BarkBoard Staff Predictions: Fresno State at Boise State

BarkBoard Staff Predictions: Fresno State at Boise State
Its win-or-else time for Boise State football. Enjoy the drama – if you can.
The Boise State football team has won its past four games, two of them in places where bad things have been known to happen.

The vibe coming from Bronco Nation: a mix of relief, frustration anxiety and, judging by this weeks ticket sales, a little bit of apathy.

Boise State was projected by most to be a top 25 team in 2018, but coach Bryan Harsins team is 7-2 through nine games and unranked entering Friday nights contest. The Broncos opened the year with a solid road victory at Troy (56-20) but stumbled two weeks later at Oklahoma State (44-21) and lost at home to San Diego State (19-13) on Oct. 6. Boise State rebounded from the loss to the Aztecs by winning four in a row, including a 31-27 road victory at Nevada and a 21-16 win against BYU last Saturday. As usual, the Broncos are led by a high-powered offense. Harsins team is averaging 40.1 points a game, with quarterback Brett Rypien leading the Mountain West by averaging 320.6 yards a game.

Maybe its time to ease those standards just a bit — and enjoy what your team is doing. And this is the perfect time for a new approach, because November 2018 for Boise State is about wins, and only wins.

Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Boise State Broncos Prediction and Preview

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At Boise State, Bulldogs banged-up offensive line might be on edge of trouble

The Broncos (7-2 overall, 4-1 Mountain West) face No. 16 Fresno State on Friday night. The Bulldogs are tied for the highest-ranked opponent to play the Broncos on the Blue.

Despite losing coordinator Orlondo Steinauer to the CFL, Fresno States defense has picked up where it left off last fall. The Bulldogs will bring a suffocating unit to the blue turf, limiting opponents to 12.3 points a game and just 4.5 yards per play. The strength of this unit is a secondary that has allowed only eight passing scores and limits opposing quarterbacks to just 48.1 percent in completion percentage. Fresno State is also solid against the run, limiting teams to 128.8 yards a contest and 3.6 a carry. The Bulldogs rank seventh in the Mountain West in sacks generated (16) but have forced 21 takeaways.

Video: Bulldogs & Broncos – The Battle On The Blue

Win all three of those games, and the Broncos will play for the Mountain West title — and possibly a major bowl bid — at Albertsons Stadium. Doesnt matter what the score is. Doesnt matter how many missed tackles they have. Doesnt matter if the offense runs hot and cold, as it does nearly every game.

Tuitele could be back Friday when the Bulldogs play at Boise State with their No. 23 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings and lead in the West Division of the Mountain West on the line. But they also could play one of the two backups, and midweek all three were getting practice reps and in play to start.

Lose any one of those games, and the Broncos almost certainly will miss the championship game for the fourth time in six years of divisional play in the Mountain West. Thats just one of many reminders that the juggernaut of the WAC days that created the expectation of winning with style and ease has been succeeded by a program that must scratch and claw its way through the more challenging Mountain West.

1 Stewart Mandels Week 11 college football picks

Four weeks ago, coach Bryan Harsin seemingly had to remind everyone that the 31-27 win at Nevada was a positive result — even though it was a nailbiter to the end. San Diego State lost in Reno two weeks later.

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Brett Rypien will keep Boise State close

Three weeks ago, frustration crept into my Twitter feed and email inbox as the Broncos let off the gas with a 35-0 lead over Colorado State. They won 56-28.

Redshirt freshman Dontae Bull got the start the following week against Hawaii; last week at UNLV it was sophomore Quireo Woodley.

Players to watch, who has the edge as Boise State hosts No. 16 Fresno State

Two weeks ago, I listened on the airplane ride home as fans expressed happiness with the programs first victory at Air Forces Falcon Stadium but voiced frustration with the first half — which, at 28-28, was the most entertaining half in a Boise State game this season.

Fresno State and Central Florida, the leading Group of Five players to land a spot in a New Years Six bowl, made no move forward or backward on Tuesday in the second set of College Football Playoff rankings.

Dawg pound: Boise State vs Fresno State game preview

And Saturday night, reporters were asked to rip the Broncos in print for their performance in the 21-16 win against BYU. Mistakes were made, of course — but wasnt the true story of that game an injury-riddled defense stopping BYU from scoring a touchdown on seven of its eight possessions inside the 30-yard line, including on the final snap of the game from the 2?

There was some movement around the Bulldogs at No. 23, with Washington in at No. 25 and Auburn in at No. 24, Iowa State moving up to No. 22 from No. 24 and Boston College in at No. 17 up from No. 22.

Its good to have high standards. Boise State coaches and players often point out that their standards are the highest of all.

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Boise State-Fresno State will be a hot one, but ticket sales are ice cold

Its not as good to have high expectations. Because when you start expecting greatness, its difficult to appreciate the very good.

The Bulldogs, 8-1 and 5-0 in the Mountain West Conference, are No. 23. UCF (8-0 and 5-0 in the American Athletic Conference) is No. 12.

None of those teams have been great. The inconsistency can be maddening — I get that, and mention it frequently.

Fresno State’s back-to-back matchups against Boise State last year went in the Bulldogs’ favor all the way until it counted most – when the Broncos found their blue turf magic to come away with the conference title. The Bulldogs proved their defense was up to the task in 2017, holding Boise State to 17 points in both games and keeping veteran quarterback Brett Rypien without a touchdown for eight quarters. Fresno State found it much easier to move the ball in the first matchup at home, rather than in Boise in the cold.

