Mountain West Football Picks: Week Zero Games (ALL CAPS)
Find out who our staff likes this week
There are three Mountain West games this week, who is our staff taking?
“Let’s run it back.” That’s what you say when you lose a game of ping pong or a game of darts with the fellas. You generally don’t get that opportunity in college football, but this week will be an exception. Last week, the 23rd ranked Boise State Broncos headed down to play the Fresno State Bulldogs, and the Bulldogs scored a big-time victory by knocking off Boise State 28-17. Fresno State got the Milk Can Trophy but this week the stakes are much higher with the Mountain West Conference Championship Trophy on the line. This week it’s the 25th ranked Fresno State Bulldogs traveling up to the Blue Turf in Boise, Idaho.
Game Day Basics
Time and Location: 5:45 PM MST at Albertson’s Stadium in Boise, Idaho
Weather: 47 degrees, chance of rain
Spread: Boise State -8.5
This game will once again feature two contrasting styles. Fresno State’s defense has played extremely well this year, ranking 16th in the country in yards allowed and 12th in points allowed. The Bulldogs defense is tough and have shown that they will clamp down hard when the opponent comes into the red zone. Boise State’s offense ranks 41st in the country in yards gained but have really dialed it up the last few weeks, especially through the air and are capable of big plays.
Fresno State’s offense comes in at 59th in the country in total yards gained but play a smart opportunistic brand of football. Led by senior quarterback Marcus McMaryion, Fresno State has made plays while only turning the football over 10 times over the course of the season. Boise State comes in at 41st in the country in defense, but the young Broncos are an opportunistic bunch and have generated 21 takeaways for the year.
Keys to Victory
Win the Turnover Battle: Did someone say something about turnovers? Boise State has done a great job winning the turnover battle this season with a plus 11 turnover margin. The only two games that Boise State lost the turnover battle were against Washington State and Virginia (both losses). Last week neither the Bulldogs or Broncos turned it over. Brett Rypien has been especially good at taking care of the ball of late with only 1 interception in the last 7 games. Fresno State has shown that they are too good of a team for the Broncos to overcome if they are not careful protecting the football.
Prevent the Big Play: Fresno State’s offense is not one of the most dynamic scoring machines but McMaryion will play smart and within his abilities. The Bulldogs though are not without weapons and their best playmaker is wide receiver KeeSean Johnson. Last week MWC 1st teamer Tyler Horton went man to man with Johnson most of the game and it was Johnson who got the better end of the matchup. If the Broncos can keep Fresno State from breaking the big play, expect the Bulldog offense to sputter out and struggle to score points in front of what should be a very hostile Boise State crowd.
4th Downs: Pathetic. That’s how Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin described how the Broncos have done on 4th down. Early in the game last week, the Broncos missed a 38 yard field goal and turned it over on down on back to back drives deep in Fresno State territory. Coach Harsin is never going to be afraid to go for it but the Broncos must execute these opportunities and play smart. Fresno State’s defense is too good for an opponent to leave points on the field. Kicker Hadden Hoggarth has been solid kicking the ball this season (16 of 19 on field goal attempts) and he must come through when his number is called upon.
This is a very strange situation to be in. The teams played last week, and the Bulldogs won. Fresno State is now ranked 25th and Boise State is not. The game is in Boise, yet the Broncos have seemingly played better on the road this season. Its certainly surprising to many that the line has the Broncos as 8.5 favorites given all these factors…
and yet my prediction is that the Broncos will win AND cover the spread.
Boise State had opportunities and did not convert some of them last week while Fresno State made a few big plays on offense. This was the difference in the game. By all means, tip of the cap to the Bulldogs, they won the game but many did not get the sense that they were the better team. While many are saying that the Fresno State players will be angry and have a chip on their shoulder from having to travel to Boise for this game despite winning last week and now being ranked, so will the Broncos. Bryan Harsin certainly sounded like an angry and motivated man in his now legendary press conference on Monday.
I expect Brett Rypien to keep the hot hand and Harsin to unleash his complete playbook and display the trademark Bronco offensive attack at full power. Newly minted Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Leighton Vander Esch and company will be motivated and will do what they can to protect the Blue. Broncos will win, mark it down.
Boise State 31, Fresno State 20