Key #1: Continued Offensive Line Improvement
Not only did the Bronco offensive line show improvement, but they utilized this game to gain some serious momentum running the football. As a team Boise State gained 180 yards on the ground, with Alexander Mattison running for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns by himself.
Brett Rypien also chipped in 30 yards on the ground, including a few key first downs. Since the Fresno State game Mattison has rushed for 145 yards against the Lobos and 200 yards against the Aggies. If Mattison and the offensive line continue this effort on Saturday, it will go a long ways towards a Bronco victory.
Key #2: Limit & Produce Big Plays
For the most part, Boise State was successful in limiting big plays and producing a few of their own. They limited Fresno to a long of 26 on the ground and 38 through the air, while also surrendering an interception. Most of these plays took place in the first half.
During the second half, Boise State had pass plays of 49, 41, and 25 yards and 2 running touchdowns. The Broncos need to find a way to force a turnover or two to turn the tide on the Bulldogs once again. Balancing big plays through two halves of football and limiting the big plays from Fresno State could lead to a Boise State victory on the Blue Saturday.
Key #3: Next Man Up
Scale Igiehon and Ezekiel Noa were highlighted in this section as two freshman that would have to step up big time for the Broncos to have success against Fresno. Guess what? They did step up in big ways and have continued to improve since then.
While there has been little to no good news on the injury front, they did end up getting Sonatane Lui back from injury. Scale and Lui have teamed up to strengthen the inside of the Bronco defensive line, who gave Utah State’s running game a stiff challenge.
Unfortunately, Boise State has lost or had 2 more starters injured since the early November matchup. Tyreque Jones and Kekoa Nawahine have both missed significant time since. Jones did play against the Aggies, although he did not start the game. The Bronco defense will have to continue to band together to beat the Bulldogs on Saturday.
Bonus Key: Keep Focused
This key is true regardless of how the AAC Championship turns out, but it will hold extra meaning if University of Central Florida loses to Memphis. The Broncos still have a few players on the roster that were redshirts during the 2014 Fiesta Bowl victory. You can bet that they have shared the feelings and excitement that come with playing and winning those games.
Boise State cannot look ahead to a possible bowl matchup when they have a strong and capable Fresno State squad, that’s hungry for a victory on the Blue. Brett Rypien is the senior leader on this team and I believe Bryan Harsin will call upon him to keep his teammates focused on the task at hand. Rypien has certainly seemed focused he last 3 games, if he makes it a 4th, the Broncos can walk off the field again as Mountain West Champions.
ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) gives the Broncos a 55% chance to beat the Bulldogs on Saturday night. While Boise State was tabbed as an underdog 4 weeks ago, they are currently favored by 3 in this matchup. I think this is a fair line, but I also think the Broncos take advantage of the momentum they’ve been building the last 3 weeks, and turn it into another hard fought victory and back to back Mountain West crowns.
Boise State 34 FSU 20