The Boise State Broncos ride a four-game winning streak entering their home matchup with Mountain West foe Fresno State on Saturday, but opponents' turnovers in recent weeks have been a crutch that the team won't be able to count on against the Bulldogs.
In the Mountain West Conference opener at New Mexico, the Broncos recovered three fumbles from the triple-option-based Lobos to avert disaster with a three-point victory. They stayed on the road for a matchup with win-less Southern Mississippi, and they were the beneficiaries of three more fumbles and two picks from Golden Eagles quarterback Ricky Lloyd.
According to Oddsshark.com, Boise is a seven-point home favorite, which is more of a testament to their defense than anything else. Although they allow only 15.6 points per game, this is the highest-octane offense Chris Petersen's bunch will have faced all season.
Derek Carr is providing Fresno State with some of the most efficient quarterback play in all of college football.
I know what you're thinking.
Yes, Derek is carving out his own legacy as a Bulldog quarterback despite the long shadow cast by his brother David, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2002 NFL draft. Having gone through the first six weeks of action, Carr is second in the NCAA with 18 touchdowns against just three interceptions. He stands sixth with 1,816 yards through the air. He is also completing just over 68 percent of his passes.
In other words, this will be the first time all season that Boise has a true mismatch at the game's most important position.
Who will win this key MWC showdown?
Joe Southwick needs to improve his performance in order to boost his confidence, although the defenses he's faced have been rather robust.
His counterpart is definitely more seasoned, though. Carr has served as a two-year starter for Fresno, while Southwick is still struggling to fill the figuratively big shoes (since he was rather short in stature) of Kellen Moore.
The Boise QB had better brace for a greater challenge because Fresno State's defense is somewhat overlooked. It held No. 2-ranked Oregon to its lowest point total of the season—albeit it was 42. Tulsa and San Diego State also hung quite a few points on the board against the Bulldogs, but Tulsa was held to its lowest total on the season as well.
What is the common denominator of all these offenses? Other than being in the Top 25 in points per game, each is led by a prolific rushing attack, which Boise State does not have.
Additionally, the Broncos offense isn't exactly a high-flying "Greatest Show On Blue Turf" under the guidance of Southwick, either. It's a balanced attack, but Boise isn't dominant in either dimension.
Boise will have to lean on the strength of their defense in this one, but their strategy of bending and not breaking won't work with the increased level of competition. Reliance on turnovers is a trend that has to be reversed, too, if the Broncos want to be in the driver's seat for the Mountain West Conference title.