During trips to Lac Cruces and Seattle, they've looked much-improved at times and much the same at others. For sure, the verdict is still out on the Idaho Vandals. But you could call today a measuring-stick type of game.
Read on for more about UI-San Diego State non-conference tilt at the new-look Kibbie Dome.
First, here's my short preview in today's S-R, which details why today will be a good gauge for the Vandals. (For other game previews, check out the San Diego Press-Tribune, the North County Times, and the Lewiston Tribune).
The Vandals have talked about how improved they are since the start of fall camp, but they've only shown that development in spots so far. Can they sustain a solidly played game for four quarters against a club that racked up over 600 yards of offense last year against them, and can they do so in front of a home crowd? It would be a momentous step if they can -- not only to bring out more support at future home games but to show the program is indeed moving up the ladder.
"I know ... that by filling this place up and it getting loud, it can become a great home-field advantage and can be louder than any stadium in the conference," Robb Akey said of the refurnished Kibbie Dome. "And that is something — I want the fans to really understand that’s a weapon. That’s a player for us."
If that's not enough, this represents perhaps Idaho's best chance at snagging a non-conference win this season. Next week the Vandals are at Northern Illinois, which looks like a pretty legit MAC team so far, and then they play Colorado State at home.
SDSU, meawhile, hasn't won a non-conference game on the road in six years. So it too will be itching for a breakthrough of sorts.
It's hard to imagine this not being an offensive showdown. Last year's score was 45-17, and the last time SDSU was in Moscow, the Vandals pulled out a 48-38 win in 2002. One of the key questions today will be how UI's shaky secondary can do against Vincent Brown, the Aztecs' premier threat and a highly skilled deep threat. He and QB Ryan Lindley torched Idaho last season.
Of critical importance will be the Vandals' pass rush and front four play. If they can make Lindley uncomfortable -- even just a little -- it will bode well. UI defenders got decent pressure in the opener at New Mexico State, but registering actual sacks in the first two games has been another matter. So far, Michael Cosgrove has the lone sack of the season.
Finally, here's an interesting stat to leave you with: Idaho hasn't beaten a non-conference FBS (formerly Division 1-A) team since 2004, when it won at Eastern Michigan.