it is illegal to sell or own chewing gum.

A strawberry isn't actually a berry, but a banana is.

An American urologist bought Napolean's penis for $40,000.

Huskies outside linebacker coach Skip Hall was named Boise State University's head coach in 1987, but his acceptance was contingent on Ronald Reagan granting Boise statehood so the university's name would be linguistically correct.

To the questions!!!!


Is Browning the starter?

UWDP: Yep.  Unless it's Jeff Lindquist.  Or K.J. Carta-Samuels.  Or Tony Rodriguez.  Or me.

Chris Petersen is playing this one close to the vest, even going as far as to encourage speculation from media and fans.  He said he's told the team who the starter is, and to their collective credit, 105 players have been able to keep the secret so far.

It's up to you how much stock you want to put in rumors.  Chris Fetters tweeted out that Browning is the starter a few days ago, and while that doesn't mean much, of the guys, he's the one that seems the most concerned with his credibility.

Let's read tea leaves, just for the fun of it:  About a week and a half ago, Jonathan Smith said that Jeff Lindquist had established a slight separation from the other QB's.  In his press conference a couple of days ago, Petersen said the decision came down to how the group had practiced "over the last handful of days."  Soooooo......

Why that means the starter will be Jeff Lindquist: He didn't do anything to lose his lead in the competition.  And it's tough to believe that, if he actually had the lead most suggested he did coming out of the spring and through most of fall camp, that three or four practices would trump what happened in the prior 30 or so practices and summer workouts.

Why it means the starter will be Jake Browning: I think the coaching staff wanted the (relatively) experienced, physically-ready redshirt junior to win the job.  Starting a true freshman quarterback is never the ideal, especially on the road against a good team.  But when Lindquist failed to put a choke hold on the starting position from the get go in camp, it became more and more likely that starting Browning might be the reality.  Playing the cat-and-mouse game might cause Boise State to have to prepare for a little extra for two guys with different styles, but keeping the information in the family is more about protecting Jake Browning from the added pressure for a few extra days.

My gut says it's Browning, but I'm really not "rooting" for a particular outcome either way.  Lindquist is probably the safer choice, but if the future of Husky football is now, let's see what we've got and grow with the kid.  We'll find out tomorrow.

Kirk's Conscience:

Give me three reasons that UW should NOT be a touchdown dog to Boise State

UWDP: If I'm being intellectually honest, the Huskies should be more than a touchdown underdog.  But if I'm going to manufacture reasons for you, I suppose they'd be:

1.  Washington has more raw talent on its roster.  Boise State wanted most of the guys that ended up signing as Huskies, but Washington didn't want many of the guys that ended up at Boise State.

2.  There's more pressure on Boise State to win, and look good doing it.  And for an unproven, untested quarterback to establish himself.

3.  Boise State has an unproven coaching staff, and is a product of their reputation right now.  Yes, they went 12-2 last season, but they didn't belong on the same field as Ole Miss, and the win over Arizona was as much about Arizona playing poorly at the outset of the game.

I don't really believe that stuff too much, though.  Boise State is more experienced (particularly on the lines), Boise State is more established (their coaching change was much more seamless than Washington's), and Boise State is playing at home.  They deserve to be favored, and favored by a fairly substantial margin.


1) How talented is the 'new' Boise quarterback ?(running back?) 2) How many tickets was Washington allowed ? 3) (Vegas lines) How many points does the blue turf earn ? 4) What is the current line ? 5) What team has the most to lose ?

UWDP: A five-fer.

1.  We really don't know.  Ryan Finley's only meaningful reps last season came in relief of the Bronco's struggling starter in a blowout situation.  Finley lead two late scoring drives, but also threw an interception and was only 12-25 on the game.  He's 6' 4" and 200 pounds, and fairly mobile but not actually a runner.  His coaches call him a leader and praise his toughness.  But really, he's an unknown.

It's likely that several backs see the ball for the Broncos this year.  Candidates are Stanford graduate transfer (yes, the natural progression is to get your undergraduate degree in computer science, and then pursue a master's at Boise State) Kelsey Young, his younger brother Cory Young, Jeremy McNichols, and Devan Demas.  It sounds like the coaches want to get all of them touches, and then ride the hot hand as the game dictates.  One thing seems certain, though; there will be a significant dropoff from the talented Jay Ajayi.

