Boise State vs. Fresno State: Keys to a Bulldogs Win, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Bulldogs look to reclaim the Milk Can against Boise State. Here’s how to watch and what to watch for against the Broncos.
A hot rivalry renewed.
WEEK 10: Boise State Broncos (4-4, 2-2 Mountain West) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs (7-2, 4-1 Mountain West)
WHEN: Saturday, November 6 — 4:00 PM PT/5:00 PM MT
WHERE: Bulldog Stadium; Fresno, CA
TV: CBS Sports Network
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes CBSSN, by following this link.
You can also stream the Fresno State radio broadcast on Fresno State All-Access.
RADIO: The Fresno State broadcast can be found on in and around Fresno on Fox Sports 1340 AM, as well as on the affiliates of the Bulldog Radio Network around the San Joaquin Valley. The Boise State broadcast can be found throughout Idaho on the affiliates of the Bronco Radio Network, including flagship 670 AM (KBOI) in Boise.
SERIES RECORD: Boise State leads the all-time series 15-7. In the last meeting on December 1, 2018, the Bulldogs defeated the Broncos in the Mountain West football championship game, 19-16, in Boise.
LAST WEEK: Fresno State defeated San Diego State on the road, 30-20, while Boise State defeated Colorado State on the road, 28-19.
ODDS (as of 11/2, via Vegas Insider): Fresno State -5
SP+ PROJECTION: Fresno State by 3.8
FEI PROJECTION: Boise State by 3.5
PARKER FLEMING PROJECTION: Fresno State 70.86% win probability
Folks, the battle for the Milk Can is on.
The Fresno State Bulldogs return home to face rival Boise State, who haven’t yet played like the Broncos we expect to see year after year but remain dangerous. With one of the Mountain West’s best quarterbacks and a top running back looking set for a full return on offense, as well as a bend-but-don’t-break defense that’s proven adept at creating takeaways, Boise State is every bit capable of writing another chapter in this series that ends in their favor.
Here’s how the ‘Dogs can beat Boise State.
Three Keys to a Fresno State Victory
1. Keep Hank Bachmeier from attacking down the field.
Strange as it seems for a Boise State quarterback to fly under the radar, that’s what Bachmeier has been able to do while Carson Strong and Jake Haener have battled for the spotlight. He’s having his best year to date with a 65% completion rate, 7.9 yards per attempt, and a three-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio, so with an offensive line that seems to have settled after some early-season shakiness in front of him, it’s easy to envision the Broncos signal-caller putting up stats like Nevada’s Strong did a couple weeks ago.
Unless, that is, the Bulldogs can force Bachmeier to throw under pressure and take advantage of potential mistakes, just as they did against that same Wolf Pack offense. Kevin Atkins and the rest of the defensive line has continued to perform at a high level, but it’s a much more even battle than it would’ve appeared to be a few weeks ago. It’ll be important because the Broncos have diversified their passing game with the emergence of Stefan Cobbs and Bachmeier, as a result, has created a 20-yard pass play on 11% of his throws. That’s a better rate than Haener (10.8%) and proof enough that Boise State would probably feel okay if the game develops into a shootout.
Boise State leads! Hank Bachmeier swing pass to Stefan Cobbs for the 11 yard TD! I love this play design. pic.twitter.com/wqSoHXJ9OH
— ✯✯✯✯✯ (@FTBVids_YT) October 31, 2021
— Paul Loeffler (@P356Loeffler) November 1, 2021
2. Trust in the offense’s strengths.
While the early word is that Ronnie Rivers might be back on the field along with some other potential difference makers and Jordan Mims is one reason why the Bulldogs have gotten hot once again, Kalen DeBoer’s offense runs through Haener. That’s evidenced by the fact that Fresno State’s early down run rate is 40%, one of the lowest in the country, and its percentage of first downs earned on first and second down is 76.6%, which ranks 4th overall. There’s no reason to get cute now.
That’s because, while the Broncos have remained game in defending the pass with a solid 7.4% sack rate and a 58.7% completion rate allowed, the ‘Dogs might be in a position to better exploits the cracks that have developed in the Boise State secondary from a rash of injuries. Markel Reed and Roman Kafentzis are out for the year while Tyric LeBeauf has missed time, so while replacements like transfer cornerback Caleb Biggers and youngsters Rodney Robinson and Kaonohi Kaniho have played admirably, it’s worth noting that the Broncos have allowed 7.8 yards per attempt against FBS competition, a figure surpassed by only UNLV in the conference.
Even if Jalen Cropper plays on a precautionary snap count after suffering a knee injury last week, Fresno State has enough options to get the ball out quickly and keep the Boise State pass rush at arm’s length.
3. Keep George Holani from becoming a difference maker.
— Johnny Mallory (@Ballgame_KTIK) November 1, 2021
If the Broncos’ top running back is back to full strength as reported, it’ll make the battle in the trenches that much more interesting. Without him, Boise State has been lousy at running the ball, ranking 115th in line yards per carry, 116th in opportunity rate, and 90th in stuff rate allowed. With him, however, Fresno State’s own ability to disrupt (their 22.1% stuff rate on defense ranks 22nd overall) will be put to the test.
There is another wrinkle, though, which could make a big difference: Will Farrar, who started three games as the starting center when Kekaniokoa
Holomalia-Gonzalez was lost for the year with injury, might miss this game while recuperating from an injury of his own. That absence forced the Broncos to start their fifth different combination of starters on the line last week, which is something that defensive coordinator William Inge is certainly aware of in preparation for Saturday.
Recent history suggests that this game is likely to be a close one. A lot will depend on which defense can step up most often, whether by winning the turnover battle or, to be more specific, in getting hands on the football downfield. That latter point would seem to favor the home team, as the Bulldogs have broken up more passes over the course of the year, but it won’t be a shock if Haener and Bachmeier get to work trading blows throughout the late afternoon.
Fresno State 41, Boise State 38