Boise State finished 28th in the country in rush defense, allowing 120.4 yards per game last year. This was despite facing four of the top eight rushing offenses in terms of yards per game. They played very well against the spread offenses of Oregon and TCU, but gave up big games against Nevada's pistol and Fresno State's conventional running attack.
Fresno State was explosive against Boise as you can see by Ryan Mathews' three rushing touchdowns of 60 yards or more. Those three carries accounted for 197 yards as finished with 239 yards on 19 carries.
Mathews was the best traditional running back Boise faced during its 14-0 season last year. The 6-0, 218 pound back was taken 12th over in the NFL Draft by San Diego led the country in yards per game with 150.67. He was able to gash through the Boise defense on those three plays to help get Fresno back in the game after falling behind 24-3.
If he was able to have a performance like that against the Broncos, could Ryan Williams do the same? While Mathews is a bit more of a power back, his ability to read the line of scrimmage and break tackles remind me of how Williams runs.
Williams is perfectly capable of breaking of the kind of runs Mathews did last September. But is that the kind of game we want to see? Mathews gained over 80 percent of his yards on three carries but averaged only 2.6 yards on his other 16 carries with a long of eight. In order to beat Boise, the Hokies will need to control the ball better than Fresno did in its 51-34 loss.
Boise State's defense is tough. It proved that against Oregon, TCU and really every team it faced last season. But even the Broncos' talented D was susceptible to a traditional, power running attack. That could mean good things for Williams and however he gets I think we'll be happy with the result if he finishes the game with 239 yards.