Fresno State at Boise State
When: Friday, November 9th, 8:15 PM MST
Where: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho
TV/Streaming: ESPN2 / WatchESPN
Fresno State Bulldogs (8-1, 5-0 MWC)
This match-up will go a long ways to determine both divisional races in the Mountain West Conference. The two teams will also be playing for the Milk Can, a trophy that is currently in the possession of the Bulldogs for winning last year’s regular-season match-up. The trophy’s first appearance came in the 2006 meeting in Boise.
Coach Jeff Tedford has quickly elevated Fresno State back into one of the top Group of 5 programs in the nation. The Bulldogs finished 1-11 in 2016 but improved to 10-4 in 2017 (Tedford’s first year) and are off to an 8-1 start this fall. Tedford’s team is led by the offensive duo of quarterback Marcus McMaryion and standout receiver KeeSean Johnson, along with a defense that leads the Mountain West in fewest points per game (13.5). Fresno State’s lone defeat came at the Big 10’s Minnesota (21-14), as the Bulldogs have won all eight of its contests by 18 points or more.
Key Player: QB Marcus McMaryion, who is a graduate transfer from Oregon State, joined the program prior to the 2017 season and finished last year with 2,726 yards and 14 passing scores with just five picks. McMaryion has taken his game to another level in 2018. He’s completing over 70% of his passes for 2,416 yards and 20 touchdowns to just three INTs.
Fantasy Bonus Baby: WR KeeSean Johnson has 62 catches for 858 yards and six scores and has been McMaryion’s go-to target. Look for him to be a big target in this game for the Bulldogs.
Boise State Broncos (7-2, 4-1 MWC)
The Broncos opened the year with a solid road victory at Troy (56-20) but stumbled two weeks later at the Big 12’s Oklahoma State (44-21) and lost at home in conference play to San Diego State (19-13) on Oct. 6.
Boise State rebounded from the loss to the Aztecs by winning four in a row, including a 31-27 road victory at Nevada and a 21-16 win against BYU last Saturday. As usual, the Broncos are led by a high-powered offense. Harsin’s team is averaging 40.1 points a game, with quarterback Brett Rypien leading the Mountain West by averaging 320.6 yards a game.
The Bulldogs won 28-17 in the regular season last fall, with the Broncos claimed a 17-14 win on the conference title game. Boise State owns a 14-6 all-time edge in the series.
Key Player: QB Brett Rypien is the catalyst behind Boise State’s high-powered offense. The senior has passed for 2,779 yards and 24 touchdowns to just six picks this season. He has also connected on 67.7 percent of his throws. Getting a higher percentage in this game and avoiding sacks and turnovers will be key.
Fantasy Bonus Baby: RB Alexander Mattison enters this match-up with 726 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. As a team, Boise State is averaging four yards a carry and has posted four consecutive games of 100 or more yards. In last week’s win over UNLV, Fresno State surrendered 197 rushing yards (a season high). Look for Boise State to exploit the running game early to open up the pass.
Fearless Prediction: As with most games, the key to the winner in this game will be which defense can force turnovers and control the line of scrimmage. The Broncos were a preseason pick to come out with the top Group of Five team but so far this has been Fresno State, which is currently ranked just behind UCF in the rankings and are now the favorites outside of UCF to represent the G5 in a New Year’s Six Bowl game. Look for this game to be close and lower scoring game but Fresno State just looks like the better team despite playing on the road in this one. Fresno State 28 Boise State 21