But the Broncos record since the start of 2016 is 28-8 — an outstanding mark at a time when many of college footballs most-storied programs have been unable to sustain their expected level of success (Florida, Florida State, Miami, Nebraska, USC and Texas for starters). Boise States non-conference and bowl matchups in that stretch include seven Power Five opponents, three games vs. BYU, two vs. Sun Belt power Troy, two against other Group of Five schools and none against FCS schools.

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With three games to go, its time to appreciate rather than nitpick … until the Broncos lose. Then have at it.

Utah State in the NY6? Never Say Never.

Boise State is a 2.5-point underdog Friday night against Fresno State — the first time in 19 years that the Broncos have been home underdogs in a conference game. The over/under is 54, a number the teams didnt approach when they played in the regular-season finale in Fresno and Mountain West championship game in Boise last year. The home team won both games.

Boise State has a handful of critical injuries, but still pose a considerable threat to the ‘Dogs in the 2018 edition of the battle for the Milk Can. The bottom line – Fresno State appears to have improved from 2017 while the Broncos look like they have taken a step back. I see the Bulldogs holding the Broncos to 17 or fewer points for a third straight time, giving the offense a good chance to outscore Boise State.

Fresno State in the next nine days has a chance to prove its better than Boise State and San Diego State, the two programs that have combined to win the past four Mountain West championship games. Fresno State beat both of them in the regular season last year.

Its a great opportunity, Boise State senior cornerback Tyler Horton said. Those guys have been rolling this year.

And in Week 10, it absolutely nailed the biggest game of the season, recommending the Crimson Tide against the spread (-14), on the money line (-588) and hitting the under in Alabamas 29-0 blowout of LSU. It also nailed its top-rated selection of Auburn (-3.5) over Texas A&M, helping the model finish the weekend on a strong 7-3 run on all top-rated picks. Anyone who has followed it is way up. 

The key matchup could be the Broncos battered but resilient defense against the Bulldogs improving offense. Linebacker Riley Whimpey will be the eighth defensive starter to miss at least one game, and his torn ACL marked the second time this year that the Broncos leading tackler was lost for the season.

Boise State has built itself to compete in games where it looks like it might be out-manned. Quarterback Brett Rypien has played in plenty of marquee games as a four-year starter and is having his best statistical season to date. Rypien has six games under his belt this season where he has thrown for over 300 yards, at least two touchdowns and no interceptions. In those games, Boise State is 5-1. 

Its been a humbling and great experience, said Horton, the defensive captain who has missed two games himself. Despite the record, despite everything else, our teams been battling. Weve been looking forward to practicing. Im enjoying it.

One big reason why the Bulldogs have been so dominant this season is quarterback Marcus McMaryion. The Oregon State transfer is now a two-year starter for Jeff Tedford and has been sensational. McMaryion has completed nearly 71 percent of his passes for 2,416 yards and 20 touchdowns against just three interceptions this season. Hes also rushed for 157 yards and seven more scores. 

My pick (7-2 straight up, 3-6 ATS): The Bulldogs outscored the Broncos 42-34 on aggregate in back-to-back meetings last season — and Fresno State definitely comes into this game with more momentum. Im a little suspect of the Bulldogs because of the weak schedule, but the metrics say this defense is fantastic regardless. Thats a problem for Boise States inconsistent offense, which will need quarterback Brett Rypien to play one of the best games of his career. Rypien threw 61 passes against Fresno State last year without a touchdown. Defensively, the Broncos have been absolutely ravaged by injuries — and thatll be the difference on Friday night. Fresno State 27, Boise State 20

The Bulldogs have been solid against the run, 30th nationally at 128.8 ypg. No team has rushed for 200 or more yards, and eight of nine opponents have gone for less than 150. Fresno State is tied for third nationally, having allowed only three runs of 20 yards or more.

Fresno State is not lacking for motivation headed to Boise State on Friday, having lost the Mountain West Championship game 17-14 the last time it played at Albertsons Stadium and looking to move up from No. 23 in the College Football Playoff rankings.

Boise State is averaging 149.8 yards per game, slightly better than last years 143.5 (worst in 20 years), but junior Alexander Mattison is still on pace for 1,000 yards at 80.7 ypg. The Broncos have eclipsed 161 yards only twice, doing it against UConn and Nevada.

And now comments made by Boise State coach Bryan Harsin after last years championship game are making the rounds. Some of the Bulldogs had not heard the sound bite from the end of Harsins postgame news conference until this week.

The run game is effective, but wed like to see more than 200 yards on the board at the end of the game. … Weve got to get to the second level, sustain our blocks and make it easy for Alex to bust it out, sophomore offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland said.

To recap: Our guys came to play tonight, Harsin said. It was a physical football game. We beat that team. We physically beat them when it was all said and done, and thats the bottom line. I have to give our guys credit for that because thats how it was. The execution part of it, well go back and well look at that and well figure out how were going to be better from it, but physically when it came down to it and it really mattered out guys got it done and they physically beat the other team.

No one covers what is happening in our community better than we do. And with a digital subscription, you'll never miss a local story.

No one covers what is happening in our community better than we do. And with a digital subscription, you'll never miss a local story.

Fresno State offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer discusses the growth of the Bulldogs over the past year heading into a crucial Mountain West matchup against Boise State at Albertsons Stadium on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018.

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