No. 23 Fresno State eager to beat Boise State, catch No. 12 UCF in playoff rankings

Associated Press

Even during the years that Fresno State has been a power program in the West, it's never found a way to get the best of Boise State on the blue turf. The only time the Bulldogs have ever beaten the Broncos in Boise, the field was still green.

This may be the best opportunity for the 16th-ranked Bulldogs to finally end their skid when they face Boise State on Friday night. Fresno State has joined UCF and Utah State among the best of the Group of Five teams and the most likely to land in one of the New Year's Six bowl games.

“I think their team is really good and it's very loud there and it's a hostile environment but the color of the turf, I hope we're not looking down at the turf,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said.

Taking down the Broncos would provide Fresno State (8-1, 5-0 MWC) with a little bit of redemption following last year's 17-14 loss to Boise State in the Mountain West championship game. More important, it would keep the Bulldogs in line for a possible conference title game clash with Utah State, unranked in the playoff poll but No. 14 in the latest Associated Press top 25 poll. The winner could potentially land a big-money bowl opportunity should No. 12 UCF stumble in the final month.

Fresno State has thumped its opponents by an average margin of victory of 32.5 points, but it hasn't faced the best competition yet. The Bulldogs' nine opponents have a combined record of 35-49.

While most of the bigger implications involve the Bulldogs, a win by Boise State (7-2, 4-1) would keep the Broncos in line for a matchup with Utah State in the regular-season finale — also in Boise — and that could land the Broncos back in the conference title game for the second straight year and third time overall.

“Just a very good team. Very solid in what they do. And they've been very consistent in what they do week in and week out,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.

Here are other things to know about the 21st matchup between the schools:

SOMETHING ABOUT MCMARYION: Fresno State QB Marcus McMaryion is quietly having one of the best seasons of any quarterback in the country. McMaryion is ninth in the country in passer rating at 165.4. He's thrown 20 touchdowns against just three interceptions and has added another seven touchdowns running. He struggled last year in the Mountain West title game against Boise State, completing just 16 of 34 passes and throwing an interception in the 17-14 loss.

RYP IT: Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien will likely place himself at the top of the Mountain West all-time passing records against the Bulldogs. Rypien needs 36 yards passing to become the conference's career passing leader. Rypien has 12,655 yards, trailing only San Diego State's Ryan Lindley on the conference all-time list. Rypien also needs just five completions to pass Lindley for the most completed passes in conference history. Rypien has 957 in his career.

STRENGTH VS. STRENGTH: The Bulldogs bring the No. 1 scoring defense, passing defense and third-down defense to the blue turf to face a Boise State passing attack that is tops in the conference and ranks 11th nationally. The Bulldogs have built their resume stopping the pass against some of the weaker passing teams in the Mountain West. The Broncos will provide a major test for Fresno State's pass defense, which ranks 15th nationally.

INJURY WORRIES: Boise State lost leading tackler Riley Whimpey to a torn ACL suffered in last week's win over BYU. He's the third defensive starter to be lost for the season, joining defensive tackle David Moa and safety DeAndre Pierce.

HOME DOG: Ever since Boise State's run of dominance started in the early 2000s, the Broncos have been overwhelming favorites anytime they're playing at home. It makes Fresno State being a 3-point favorite this week notable. According to Oddsshark.com, the last time Boise State was an underdog at home for a regular-season conference game was Oct. 23, 1999 against Nevada. The Broncos were 2-point underdogs. They beat Nevada 52-17. The Broncos were home underdogs three times in the 1999 season and won all three games.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
43°