Boise State wouldn’t appear to have much on the line Saturday against host Fresno State, but don’t tell that to fourth-year coach Bryan Harsin. The No. 24 Broncos, having already locked up a spot in the Mountain West Conference title game, are on the verge of going undefeated in conference play for the first time since 2009.
In a unique situation, the two rivals will meet again seven days later in the MWC championship game, which will likely take place in Boise given the Broncos’ commanding lead over the Bulldogs in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Broncos have won seven in a row and clinched the Mountain Division title after rolling to a 44-19 victory over Air Force last Saturday with quarterback Brett Rypien throwing for 300 yards and three touchdowns. The Broncos have averaged 46.3 points over the last four games with Rypien throwing for 12 touchdowns and one interception over that stretch. Boise State will need another strong offensive showing against Fresno State, which clinched the West Division title with last Saturday’s 13-7 victory at Wyoming and ranks first in the MWC and 12th nationally in scoring defense at 17.3 points per game.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network. LINE: Boise State -7
ABOUT BOISE STATE (9-2, 7-0 MWC): Jabril Frazier and Curtis Weaver have a combined 14 sacks to lead the defense, which forced three turnovers and had four sacks in last week’s victory over Air Force. The impressive secondary features safety Kekoa Nawahine (78 tackles) and cornerback Tyler Horton, a Fresno native who had a 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown last week and leads the Broncos’ defense with 10 pass breakups. Fresno State has struggled against opposing tight ends and will be tested by senior Jake Roh, who has caught 39 passes for 410 yards with nine touchdown receptions.
ABOUT FRESNO STATE (8-3, 6-1): Quarterback Marcus McMaryion has been a steady force with 12 touchdown passes and three interceptions for the Bulldogs, who were picked to finish sixth in the West Division after going 1-11 last season. “I can’t be prouder of this team and I can’t be happier for them,” first-year coach Jeff Tedford told reporters. “The turnaround that they’ve made, the belief and confidence, the hard work they’ve put in, the coaching staff has done a phenomenal job.” Linebacker George Helmuth was named MWC Defensive Player of the Week after recording 11 tackles and recovering a critical fumble against Wyoming.
1. Boise State has won 13 of the last 15 meetings against Fresno State and holds a 13-5 lead in the series.
2. Fresno State has allowed only 20 pass plays of 20 or more yards this season, the fewest in the conference.
3. Boise State has won 12 straight games against MWC opponents from the West Division.
PREDICTION: Fresno State 24, Boise State 20