A look at who has the advantage at each position when Boise State meets Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium:
Boise State will give Oregon different looks, as Montell Cozart probably will continue to see sporadic reps in place of Brett Rypien. Oregon was a different team when 2018 Heisman Trophy hopeful Justin Herbert was under center this season. The Ducks were 6-1 and averaged more than 50 points when he played. They scored 15 points a game and went 1-4 in the games he missed.
Oregon’s vaunted running game takes a huge hit, as Royce Freeman and his 1,475 yards and 16 touchdowns will sit out to guard against an injury that could affect his NFL draft status. Boise State’s Alexander Mattison has struggled lately, but he finished with 1,074 yards rushing and 12 scores. He will be a game-time decision with a lower-leg injury.
Dillon Mitchell (33) and Charles Nelson (30) are the only Oregon players to record more than 20 catches, as the Ducks ran the ball 50 times per game. Tight end Jacob Breeland has five touchdowns on 17 catches. Boise State tight end Jake Roh has nine touchdowns, but he’s a game-time decision with a leg injury after missing the past two games. Cedric Wilson is the go-to receiver for the Broncos, catching 73 passes for 1,290 yards and six scores.
Edge: Boise State
The Ducks have been solid up front, enabling the team to run for 268 yards per game on an average of 5.4 yards per carry. The holes should be there for whoever carries the ball, especially with star left tackle Tyrell Crosby confirming he will play. Boise State averaged 3.9 yards per attempt and allowed just more than two sacks per game.
Jalen Jelks had seven of the Ducks’ 32 sacks and can wreak havoc on a backfield. The teams allowed similar numbers against the run, but Boise State has struggled to make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Oregon’s Troy Dye is a first-team All-Pac 12 selection who had 103 total tackles, 48 more than any of his teammates. Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch led the team with 129 tackles. He also had three forced fumbles, three interceptions, three sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. The Broncos limited San Diego State star Rashaad Penny to 53 rushing yards.
Edge: Boise State
Boise State has been good at limiting big plays in the passing game, but the Broncos are No. 83 in the nation in efficiency against the pass. Oregon has given up almost two touchdowns per game through the air, the Ducks have allowed opponents to complete just 55 percent of their passes.
Boise State’s Avery Williams is the biggest difference-maker in this group. He’s particularly dangerous on punt returns, taking two back for touchdowns this season.
Edge: Boise State
It’s usually easy to pick against a team with a change at the top entering the bowl game. Oregon is in a unique situation, however. The players demanded Mario Cristobal get the job after Willie Taggart left for Florida State last week, and several have said they need to win to validate the athletic department’s faith in them after Cristobal was handed the full-time gig.
Brad Powers (Pregame.com): Oregon 35, Boise State 27 — It was a tale of two seasons for the Ducks with Herbert at quarterback. Freeman is the Ducks’ all-time leading rusher, but Kani Benoit has 10 rushing touchdowns this season and is a capable replacement.
After a 2-2 start, Boise State won eight of its final nine games and went 6-3 against the spread.
While Boise State is on a 6-2 ATS run as a bowl underdog, Oregon is a legitimate top-20 team with Herbert under center.