Fresno State vs. Boise State: Complete Game Preview
Fresno State travels to Boise State on Saturday, maybe for the last time. With the Broncos heading to the Big East, this Mountain West rivalry is in danger of disappearing.
Fresno State is 4-2, 2-0 in conference play, under new head coach Tim DeRuyter, but the Broncos have dominated the Bulldogs over the last decade. It will take an amazing effort from Fresno State to defeat the Broncos on their home field.
Boise State is 4-1 and will be seeking to improve to 2-0 in conference play.
Here's an in-depth preview of Saturday's Mountain West showdown.
Game Day Information
Depth Chart for Boise State
Boise State Offense
QB: Joe Southwick, Grant Hedrick
RB: D.J. Harper, Jay Ajayi
FB: Dan Paul, Connor Peters
TE: Chandler Koch, Holden Huff
WX: Matt Miller, Aaron Burks
WZ: Chris Potter, Dallas Burroughs
HR: Kirby Moore, Geraldo Boldewijn
RT: Brenel Myers, Rees Odhiambo
RG: Spencer Gerke, Michael Ames
OC: Matt Paradis, Spencer Gerke
LG: Joe Kellogg, Marcus Henry
LT: Charles Leno Jr., Faraji Wright
DE: Demarcus Lawrence, Tyler Horn
NT: Mike Atkinson, Greg Grimes
DT: Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Darren Koontz
DE: Sam Ukwuachu, Beau Martin
WB: J.C. Percy, Tyler Gray
MB: Tommy Smith, Blake Renaud
NB: Dextrell Simmons, Corey Bell
CB: Jamar Taylor, Ebo Makinde
CB: Jerrell Gavins, Bryan Douglas
S: Jeremy Ioane, Hazen Moss
S: Lee Hightower, Darian Thompson
P: Trevor Harman, Dan Goodale
K: Michael Frisina, Dan Goodale
KO: Trevor Harman, Dan Goodale
KR: D.J. Harper, Dallas Burroughs
PR: Chris Potter
LS: Chris Roberson, Kevin Keane
Starting Lineup for Fresno State
QB: Derek Carr, Greg Watson
RB: Robbie Rouse
WR: Josh Harper
WR: Davante Adams
WR: Isaiah Burse
TE: Marcel Jensen
LT: Austin Wentworth
RT: Cody Wichmann
OC: Larn Bramer
RG: Richard Helepiko
LG: Matt Hunt
DE: Andy Jennings
DE: Anthony Williams
DT: Tyeler Davison
LB: Shawn Plummer
LB: Travis Brown
LB: Jeremiah Toma
LB: Donovan Lewis
S: Derron Smith
S: Phillip Thomas
CB: L.J. Jones
CB: Sean Alston
Fresno State Last Week
Fresno State scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull away from a determined but undermanned Colorado State team in a tougher-than-expected 28-7 victory.
The Rams limited the potent Fresno passing attack, holding Derek Carr to just 217 yards and 25 completions in 39 attempts. However, the Bulldogs were able to run on the Rams, finishing with 191 rushing yards, led by Robbie Rouse's 124.
The game exposed Fresno as a young team that is still trying to find itself. Still, the Bulldogs have talent and should give Boise State a run for its money.
Boise State Last Week
Boise State forced five turnovers in a dominating 40-14 win at Southern Mississippi.
The Broncos recovered three fumbles and made two interceptions. The offense didn't look so bad, either. taking full advantage of the good field position created by those forced turnovers.
The win was a confidence-booster for the Broncos.
The Significance of Saturday's Game
This game is huge for both teams.
Boise State was a real thorn in the side of the Bulldogs when Pat Hill was their coach. However, there is a new sheriff in town.
Tim DeRuyter came to Fresno from Texas A&M, where he was a defensive coordinator. His defensive mindset has brought additional toughness to a team that already had a high-powered offense.
One of the biggest reasons that Hill is no longer the Fresno coach was his inability to compete with the Broncos. That makes this an important game for DeRuyter.
This also would be a huge win for a young Fresno team. It would improve its Mountain West record to 3-0 and do wonders for the Bulldogs' confidence.
Boise State needs a win to stay on track to win the Mountain West title in its last year as a conference member. A win also would keep the Broncos in the running for a bid to a BCS bowl bid.
To do that, they would have to finish 16th or higher in the BCS rankings and ahead of any other BCS conference champion. With the Big 10 struggling, that is possible.
It will be a crucial game for both teams, and it should be a good one.
Key Player for Fresno State
When junior quarterback Derek Carr is hot, he is really hot.
Through the air, Carr is 159-of-232 for 1,816 yards and 18 touchdowns. Another impressive number is three. That's the number of interceptions he's thrown.
If Carr is able to pick apart the Broncos defense, it should lead to a Fresno State win.
If he is able to spread out the Boise State defense and keep it on it heels, it will create opportunities for the Bulldogs' running game. If that happens, it could be a long day for Chris Petersen and his bunch.