2.  I don't know the exact number, but here's BSU's seating chart:

See that little tiny bit of black in the corner?  That's the visitor's section.  In a stadium that only holds around 35,000 people what do you think that is, maybe 2,000 seats?

3.  Boise State has a great home field advantage, but I really don't think the blue turf is worth any more than the generic 3 points on the line.  As an aside, Boise State isn't very good against the spread at home - probably largely due to some egregious spreads.

4.  Let me google that for you.....Looks like a low of 10, and a high of 12.5.  It hasn't really changed much.

5.  I think it's Boise.  They don't have a particularly great schedule this year (especially at home), and the Mountain West isn't perceived to be very deep, as seen by its dropping below the AAC in many pre-season conference power rankings.  A loss, or even a not-so-great showing against a low-flying Washington team could hurt their upward mobility as the season goes on, with the only real meaningful game left against Utah State in Logan.


Did Woodward write into the game contract (as I understand some other non-conference visitors do) that BSU cannot wear all blue uniforms?

UWDP: Nope.  The Huskies will be playing the blue man group on the blue rug.  I hate the aesthetic on TV, but am very interested to see what it looks like in person.


How will BSU fans react to the return of Coach Pete?

UWDP: This is going to be interesting to see.  I expect the reaction will be mixed, but mostly positive.  Petersen didn't cross the Boise state lines in the trunk of a rented Chrysler in the dead of night.  To the best of his ability in a instant-information age, he attempted to be as above-board as possible.  And it's just not possible for a coach to control the narrative here.  There's too much information, and speculation, for that to happen.

Petersen gave Boise football a lot of good years.  I don't think he ever said he'd be there for life.  But I expect there'll be a certain amount of bad behavior.  I remember rick neuheisel's (who did sneak out of Boulder in the dead of night in the trunk of a rented Chrysler) first two games against Colorado in 1999 and 2000.  At Husky stadium in 1999, Colorado fans bought tickets near the tunnel simply for the opportunity to yell at neuheisel as he walked onto or off the field before the game, at halftime, and after the game.  His treatment in 2000 in Colorado was much worse.


Not a Boise question, but should we be worried that Sean McGrew is talking about taking a trip to Notre Dame considering Coach Petersen's view on visits?

UWDP: It's recruiting.  There's always a risk that a kid will flip at some point along the way.

The thing with that article, though - it's not clear that McGrew actually said he'd take a trip to Notre Dame if he was offered, or if that last part was the author's own editorial.

McGrew is committed to Washington and said no matter what he could prefer playing in the Pac-12 but if Notre Dame offers then he could take a trip to South Bend.

McGrew has to be aware how high the stakes are should he choose to make that visit.  I don't think he does.

Kirk's Conscience:

I'm concerned that we are banking on the secondary to be the strength of the defense before they are ready to be. They are, after all, still a very young unit. Do you see the DBs as the strength of that D?

UWDP: There's a difference between "a strength" and "a relative strength."  And the secondary at this point is more the latter than the former.  Even though there's a lot of youth in the back end, it's also the unit that's return the most starts.  Yes, the secondary got pounded last season.  But it also improved quite a bit as the season went along, and it's not unreasonable to expect those true freshmen to take a big step forward in year two in the program.

That being said, I'm probably more bullish on the front seven than most, especially with the front line players.  I think Elijah Qualls played very well as a reserve last season as the year wore on, and Jojo Mathis seems to have taken on a leadership role.  I'm excited to see what Will Dissly looks like as a sophomore, after an excellent spring.  And I'm expecting to see big things from Jaylen Johnson (my prediction for breakout freshman of the year on defense).  I think Travis Feeney will excel at the BUCK (in a different way than Kikaha did), and the linebackers may be a more athletic, albeit inexperienced, group than last year.  I don't expect the front seven to be as good as the 2014 version right away by any means, but I also think that as the years goes on, it won't drop off the cliff that a lot of people expect it will.  And if the secondary follows a fairly natural trajectory, the defense as a whole could be as good as 2014.


If Browning is indeed name the starter, are we in it for the long haul with him this season? In other words, it seems like if Lindquist was named starter, and struggled mightily, there would be no hesitation in giving him the hook. But if Browning struggles and gets pulled after two games and Lindquist does well in his place, then we've essentially wasted a year of Browning eligibility. Although, I guess if that were the case Lindquist would almost certainly be the started next year as a 5th year senior, and Browning could redshirt then...

