Tight End: Fresno State
This owes more to the fact that Boise State has not used their tight ends as frequently as Fresno State, but the creativity that the Bulldogs have here could sneak up on the Broncos if they’re not careful.
It’s easy to point to the fact that Jared Rice has more catches and yards, and as many touchdowns, as Boise State’s tight ends combined, but don’t forget about Kyle Riddering near the goal line. He has just six catches this year, but he has scored three times. The Bulldogs have shown they can be flexible on offense in 12 personnel so the Broncos will have to stay prepared. -Matt K
Offensive Line: Boise State
This unit has gotten better and better as the season has progressed and Brett Rypien and Alexander Mattison have benefited from the improvement of the play from the line. Anchored by the all-conference selections of John Molchon and Ezra Cleveland, the offensive line has been a physical presence up front for Boise State. -Raja
Defensive Line: Boise State
As good as Brett Rypien has been, the strength of the Broncos has arguably been their defensive line. Led by senior Jabril Frazier, who has 42 tackles and 5.5 sacks, and flanked by Curtis Weaver who has a stunning 9.5 sacks; the line will get pressure on Fresno State’s quarterback. Boise State was able to sack McMaryion 3 sacks in the last contest. -Raja
Linebackers: Fresno State
Continuity matters and the trio of James Bailey, George Helmuth, and Jeffrey Allison has been every bit as good as they were in 2017, racking up a combined 20 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, seven passes defended and three interceptions. -Matt K.
Defensive Backs: Fresno State
Even without the benefit of an average pass rush, continuity matters here, too, and every member of the defensive backfield has been sensational in 2018. As a unit, they have a substantial advantage in Havoc Rate (percentage of plays with a TFL, pass defended or forced fumble), ranking 13th nationally while Boise State ranks 103rd. Just three teams nationally – Tulane, Oregon, and LSU – have defended more passes than the Bulldogs this year.
The Broncos? They’re in a tie for 122nd.
Juju Hughes, Anthoula Kelly and Mike Bell are also one of just ten DB trios in the FBS to have three interceptions apiece, and we’ve already seen them take advantage of a Brett Rypien mistake this year. He’ll need to tighten up his game in order to avoid giving the Bulldogs a potentially huge advantage again. -Matt K.
VETO: It is true that Fresno State’s secondary has played very well this year but the Broncos have Tyler Horton who may be the best cover corner in the conference. Horton, a Fresno native, has been dynamic in his 4 years at Boise State and has 3 defensive touchdowns for the year. Horton is joined by Avery Williams (also an all-conference second team selection) and Kekoa Nawahine (an all-conference honorable mention). -Raja
Special teams: Fresno State
I’m pretty sure most of this advantage points to how well Blake Cusick has played this fall. The Bulldogs rank number one in the country in opponents’ starting field position because Cusick has landed 50% of his 54 kicks inside the 20-yard line, has just four touchbacks, and has forced opponents into just 3.1 yards per return this fall.
The less said about the kicking games on both teams, the better, but I suppose it’s worth noting that Haden Hoggarth has perhaps been slightly less adventurous overall. Asa Fuller has been bad, failing on five extra point attempts and connecting on just 11-of-19 field goal tries. He might have a stronger leg than Hoggarth, but I wouldn’t trust it under any circumstances when a championship is on the line. -Matt K.
Coaching: Boise State
Head Football Coach Bryan Harsin has been at the Boise State program for his entire adult life with the exception of 4 years. Coach Harsin has been through so many of these high stakes battles and has come out on the winning side more often than not. Harsin will also have defensive coordinator Andy Avalos, also a former Boise State football player, who has made tremendous halftime adjustments all season long. -Raja
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