Last December, Husker fans gazed at the upcoming schedule and realized the 2012 non-conference schedule was setting up to be fairly strong, all things considered. UCLA was playing in the Pac-12 championship game and then the "Fight Hunger Bowl", Southern Miss headed to the islands to play in the Hawaii Bowl, and Arkansas State played in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. But there still was that "TBA" on the schedule for September 22nd that needed to be filled, and it remained open until February when Idaho State filled the remaining schedule vacancy. Not the Idaho Vandals, mind you, and certainly not Boise State. No, it's Idaho State of Division 1-AA (aka the "FCS") and the Big Sky Conference.
But hey, some of those 1-AA teams can be pretty good. South Dakota State kept it competitive with Nebraska in 2010, and Craig Bohl's North Dakota State teams regularly like to beat up on Minnesota. And who can forget Appalachian State defeating Michigan a few years back.
Idaho State has not been one of "those" 1-AA teams. Last season, Jeff Sagarin's power rankings had the Bengals ranked 205th. Let's put that in comparison: Chattanooga ended last season ranked 127th, and North Dakota State was ranked 37th. The Bengals went 2-9 last season, with their victories coming over winless Northern Colorado and Western State College of Division 2.
Two weeks after Idaho State defeated Western State 44-7, Nebraska-Kearney defeated Western State 55-14.Yeah, that Nebraska-Kearney that's about 100 miles west of Lincoln. So let's not make any excuses. Idaho State is not a very good football team, which means our preview is pretty light. The Idaho State offense revolves around senior quarterback Kevin Yost, who completed 61% of his passes for 15 touchdowns last season. That works out to 270 yards a game with an efficiency ranking of 116.7. For comparison, Taylor Martinez's pass efficiency was 126.5 last season. Yost also threw 12 interceptions last season.
When Yost drops back to pass, he's usually looking for wide receiver Rodrick Rumble, who caught 112 passes last season for nine touchdowns. He averaged 122.5 yards receiving a game last season, earning him 1-AA all-American honors. Tight end Josh Hill emerged as a secondary target, catching 48 passes last season to earn honorable mention all-conference honors.
Last season, Idaho State's rushing game was an afterthought. Leading rusher Jarrod Daniels carried the ball 39 times last season for 157 yards. In comparison, Rex Burkhead carried the ball 38 times for 160 yards against Iowa last season. If anything, Yost was the ball carrier nearly half the time, losing 56 yards on the season on 117 carries. All told, Idaho State rushed for 309 yards last season. In the spring game, Idaho State sought to run the ball more with sophomore Daniel McSurdy, who carried the ball eight times for 76 yards and two touchdowns.
On defense, the Bengals need to replace their top three tacklers from 2011 - all linebackers. Safety Tanner Davis' 58 tackles tops the returning defenders. Up front, the Bengals should be led by 6'3" 226 pound defensive end Jake Rouser, who had 51 tackles last season, 9.5 for a loss. Yes, I said 226 pounds. Only one defensive lineman, 6'2" 262 pound junior Austin Schnizler tops the 250 pound mark. And no linebacker tops 225 pounds. Get the idea that you can run on Idaho State? You sure could last season, as the Bengals ranked 116th out of 120 in rushing defense in 1-AA. And as you might expect, opponents could score at will last season as well, averaging over 36 points a game, ranking the Bengals at 111th in scoring defense.
It's going to be quite the rebuilding project for head coach Mike Kramer, now in his second year in Pocatello. He previously had winning records at Montana State from 2000-2006 and Eastern Washington (1994-1999), but Idaho State might be his biggest project of all. An upset over Nebraska certainly would send shock waves throughout college football, but this matchup does not bode well for the Bengals. A passing quarterback who isn't much of a threat to run plays right into the Blackshirts strength, while Idaho State's inability to stop the run puts them against the eight-ball against the Nebraska offense. Idaho State simply looks like one of the worst teams to come to Lincoln in many, many years, and this game should be over early.