Baylor (6-6) vs Boise Stat (10-2)
When: Tuesday, December 27th 2016
Where: Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ
Time: 10:15 ET | TV: ESPN
The Baylor Bears look to end the season on a high-note when they take on the Boise State Broncos in the Cactus Bowl being held at Chase Field – home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Head coach Jim Grobe took over on an interim basis when Art Briles was fired on May 26th amid the school’s sexual assault scandal and led the team to a 6-0 start, but the Bears, who hired Temple’s Matt Rhule to become permanent head coach last week, struggled down the stretch and lost their final six. This will be the second time Baylor will play a bowl game in the Phoenix area in the last four seasons. After winning the 2013 Big 12 championship, the Bears were upset by Central Florida 52-42 in the Fiesta Bowl. The Bears have the fifth-ranked offense in the nation at an average of 523.3 yards per game including 250.3 yards rushing. However, most of that was accomplished with Seth Russell (152-of-278, 2,126 yards, 20 TD passes) at quarterback and the senior won’t play after breaking his left ankle in a 45-24 loss at Oklahoma on November 12th. Freshman Zach Smith started the final three games at quarterback and threw eight touchdown passes and six interceptions over that span. The running game will also be short-handed as senior Shock Linwood (751 yards) will not play to focus on the upcoming NFL Draft, so the Bears will lean on sophomore Terence Williams (945 yards, 11 TDs, 5.9 per carry). Baylor gives up an average of 30.4 points per contest, ranking them 81st in FBS.
The last time Boise State was in a Bowl game against a Big 12 opponent, it turned out to be one of the most memorable games in history. It was the 2007 Fiesta Bowl against an Adrian Peterson-led Oklahoma team that Boise State upset 43-42 in overtime. That game is famous for a 50-yard hook and ladder touchdown play by the Broncos on 4th-and-18 with 18 seconds to go to force overtime, and then Boise State won it with a Statue of Liberty two-point conversion by running back Ian Johnson who then proposed a few minutes later to his girlfriend in the middle of his nationally-televised postgame interview. After falling to Air Force for the third consecutive year and failing to make it into the conference championship for the second straight season, the Broncos are ready to end the season with some momentum. Junior running back Jeremy McNichols (1,663 yards and 23 touchdowns rushing), sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien (3,341 yards, 23 TDs passing), and wide receivers Thomas Sperbeck (72 catches, 1,193 yards, nine touchdowns) led the attack. Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson (50, 1,041, 10) also contributes to an offense that averaged 35.6 points and 479.8 yards per game this season. The defense should be ready for Baylor’s passing attack as they rank 26th in that category allowing under 200 yards a game.
This Baylor team is a mess right now and their senior running back is quitting the team to focus on the next level. Zach Smith has not been impressive taking over for Russell and the Broncos will force him to make mistakes. I think Boise State rolls in this one.
Pick: Boise State -7.5