UWDP: Well, first of all, I tend to think we're in it for the long haul with whomever is named the starter.  And that's also true if we actually do see a platoon at the position.  Like just about every coach out there, Petersen et al. wants to make the "right" decision, and is going to give himself every chance to prove that he's made the "right" decision.  With somewhat disparate styles, this team is going to need to develop some continuity at the QB position to establish an identity.

You are correct that if Browning starters and plays very poorly, we may end up wasting a year of his eligibility.  That's a real risk.  Petersen and Smith are going to have to manage for that, even if it means holding him back a little at the outset.  Mitigating risk - if Browning ends up the starter, I think it suggests that he has a fairy commanding lead on the position.  Short of a complete breakdown (like eight interceptions in the first three games, and a complete lack of control of the offense), he's going to be the guy.


I for one am looking forward to this season. I see a lot of talent on our team tho it may be young and raw. I think that Washington should and will play with a chip on their shoulder. What are your thoughts?

UWDP: I agree there's talent on the roster, even though much of it is young and raw.  And I think they'll play with a chip on their collective shoulder, especially early.  Like most teams do.  What's going to be really key to watch is how things go when they start to experience some adversity.  And they will.

This has been said several times, by several different people around here:  We can sit around and wait until the roster is filled with experienced talent, or this coaching staff can make this team start playing better.  It's undoubtedly going to have to happen at some point.  Why not this year?


Who will be UW's breakout player in the opener @BSU?

UWDP: I give you one for each unit.

Offense: I'm going to go obvious here and pick Jake Browning.  I don't expect that the coaches will expect him to win the game on his own, or even put him in a position to do so.  But I could easily see him having a very efficient, 23-31 for 227 yards and two TD type of game.  More importantly, gaining the respect and trust of his teammates and coaches.

Defense: Jojo Mathis.  In each of his first two seasons on Montlake, Mathis has played much better at the end of the year than the beginning.  In the blink of an eye it seems, he's now a veteran upperclassmen.  He's matured immensely, and seems to have embraced the Petersen Way entering his junior season.  Always a talented player, I think the way he's embraced a leadership role leads to a big season in 2015 for him, and it starts in game one.  1.5 sacks, 3 tackles for lost yardage, 8 total tackles.

Special Teams: Because he apparently didn't get enough snaps last year, the coaches have decided that Budda Baker should return kicks as well as take every snap on defense, play most special teams, keep the Gatorade bottles full, slice the oranges for the post-game snack, and pick up Jimmy Lake's dry cleaning.  One to the house (called back, of course), one to the 50.


Can we expect much HUNH offense this season?

UWDP: Almost undoubtedly.  It's the new normal for college football.

And no matter who starts at QB, he's going to be inexperienced.  Playing fast - keeping the defense from substituting, preventing the number of "looks" they're able to give - is an advantage, in my mind.  It helps prevent overthinking at the line of scrimmage.  It puts execution at a premium over adjustment.

I think Mike Belotti had it right a few years ago when he said that if a team wants to play fast, they need to do it all of the time.  If the Huskies are going to do it, I hope they do it even more than last year.


Does our choice in QB affect our run to pass ratio? What will this season's ratio be?

UWDP: Probably, at least a little.  If Browning is the starter, you aren't going to see many called quarterback runs.  And the option aspects of the offense will probably revolve more around run/pass package plays as opposed to the zone read stuff at which Lindquist (or Carta-Samuels) would provide the greater benefit.

I don't think there's any doubt that Petersen wants to be able to run the ball, but I think in a perfect world he wants to be more balanced than he was in 2014 when the team had nearly a 60/40 run-pass ratio no matter who the quarterback is.  And, no matter who it is, the Huskies are going to be able to utilize more of the field in the passing game, so that ratio will probably move more toward equal no matter who is taking snaps.

As to the exact ratio, it depends a lot on their record.  If the Huskies have a winning season, the run-pass ratio will be 53.61/46.39.  If they have a losing season, it'll be 48.77/51.23.  Unless they give 110% out there.


