It may not have the appeal of an SEC clash, but when Fresno State travels to the blue field to take on Boise State, there will be plenty of Mountain West implications to consider.
After losing to Michigan State to start the season, Boise has recovered with four (often hard-fought) wins. Meanwhile, Fresno State has fallen to high-powered offenses in Oregon and Tulsa and will be looking to salvage the season through conference play.
This has the potential to be one of the most exciting games of the weekend. Let's preview the final Mountain West clash ever between these two squads.
Where: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho
When: Saturday, October 6 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: NBC Sports Network
Listen: KMJ 580 AM & 1600 AM ESPN Deportes (Fresno); Sirius XM
Betting Line: Boise State (-6.5), according to Bet Online
Fresno State Injuries (via USA Today)
DL Todd Hunt, Knee, Questionable
Boise State Injuries (via USA Today)
OL Jake Broyles, Undisclosed, Questionable
TE Gabe Linehan, Hamstring, Questionable
RB Drew Wright, Undisclosed, Questionable
Two teams undefeated in Mountain West play meet for the last time before Boise State heads to the Big East. Fresno State will probably be glad to see them go; the Broncos have won six straight meetings between the two schools.
Top 25 Implications
Fresno State probably isn't going to sneak into the rankings after losses to Oregon (understandable) and Tulsa (somewhat understandable). Boise State won't get a major bump in the rankings with a win, but it will certainly drop out of the top 25 with a loss.
What They're Saying
Sometimes, all you need to win is the ability to diminish the aura that surrounds a team that has had your number over the years. As Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter notes (via Robert Kuwada and Bryant-Jon Anteola of The Fresno Bee), his team just needs to believe:
You've got to not let your mind beat you before the ball is even snapped. I think we did that a little in that Oregon game. Our guys weren't convinced we could win until the second half, where we challenged them a little bit at halftime and our guys just went out and played. We've got to do that from the start at Boise or the same result is going to happen.
We've got to get our guys to understand that there's nothing magical about that turf. They're a very good football team, got excellent players and are very well coached, but we've got guys that when we play our brand of football we can play with anybody on our schedule.
Meanwhile, after rushing for just 109 yards against Southern Miss, Dave Southorn of the Idaho Press-Tribune notes that the team needs to improve its rushing attack against Fresno State. That shouldn't be a problem, since the team has been so proficient at making adjustments this year:
After running for only 37 yards in the opener against Michigan State, the Broncos stressed running the ball better. The next week, they ran for 295. After struggling in the red zone against BYU, Boise State went 5-for-7 in the red zone at New Mexico, the last not converted because of taking a knee to end the game.
The Broncos were outscored 29-7 in the second half against the Lobos on Sept. 29, but at Southern Miss, owned a 23-0 halftime lead and outscored the Golden Eagles 17-14 in the final two quarters.
Fresno State Player to Watch: Derek Carr, Quarterback
The younger brother of former top overall pick David Carr is having a fantastic season, with 1,816 yards, 18 touchdowns, a 71.4 percent completion percentage and just three interceptions.
Behind Carr, the Bulldogs have the 14th-ranked passing offense and are scoring 39.5 points per game. If he's on point against Boise State and Fresno State can turn the game into a shootout, they are fully capable of pulling out the win.
Boise State Player to Watch: Joe Southwick, Quarterback
We'll stick with the signal-callers here. While Southwick threw just two touchdowns (alongside two interceptions) over Boise State's first four games, he's recovered nicely, throwing six touchdowns (to just one interception) in the team's last two contests.
While Boise State hasn't been nearly as compelling on the offensive side as it had been in years past—it has been winning in large part because the defense has held opponents to 14 points or less four times this season—it may find itself in a shootout against Fresno State.
That means Southwick is going to need to match Carr bullet for bullet. If he's up to the task, Boise won't lose (and we'll have a fantastic game on our hands).
Key Matchup: Fresno State Running Game vs. Boise State Front Seven
Boise State is allowing just 154.8 passing yards per game (sixth in the nation), so Carr will have his work cut out for him when he steps back to pass. But one way Fresno State can open up its prolific passing attack is to run the ball successfully.
While not as dangerous on the ground, Fresno State is no one-dimensional side. Running back Robbie Rouse has rushed for 711 yards and eight touchdowns on the year, and he'll be looked to early and often to soften up the Boise rush and open up the field through play action.
If Boise can stop the run and keep Fresno State one-dimensional, however, they'll be very tough to move the ball against. Look for the trenches to play a major role in this one.
The mystique of the blue field will continue to confound Fresno State. The Bulldogs will play tough and force Boise's offense to bring out the tricks, but the Broncos will get the win in the end, 35-31.
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