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Fresnope: Boise State vs Fresno State game preview

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NCAA Football: Fresno State at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Game facts

  • Time: Saturday, November 25, 1:30pm (MT)
  • Location: Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, CA
  • Weather at kickoff: 71°, mostly sunny
  • Odds: Boise State by 7
  • TV: CBS Sports Network
  • Radio: KBOI 670 AM
  • Commentators: Rich “Viennese” Waltz, Jay “Touchy” Feely, and Jenny “From the Block” Dell

Other facts

1. Old pals

Boise State and Fresno State are old pals, but sadly don’t get to play every year anymore due to the way the divisions were drawn up. The Boise State-Fresno State rivalry (at least in its current iteration) goes back to 2001, when the Broncos knocked off the undefeated and 8th ranked Bulldogs in the Valley and pried the torch from Fresno’s fingers...a torch they’ve rarely relinquished. The Broncos and Bulldogs haven’t played since the 2014 MWC title game, which is ironic since the teams have gone very separate ways since that cold December night, but both find themselves back in the ‘ship in 2017.

2. Tedford magic

The Bulldogs have been up and down since the waning years of the Pat Hill era, but first-year head man Jeff Tedford has done an absolutely amazing job with the ‘dogs since returning to his alma mater. Safe to say 2016 was a low-water mark for the program as they limped to a 1-11 record and dumped head coach Tim DeRuyter at season’s end. Enter Tedford, who’d bounced around the Pac-12 and CFL for the last dozen years and looked as though he may be in “washed up” territory. Not so, apparently—the ‘dogs are 8-3 this season and back in the championship. Whether you like the Bulldogs as a roadblock or a whipping post, it’s good for the conference that they’re “back” (at least temporarily).

3. Milking it

Rivalry games need trophies, and although Boise State and Fresno will play for a much more important trophy next weekend, there will be hardware on the line tomorrow that has no bearing on home-field-advantage. The Milk Can...a chromed-out dairy receptacle came on the scene in 2005, meaning the Bulldogs were the first to get their name on the blinged-out farm container. The Broncos then went on to decisively win the next 7 meetings before dropping their last game in Fresno to the Derek Carr-led squad. The Broncos technically won the Milk Can trophy twice in 2014 as they played the ‘dogs during the regular season and the championship...but probably had to settle for the MWC trophy at season’s end. All told, since the trophies inception...the Broncos lead the series 9-2 (and have only lost twice to Fresno State in the last 15 matchups). That milk can must need a stand because it’s rather lopsided.

4. This. Is. Sparta.

Streaks

Boise State - Won 7

Fresno State - Won 3

Peaks (Twin)

Best name on their roster

Praise him! Sophomore LB Messiah Taylor has made his triumphant return.

Best player picture on their roster

Freshman linebacker Tanner Rice may have been one of the antagonists in season 2 of Stranger Things.

Players to watch

Marcus McMaryion

The Oregon State transfer has added some stability to the Bulldog quarterback position and is protecting the ball extremely well. He’s not an Uncle Rico level passer, but his 1,880 passing yards and 12 TDs are nothing to sneer at. The fact that he’s thrown just 3 INTs this season makes his efficiency even better. McMaryion did not play against the Broncos last season in Corvallis, so we’ll have fresh eyes on the junior QB, who can tuck and run as well if the pocket collapses (192 rushing yards this year). Stay vigilant with this dude.

Jeffrey Allison

This true soph linebacker is racking up the tackles in his second season with the Bulldogs, and looks like he’ll be a fixture on the All-MWC teams for the forseeable future. So far in 2017, Allison has 99 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He’s like Leighton Vander Esch Lite.

Jordan Mims

Freshman Mims is the Bulldogs leading rusher, which you’d think bodes well for the future of the Fresno State backfield. Through 11 games, Mims has racked up 552 yards on the ground and 5 TDs. He’s not among the Mountain West elite quite yet at the position, but he’s young—he may well be a thorn in our side tomorrow afternoon and for the next few seasons. Break his spirit now or he’ll sass us again.

KeeSean Johnson

KeeSean’s parents took creative liberties with the spelling of his name, but he’s performing much like his homophone-namesake. The 6’2” junior has a chance at 1,000 yards on the season with solid performances in his last 3 matchups. Currently, he’s sitting at 741 yards and has hauled in 6 TDs on the year. Don’t let this guy get behind you, secondary.

Players NOT to watch

There weren’t many bright spots on last year’s Fresno State squad, but they did manage to place a linebacker on the conference second team—Jeff Camilli. He’s since graduated, but I’d say Allison more than makes up for his absence...darn.

Keys to victory

  • Disrupt. Mcmaryion has only been sacked 5 times this season (and the Bulldogs played ‘Bama and Washington), so he’s not likely to be easy to bring down...that’s okay, hurry him, hit him as he throws...just make him uncomfortable and force some errors.
  • Play disciplined football on defense. The Bulldogs don’t have the weapons that Colorado State did...but they have a balanced offense that can move the ball pretty well. The Broncos need to stick to fundamentals since they may be a few men down defensively...and they need to get off the field.
  • Win field position battle. This one has been big this year. If the Broncos can get Avery Williams loose or house a kick or punt (or two)...it will put the Bulldogs on their heels and take the crowd out of the game.
  • Jump on ‘em. The Broncos have gotten out to slow starts in the last 3 contests. This isn’t something to keep up when you’re playing on the road again. Score early, score often...and increase that red zone efficiency.
  • Don't lose. Seven straight...don’t deviate now!

Score prediction

I’m sure both teams are glad this game has little to no bearing on the conference title matchup, but still—there’s some historical bad blood betwixt these teams and let’s not let Tedford get any ideas about the pecking order here.

Boise State 31, Fresno State 20