Boise fan here. I think the media, prognosticators, and especially fans are way too confident about the upcoming game. To me, the teams look about the same. For example, the q.b. situations are about the same. Y'all see it that way too?

UWDP: On which side?  I think the media, prognosticators, and Boise State fans are expecting a comfortable Bronco win.  Is that what you mean?  Because other than a few fans and some slapstick responses, I don't really see many people predicting an easy Husky win.

I think the Huskies may have an edge in raw talent, but Boise has pretty significant edges in experience (and experienced depth), the home field, and continuity (as I previously mentioned, their coaching transition was more seamless than Washington's).

I think Washington has more potential at the QB position, but the complimentary players around Ryan Finley make up that advantage, and likely more so.  So I generally agree.

If I was to rank the odds of potential outcomes, I'd probably put it like this:

1.  Boise State wins a competitive game




2.  Boise State wins in a blowout

3.  Washington wins a competitive game










4.  Washington wins in a blowout


What are some ways that our Huskies can use to neutralize Boise State's home field advantage?

UWDP: The single best way - by far - would be to jump out to an early lead.  Score on the opening drive, get a quick three-and-out or a turnover, and score again.  Then get another stop.  Barring that, the Huskies have to be able to move the ball and keep Boise State from getting into an offensive rhythm.  In short, grind.  And grind.  They have to go into halftime ahead or tied, and they have to show that they're the better team throughout the half on both sides of the ball.  Otherwise, the fans are going to be in this game from the beginning to the end.  I expect that to be the case.


We know that the weakness in Boise State is the QB and RB. What are the strengths that are not being talked about, that we should worry about?

UWDP: Boise State's greatest strength is experience in general (something like 18 returning starters(, and in particular on both lines of scrimmage.  On offense, every starter is back on a line that was pretty good in 2014.  On defense, they have virtually their entire two-deep back on the line, plus add in a couple of players that were expected to be major contributors in 2014, but missed the season due to injuries.

The secondary is probably the strength that's getting the least amount of coverage around here.  That's a mistake.  It's headlined by strong safety Darian Thompson (7 INT's in 2014) cornerback Donte Deayon (6 INT's in 2014).  Both are on the preseason Jim Thorpe Award watchlist (Deayon for the 3rd consecutive year).  Jonathan Moxey started 12 of 14 games in 2014 at the other corner, and recorded seven pass break-ups and an interception.  It's a talented, veteran group, and will be going against a crew of young Husky receivers.

Ben Nice:

Other than turnovers, what is the biggest factor in whether the Huskies win on Friday? I think its the offensive line.

UWDP: Short of a huge disparity in the turnover margin, a Husky win is going to mean that just about every unit exceeds expectations.  The offensive line is a good place to start.  Winning a shootout on the road is a tall task, so the defensive line will have to play well, too (relative to expectations).  And the receivers are going to have to be able to make plays down the field against a veteran secondary.  And the QB(s) are going to have to make plays while protecting the ball themselves....

Darin Johnson:

College Football Matrix has the Dawgs rated 26th, with a predicted record of 10-3 including a win over Boise State.

The author also points out that Peterson's coaching effect (what you might call "program effect") was -4 last year. I.e., the Huskies lost four, more games than they "should" have given their roster. This qualifies Peterson for the Charlie Weis Anti--Coach of the Year award for the Pac-12. My question is this. What effect do you think the increased momentum of photons due to the blue-shifted spectrum at Boise State will have on the coin-toss?

UWDP: I suppose that depends on the extent of the blueshift, and if it's enough to affect the de Brogie wavelength of the atoms and molecules of the coin.  To be safe, I'd decide right now to call "heads" and just be done with it.

I like CFB matrix, but I think it's a little reductive when accounting for coaching changes.


Who is Lyle Smith and why did they name the field after him? Was he some kind of hockey coach?

UWDP: Lyle Smith is a producer, production manager, and sometimes cast member for TV shows such as "Kitchen Nightmares" (2007-2011), "La La's Full Court Life" (2011-2013), "T.I. and Tiny:  The Family Hustle" (2012-2013), and "Redneck Island" (2012-2013).   I have no idea why Boise State University named its field after him.  It's possible it came from political pressure applied by the state of Boise government.  It's all politics.

abidi-abidi-abidi that's all folks.  Tuck the kids in early, get your faces painted, and get ready to break some broncos!