However, Carr will have to be concerned with the Boise State pass rush. Carr has been sacked nine times and rushed, hurried and chased out of the pocket on several more occasions.
Boise State is adept at forcing turnovers, so Carr will need to be careful to avoid turnovers.
If he Carr can throw for more than 300 yards, with no interceptions and at least three touchdowns, chances are the Bulldogs take the game. However, Boise State has not allowed a single passing touchdown, at least by a quarterback, this season. So to say he has his work cut out for him is quite an understatement.
Key Player for Boise State
Michael Atkinson and the rest of the defensive line will be key for Boise State.
With Fresno State's balanced attack, the challenge will be to stop the run and get to Derek Carr.
Neither task will be easy, but the Broncos have proven all season that they are more than capable. The defense will have to have the kind of performance it did against BYU if it wants to dominate the Bulldogs.
Atkinson shouldn't have to score a touchdown for the Broncos to win like he did against BYU. But he and Demarcus Lawrence, Sam Ukwuachu, Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe and others will need to wreak havoc up front.
If they can press the run, hurry the quarterback and get to him on occasion, the secondary will have an easier time containing the Fresno State passing attack.
Boise State already has one of the best secondaries in college football, but that doesn't mean it doesn't need assistance.
Atkinson and the rest of the big boys can do just that Saturday.
Fresno State Will Win If...
Fresno State will win if and only if it can make it happen in every area of the game. That doesn't sound profound, but it is the truth.
First, the Bulldogs will need to step up on defense and shut down the rushing attack of Boise State. That won't be easy with D.J. Harper and Jay Ajayi pounding it out, but it will need to happen if Fresno wants to control the tempo of the game.
Second, the defense will need to rattle Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick. It needs to shut him down on third down and create situations that force Southwick into making poor decisions. However, that won't be as easy as it might have been earlier in the season.
Southwick is getting more comfortable as the season progresses and is proving that he is not easily rattled.
On offense, Fresno State will need to resemble more the high-powered unit that has put up huge point totals at home than the one that has struggled on the road against better defenses.
At home, the Bulldogs scored 37 against Weber State, 69 against Colorado and 52 against San Diego State. But, again that was at home against teams with serious defensive problems.
On the road, Fresno State has scored 25 in a loss to Oregon, 26 in a loss to Tulsa and 28 last week against Colorado State, a defense that is ranked 89th in the nation in scoring defense.
The Bulldogs will not only have to shut down the Broncos offense, but they will need to prove they can produce points against a good defense. So far, they haven't done that.
Boise State Will Win If...
Boise State will win if and only if it plays like Boise State.
So far this season, the Broncos have been a little bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team. Not so much on defense, although it did have a second half meltdown against New Mexico, but on offense.
There is the Miami Ohio version that ran and threw at will. Then there is the Michigan State version that did not produce. It has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride, to say the least.
However, the last two weeks have been good therapy for Boise State. New Mexico and Southern Miss were just what the doctor ordered.
Joe Southwick looks like he has gained confidence, and Jay Ajayi has emerged as a formidable backup for D.J. Harper.
For Boise State to win on Saturday, it will need to be consistent. That is one of Petersen's favorite words, and it is what his team desperately needs. If Southwick is consistent and doesn't turn the ball over, the Broncos will be in good shape.
However, Fresno State leads the country in taking the ball away, so it will be a challenge.
Harper is usually reliable holding on to the ball, but Ajayi had trouble doing so last week. Both players will need to keep a firm grasp on it Saturday.
Boise State's receivers also need to be more consistent catching the ball. There have been too many uncharacteristic drops this season, and those could cost the Broncos dearly on Saturday.
The Boise State defense will just need to do what it always does. It will need to swarm to the ball, pressure the quarterback, create turnovers and cover well in the secondary. Containing the run will be especially important, as Fresno State running back Robbie Rouse is capable of breaking a big run.
If the Broncos offense is consistent and the defense does what it normally does, Boise State should be in great shape against Fresno State.
When it is all said and done, the dust has settled and any other cliché' a person might want to insert here, the Broncos should win this game.
First, Boise State has Chris Petersen. Yes, Fresno has a talented new coach, but Petersen is a proven commodity. He will have his young team ready.
Second, the Broncos defense has proven that it can step up when needed. Regardless of what the Boise State offense does, the defense will give Derek Carr and the rest of the Fresno State offense fits.
Look for the Boise State defense to shut down the Bulldogs and keep Carr frustrated.
On offense, Boise State should also have some success. Fresno State has a decent defense, but the veteran offensive line of the Broncos should control the line of scrimmage and give Harper and Ajayi clear running lanes.
Southwick should also have the time he needs to throw the ball and make good decisions. Look for this to be a good game, but in the end the Broncos will pull away.
Prediction: Boise State 38, Fresno State 24