In a year where the Boise State Broncos haven't looked like the Cinderella Story of old, they will have a big game Saturday night going against the Fresno State Bulldogs.
The Broncos are 2-1, but their two wins were against Air Force and Tennessee-Martin, while their one loss was a blowout against Washington. For the Bulldogs, they're 2-0 after a thrilling overtime win against Rutgers and a solid 41-25 win over Cal Poly.
So, with two MWC rivals going at it, can the Broncos continue their seven-game wins streak over the Bulldogs this Saturday? Here's what they need to do to make sure they can do it.
Blitz Derek Carr Early and Often
When it comes down to it, Derek Carr is easily the most important player for Fresno State. He's already thrown 104 passes in two games and has put up 661 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception.
While Carr is a fantastic quarterback, there is one thing that he tends to struggle with, and that's pressure.
Watching previous games for Fresno State, I've noticed that Carr struggles reading with pre-snap reads and recognizing where the pressure is going to be coming from. When the pressure comes, he tends to throw off of his back foot and often relies too much on his arm rather than proper mechanics.
When the pressure doesn't get there in time, Carr can use his athleticism to extend the play and use his strong arm to make plays. This is why it will be so crucial for the Broncos to blitz him and make sure to get him to the ground.
Unique blitz schemes, including disguising who is rushing the passer until the last possible moment, would be ideal for this game. If the defenders can be fast enough and hide it well, then Carr could make some errant throws.
Ride Jay Ajayi Hot Streak
After a freshman season where Jay Ajayi ran for 548 yards and four touchdowns on just 82 carries, Ajayi is looking to put up some very big numbers in 2013.
So far, the sophomore running back from Texas has put up 298 yards and six scores while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. He blew up against Air Force, running for 125 yards and four touchdowns.
The Broncos are going to need to give Ajayi a steady dose of carries throughout the game. In the win over Rutgers, Fresno State still gave up 195 yards on the ground, with their opponents averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Even Cal Poly had some success against the Bulldogs, running for 172 yards and two scores as a team.
This seems to be a clear advantage for the Broncos, and while Joe Southwick has been big so far for Boise State, this is a game where they need to let Ajayi keep riding this hot streak and have him put up some big numbers.
Inexperienced Secondary Must Step Up
The Broncos realize that Carr is the opposing quarterback and that they have a big weakness with their inexperienced secondary, but these guys must step up big time if the Broncos want to leave California with a win.
The secondary is starting a sophomore, redshirt sophomore and two redshirt juniors in the secondary, and all of these guys have had little in-game experience. In their first test of this season, Washington quarterback Keith Price had a big game, throwing for 324 yards and two touchdowns. He also had an interception, but it came on the second play from scrimmage and was irrelevant to the outcome of the game.
Carr has some strong weapons in Davante Adams, Isaiah Bruce and Josh Harper that can make plays and get open, especially against these defensive backs. If Carr has time to throw and this secondary doesn't play big, then the Broncos could be preparing for a shootout.