One week after Fresno State ended Boise State’s seven-game winning streak with an impressive performance at Bulldog Stadium, the teams meet again Saturday in Boise for the Mountain West championship game. Fresno State never trailed in last Saturday’s 28-17 victory, which snapped its 21-game losing streak against ranked opponents that dated back to 2004.
Fresno State, which is 25th in the College Football Playoff rankings, went 1-11 last year and already has achieved the greatest single-season turnaround in school history. Quarterback Marcus McMaryion, a transfer from Oregon State, was named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week after completing 23-of-36 passes for a career-high 332 yards and two touchdowns against the Broncos. “I think he is getting better each week,” coach Jeff Tedford told reporters. “I felt like that was kind of happening throughout the year, just his comfort level with how we game-plan and what we do. Each week, he has a little more control of the offense and is more comfortable.” The Bulldogs rank first in the conference in scoring defense at 17.2 points per game and held Boise State to a season-low 17 last week, which is well below its season average of 33.3.
TV: 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Boise State -8.5
ABOUT FRESNO STATE (9-3, 7-1 Mountain West): McMaryion’s favorite target is junior wideout KeeSean Johnson, who has at least one reception in 34 consecutive games - as well as 23 catches for 305 yards and four touchdowns during the team’s four-game winning streak. The Bulldogs’ stellar defensive line will be without senior tackle Nate Madsen, who suffered a leg injury last Saturday and will be replaced by redshirt freshman Kevin Atkins. Linebackers Jeffrey Allison and George Helmuth have anchored the dramatically improved defensive unit, which has recorded 28 sacks and ranks 15th in the country at 117.3 rushing yards per game.
ABOUT BOISE STATE (9-3, 7-1): The Broncos used both Brett Rypien and Montell Cozart at quarterback again last week, but the former was more effective as he completed 22-of-31 passes for 278 yards while the latter struggled in various run packages. Senior tight end Jake Roh leads the team with nine touchdown catches but missed last week’s matchup with a lower leg injury and is questionable for Saturday’s contest. The Broncos’ strong secondary includes safety Kekoa Nawahine and cornerback Tyler Horton, a Fresno native who leads the team with 11 pass breakups and recorded eight tackles in last week’s meeting.
1. Boise State is 8-1 against Fresno State on its home field and has won eight in a row - all by 10 or more points.
2. Saturday’s meeting is a rematch of the 2014 Mountain West championship game, which Boise State won 28-14 at Albertsons Stadium.
3. Boise State is 2-for-16 on fourth-down attempts this season, ranking last among the 129 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
PREDICTION: Boise State 24, Fresno State 20