The Boise State Broncos will host the Fresno State Bulldogs in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game this Saturday. Here is what you need to know to be ready for the game.
Where: Albertson’s Stadium, Boise Idaho
When: 8:00 PM Mountain Time
Weather: 37 degrees high of 47, chance of showers
Game Line: Boise State -21 (Open at Boise State -17.5)
Fresno State Season Summary
Fresno State followed up one of their greatest campaigns in school history with a rocky 2014 season defined by streaks. The Bulldogs success on the field was erratic with two three-game winning streaks combined with two three-game losing streaks. Fresno State was not competitive against any of its first three non-conference games, surrendering at least 50 points in losses to USC, Utah and Nebraska.
The Bulldogs did recover with a victory over FCS Southern Utah and went on to beat New Mexico and San Diego State, which was pivotal in winning their division. But Fresno State then lost a baffling road game to UNLV and handed UNLV’s only conference victory. The Bulldogs went on to lose to Boise State in a tough game at Albertson’s Stadium, and then got blown out at home by Wyoming. Fresno State was able to rally down the stretch with victories over San Jose State, at Nevada, and Hawaii.
Despite a 6-6 record overall, Fresno was able to capture the West Division with a 5-3 conference record and their tiebreaker over San Diego State.
Boise State Offense versus Fresno State Defense
The Fresno State defense has remained a weak spot all season for the Bulldogs. Ranked 104th nationally in points allowed at 33 points given up per game, Fresno State has allowed an average of 212 yards a game on the ground and 4.7 yards per carry. Jay Ajayi went off for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns in the previous matchup.
Against the pass, Fresno State is a tad better and allowed an average of 256 yards while gaining 9 interceptions. Grant Hedrick had an efficient night in the Broncos last meeting against the Bulldogs, going 21 of 30 for 190 yards and a touchdown. Expect Jay Ajayi to have a big game and open up opportunities for the passing game.
Fresno State Defensive Playmakers
Senior safety Derron Smith is a 3-time all-conference defensive back and will likely end up playing in the NFL. But Smith is struggling this season with 54 tackles and only 1 interception after having 13 interceptions the 2 previous years. Senior outside linebacker Donavon Lewis and senior lineman Tyler Davison each had 6 sacks for the Bulldogs.
Fresno State Offense versus Boise State Defense
Fresno State ranks 65th nationally in points per game with an average of 29 points per game. The Bulldogs had a quarterback carousel early in the season before settling on junior Brian Burrell. Burrell has been steady but not spectacular with 2,244 yards on a 57.8 completion percentage. Burrell has 21 touchdowns versus 13 interceptions. Burrell did not have a great outing in Boise in the last matchup, going 13 of 25 for 127 yards and 1 touchdown and 1 interception.
Boise State’s ball hawking secondary (17 interceptions for the season as a team) should have opportunities to make some plays. But the one thing Fresno State has done well is run the ball with Marteze Waller. Waller, Second Team MWC, has 1,269 yards for the season on 195 carries (6.5 yards per carry average) and 11 touchdowns. Many of those yards came against the Broncos, as Waller went off for 164 yards and 2 touchdowns in the previous meeting. Expect Waller to have another solid game but Burrell to be held in check by the Boise State defense.
Fresno State Offensive Playmakers
Besides Marteze Waller, the player to watch is senior wide receiver Josh Harper. Harper racked up 941 yards on 76 catches and 7 touchdowns. Freshman tight end Chad Olsen has 4 touchdowns and has been more incorporated in the Bulldogs playbook late in the season.
Keys to Victory
1. Keep Marteze Waller in check. Waller was able to match Ajayi on the ground in their last matchup and single handedly kept Fresno State in the game. If Waller is slowed down just a tad, the pressure will be on Brian Burrell to beat the Broncos with his arm.
2.Turnovers. The Broncos had 22 turnovers for the season but 11 of those turnovers came in the Bronco’s only 2 losses. Boise State should be able to outscore Fresno State but should limit the Bulldogs opportunities to hang around for too long.
Boise State offense has been in overdrive lately and will simply overwhelm Fresno State, leading the Broncos to victory. Marteze Waller will do some damage but not enough to save the Bulldogs in this one. Boise State will clinch the Mountain West Conference and be headed to a New Year’s Day Bowl Game. Boise State 45 Fresno State 27
Statistics from ESPN and http://www.cfbstats.com/