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The Big 2014 Texas State-Idaho Homecoming Preview

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Texas State and Idaho meet for a third straight year as the WAC's third oldest continuous football rivalry (really!) kicks off Saturday night in San Marcos.

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Texas_st_medium vs. Idaho_c_medium

LOCATION: Bobcat Stadium, San Marcos, TX (30,000)

WHEN: 6:00 PM, CST

TV: ESPN3

RADIO: Texas State Broadcast - 105.3 FM (Austin), 89.9 FM (San Marcos), 930 AM (San Antonio); Idaho Broadcast: Vandals Radio Network

Weather: Perfect.

Line: -17, Texas State (opened at -13). O/U 67

Key Storylines

The Texas State Bobcats are 2-2 and coming off of a stressful but triumphant 37-34 triple overtime win at Tulsa, and the Idaho Vandals are 0-4 after a 34-10 pasting in Moscow at the hands of South Alabama. Both teams, who were onetime WAC foes (realignment is amazing/dumb), are looking for their first Sun Belt win of the season.

Idaho Needs Some Hope

The Sun Belt was able to rescue the Vandals after a rough year as an independent, but 2014 has nonetheless gotten off to a rocky start for new head coach Paul Petrino and his men. Idaho remains winless despite some competitive losses to ULM, Western Michigan, and Ohio.

For Texas State fans unfamiliar with the Vandals: Imagine the lost years and mismanagement of the late 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, substitute the fertile recruiting grounds of Texas with a recruiting base of Rudy, a roll of duct tape, and that guy from the panhandle who quotes Infowars articles religiously, then play all of your games in an aircraft hangar. That's Idaho football. *sad horn*

I have an incredible amount of respect for Vandal fans who have stuck it out throughout the years, so I wanted to get their perspective on their beloved program:

Sadly, my only answer was from a buddy and Kansas Jayhawks graduate whose alma mater would likely have a very difficult time beating Idaho themselves:

How rude.

I'm just going to assume they're all 8 miles west in Washington legally partaking in their mascot's favorite way to cope with watching Idaho football.

Linehan's Aerial Attack

All snark aside, Idaho is a likely a better team than their record indicates. That's because they have a dangerous passing attack led by redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Linehan, who is on pace to throw for over 3700 yards this season.

Linehan has a potent receiving weapon to throw to in converted QB Joshua McCain, who averages around 110 yards per game and has 6 touchdown receptions in 4 games. However, Linehan does have 8 interceptions to his name along with his 9 touchdowns, so he's far from being mistake free.

The inherent problem with Idaho's offense is that it's completely one-dimensional. Averaging a pitiful 64.2 yards per game on the ground isn't going to cut it regardless of how good the aerial attack is. Texas State may not be able to totally stop Linehan, but they can either try and contain him or blitz constantly with David Mayo and Craig Mager and try to force him into a mistake.

Gaudy Numbers for Bobcat Offense?

On the other side, Tyler Jones and the Bobcats shouldn't have too tough of a time moving the ball against a defense that ranks 2nd to last in the country at defensive S/P+ and surrenders an average of 488 yards per game. Ben Ijah and Bradley Miller shouldn't have much of a problem getting open, and Jafus Gaines and Brandon Smith might be able to get in on the action against a secondary that's demonstrably worse than Tulsa's.

The biggest question mark for the Bobcats is how effective running back Robert Lowe can be after sitting out the Tulsa game with an injury. The Texas State rushing attack was blunted without him as Terrence Franks went 3.6 yards per carry at Tulsa, so Bobcat fans will want him 100% healthy. Lowe did practice this week, so that's a good sign.

Players to Watch

  • Jerrel Brown, Sr. RB, Idaho: Texas State locked down Tulsa's rushing attack in the 1st half, but they got steamrolled in the 2nd half by the Golden Hurricane as they ran dive after dive up the middle. If Brown can improve on his 44.8 yards per game, the Bobcats could be in trouble.
  • Bradley Miller, Sr. TE, Texas State: The senior led the Bobcats in receiving against Tulsa with 112 yards, and set up the clinching touchdown with an incredible catch to set up the winning touchdown in the third overtime. If fellow tight end Ryan Carden, who sat out last week's game, is still injured, Miller could get see quite a few targets once again.

Stats of Varying Importance

  • Series record: Tied, 3-3. Texas State has won the last 3 games.
  • F/+ rankings: Texas State 106 (LW 107), Idaho 120 (121)
  • Red zone conversion rate: Texas State - 91%, Idaho - 77%
  • TXST sacks earned per game: 2.5; Idaho sacks surrendered per game: 4.5
  • Idaho passing yards per game: 319.5; TXST passing yards surrendered per game: 176.2
  • Number of times I will post this GIF on twitter during the game if my phone isn't already dead: 319.5

Prediction

Opposing defenses know by now to key on defending the pass against Idaho, but the Vandals have put up some impressive numbers through the air regardless. Idaho should rack up some passing yards and points against a Bobcat secondary that's still finding its feet. What will be interesting to watch is if Idaho tries to establish the run at all or if they abandon that plan and go for broke by trying to ride Linehan's arm.

Tyler Jones is one of the best in the country at waiting until the last minute to pitch or hand off the ball to fake out opposing defenses, and he should get his usual impressive numbers. Idaho's defense is vulnerable to big plays, so Jones may be able to create the big gains that have been occasionally missing in regulation play since the UAPB game.

If Robert Lowe is back and healthy, look for the Bobcats to win relatively comfortably. If he isn't 100%, this game could be much closer than the homecoming crowd might expect.

Texas State 48, Idaho 28