It's BAAAACK. I'm not talking about poltergeist or other general spookiness that occurs late in October. I am talking about the annual Fresno State/Boise State skirmish. I know, I know...BSU has the upperhand in this series winning 5 out of the last 6 meetings, but last time Boise State went to Fresno in '05 they got handed a 27-7 beating at the hands of the Dawgs. In '05, the stakes were the same—retention of first place in the WAC and an inside track to win the WAC crown. After winning 5-straight WAC titles...the Broncos will be conceding nothing on Friday night. The Bulldogs look focused and ready for the challenge this year and a raucous crowd and a very good ground game has Fresno licking their chops for this matchup. Add in the fact that Boise State's run defense has been terrible the last two games and the fact that Ian Johnson is out with an injury and Vinny Perretta is done for the year and Fresno should have a lot of determination and confidence heading into this ballgame.
Pat Hill seems to get his teams up for the "big" games—and so far this year...none seems bigger than this one. Of course, Chris Petersen is no slouch either compiling a 19-1 record since taking the reins at BSU and he should have the Broncos ready to go. A lot of people are anticipating a barn-burner in Fresno, but I can't help but think this one won't be THAT close either way. Obviously, Fresno's strength is running the ball and they will indeed run—whether or not BSU can stop that assault remains to be seen. Through the first 5 games, Boise State really gave up nothing on the ground...but have been toasted in the last two games—which makes this game all the more intriguing. If BSU can find their prior form (helped by the possible return of Safety Jeron Johnson), Fresno will have a hard time putting up points...if not, obviously, all bets are off.
BSU, although missing Ian Johnson for the second straight week, can run the ball too. In fact the Broncos average more rushing yards per game than the Dawgs by about 1 yard...so this would appear to be a pretty even matchup, but the absence of Ian Johnson will tilt the run-game favor to Fresno State with their fine RB tandem of Ryan Matthews and Lonyae Miller. Miller may be absent on Friday as well, but I wouldn't count on it—and though Jeremy Avery is a very good sub for Johnson (gaining over 150 all-purpose yards last week)...Matthews is a bit more sturdy and most likely better able to carry the full load if depth is thin for the Bulldogs.
The passing game favors Boise State as Taylor Tharp has been on fire of late. Helped by Jeremy Childs and Titus Young...the Broncos are a very real threat to go deep at any given time. Fresno's Brandstater is an able field-general, but is not going to light up the scoreboard...so if BSU can shut down the rungame and force Brandstater to throw—the Broncos will have an advantage as the Bulldog team doesn't seem tailored to throw that much. BSU's secondary—although tested lately, have the ability to shut down the passing game, so passing yards will be tough to come by for Fresno, unless, of course they can strongly establish the ground game to open up the passing lanes. At any rate, if Boise State can get up big by halftime—and force Fresno to alter their offensive gameplan...the Broncos could roll.
Boise State has the edge right now on total offense...but after setback games by the Bronco's defense against Nevada and La Tech...I will give the defensive edge to the Dawgs. Special Teams are pretty even, with the Broncos and Bulldogs having big-time kick returners. The coaching edge has to go to reigning Coach of the Year Chris Petersen and crew...although Pat Hill and his staff know how to win. The intangible edge in this matchup has to go to Fresno, playing at home in front of a crowd that wants Bronco blood. The Broncos better be dialed in on offense, because I have a feeling it is going to get loud in the Valley. The Broncos need to wrap up and tackle wel (something they lacked in the '05 game—and the last two conference games) or the Dogs will get rolling and feed off the stadium's energy. Hopefully Bronco Nation will show up in force and let the Broncos know we're behind them here in Boise.
IF Boise sticks to their offensive gameplan and shows more fire on the D-line and LB corps...I think that Boise State wins this one 40-27.
As usual, that's a big IF, as the Broncos aren't really the same team on the road. Plus, we all know that anything can happen in a rivalry game (yes, I said 'rivalry') so my bizarro, Fresno-does-everything-right-like-in-2005 prediction is Fresno 35, Boise State 21.
That should pretty much cover all the bases, right?
Posted by Drew at 9:17 AM