It's mid-November, and that can mean only one thing: Fresno State is out of contention for the WAC championship. But hey, that Robbie Rouse is pretty good!
The Bulldogs are having a traditional Bulldog year: a strong non-conference run done in by a couple of conference losses and just enough talent to provide good paranoia before the Bronco game. Plus, Pat Hill is still around for some reason. Can't beat that.
After the jump, find out how this year's Bronco-Bulldog game may go, and see which matchups and keys will be worth watching on Friday night. Then share your thoughts in the comments on what you think will be most important.
Fresno State vs. No. 4 Boise State
- When to watch: Friday, November 19, 7:30 p.m. MT kickoff
- Where to watch: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Ida. (Capacity: 33,500)
- How to watch: Live on ESPN2 with Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore
- What to wager: Boise State by 30.5 points
- What to wear: Forecast calls for rain/snow showers, 38 degrees
Three matchups to watch
RB Robbie Rouse vs. LB Derrell Acrey
The most vivid memories I have of Derrell Acrey this season are his missing one-on-one tackles with awkward scrambling quarterbacks. That's not exactly the best premonition for a night against slippery Robbie Rouse. Acrey played well last year against Fresno, and in a storybook way, it seems like Acrey was destined to perform well in this role as a sort of last hurrah in a career that has yet to meet expectations.
Then again, J.C. Percy or Daron Mackey could get the lion's share of snaps at MLB. Who knows.
DT Logan Harrell vs. OL Joe Kellogg
Kellogg will just be returning from an injury absence (don't ask, don't tell is the policy I am told that I have) and what tougher matchup can you get than Harrell. OK, Billy Winn or Chase Baker come to mind, but still. Harrell excels at pressuring the passer, and pressure up the middle is one of Kellen Moore's least favorite things. The Kellogg-Harrell battle (or Lawrence-Harrell or Byrd-Harrell or Wright-Harrell) will be key.
NB Winston Venable vs. QB Ryan Colburn
Venable on Colburn proved to be a big difference-maker in the game last year, and the Broncos have been putting Venable in good positions this year to wreak havoc on QBs.
But really, mentioning this matchup is just an excuse to post this video again:
For Boise State:
- D.J. Harper out for season with knee injury
- Tommy Gallarda out for regular season with broken foot
- Byron Hout out for at least regular season with broken foot
- Joe Kellogg probable with leg injury
- Chandler Koch probable with unknown
For Fresno State:
- C Joe Bernardi questionable with ankle injury
WR Devon Wylie out for season with broken foot
CB Jermaine Thomas out indefinitely with knee injury
RG Andrew Jackson questionable with ankle injury
G Leslie Cooper questionable with ankle injury
G Matt Hunt probable with hamstring injury
RT Kenny Wiggins probable with shoulder injury
What Fresno State can do to win
Fresno's rejuvenated running game will be key, but the Bulldogs cannot win without a good game from Ryan Colburn. Colburn should have more space to pass since the Fresno ground game is far better than Hawaii's or Idaho's, but can he make it count? I say Colburn needs 250 yards passing and at least three 30 yard throws to keep the Fresno offense on pace.
Pressuring Kellen Moore is something that no team has been able to do consistently this year. Hawaii and LaTech may have done the best job, but that's not saying much. The Bulldogs have the defensive line skill to be able to get pressure with a front four rush. If they can get to Moore early and often and do so without sending the house, the Bulldogs can make life hard on the Broncos.
What Fresno State can do to lose
Turnovers and mistakes will bury Fresno, just like they did two years ago when they let a 13-10 halftime deficit become a 61-10 loss. Boise State has the talent and depth to absorb those things (to a point). Fresno doesn't.
Losing the field position game would be trouble for the Bulldogs, too. Do you kick away from Chris Potter and sacrifice yards or risk a big return? Can you sustain drives to flip the field? Inquiring minds want to know.
What Boise State can do to win
If Boise State jumps out to an early lead, it will force Fresno to get away from what it does best, which is running the football. Get Ryan Colburn throwing the ball, and the Broncos will be in good shape. On a more micro level, keeping the Bulldogs in obvious passing downs will also help. When BSU can make Fresno one-dimensional - either because of down and distance or scoreboard - Boise State has the advantage.
The Broncos could afford to go 3-for-12 on 3rd down against woefully inadequate Idaho. They may not be able to do so against Fresno. Boise State needs to raise their 3rd down conversion percentage up near 50 if they want to have an easier time this Friday night. The easiest way to do that: Kellen Moore completing passes, which means time to throw and fewer drops from his receivers.
What Boise State can do to lose
Pat Hill is likely to try just about anything to get the win in Boise, especially now that he's got nothing to lose with a bowl spot secured and no chance of finishing in the top two in the WAC. It could be a lot like the LaTech game in that regard, with onside kicks, fourth down attempts, and fake everythings. Let Fresno pull enough of those off, and the game could be a close one.
The reverse of Boise State's keys to victory might as well be their keys to losing. Fail to convert 3rd downs, let Fresno dictate the play on offense, don't protect Kellen Moore. Let me throw another one out there: Swing points. The Bulldogs will have to earn every offensive point they get, so Boise State can't afford to give them any freebies on defense or special teams.
Weather. It may be a wet and wild one on Friday night if the rain and snow does indeed fall as expected. I say that benefits Fresno State since weather can be a great equalizer.
- Fresno DE Chris Carter. He was all over Boise State last year when these two teams played, and Coach Pete is well aware of that. The play of Nate Potter and Matt Slater has been virtually spotless this season, but they will be tested on Friday night. And it will be a good chance to prepare for an equally devastating rusher the next week in Nevada's Dontay Moch.
- Short week. Boise State had a full seven days between games to get ready for this one. Fresno played on Saturday night and had to travel. Advantage: Boise State, in a big way.
How do you think Derrell Acrey and Joe Kellogg will do in important roles on Friday night? What are your keys to victory for each team? Share your thoughts in the comments.