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Game preview: Broncos aiming for second straight Mountain West title against Fresno State

Boise State players run onto the field before the game against Utah State on Dec. 24, 2018. CBS 2 photo.

Below is a game preview from B.J. Rains of the Idaho Press. Make sure to check Saturday’s Idaho Press for a special four-page section previewing the game.

The Basics

The Boise State football team will host the Mountain West Championship for the third time in the past five years Saturday when they welcome the Fresno State Bulldogs to town for a 5:45 p.m. kick off on ESPN. Boise State (10-2, 7-1 MW) advanced to the title game by winning seven straight games to end the regular season after starting 3-2. Included was a 24-17 comeback win over the Bulldog (10-2, 7-1) in Boise just three weeks ago. The two teams could be playing for more than just a Mountain West title. If UCF loses to Memphis earlier in the day, the winner of the Boise State-Fresno State game would earn a spot to the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Familiar with Fresno

The Broncos and Bulldogs will play for the fourth time in 372 days on Saturday, which is the shortest time span to play four times in at least the last 100 years of FBS football. The two teams played in Fresno in the last regular season game last year, and then again the next week in Boise in the Mountain West title. They also played three weeks ago in Boise on Nov. 9. The Broncos are 2-1 in the three games, but Fresno State has a 59-58 advantage in total points.

Why the Broncos should feel confident

Boise State has won both games against Fresno State in Boise the past two years and is 2-0 in Mountain West title games played in Boise. The Broncos also beat Fresno State in the 2014 title game at Albertsons Stadium. The Broncos moved the ball pretty well against the Bulldogs’ vaunted defense in the previous game in Boise and probably should have had more than 24 points if not for a fourth down stop, a turnover and a missed field goal. Boise State’s defense also played well, holding the Bulldogs’ to less than half of their season average of 40-plus points per game.

Why the Broncos should be concerned

Fresno State had the lead going to the fourth quarter in each of the past three games against the Broncos and it took clutch comebacks for the Broncos to pull out wins in both the 2017 Mountain West title game and the matchup earlier this year. Boise State has dealt with a numbers of injuries on both offense and defense, and at some point it’s hard to expect the Broncos to play at this level with so many key players on the bench. Fresno State also figures to be a motivated group after blowing a pair of fourth-quarter leads and losing the title game in Boise last year. Maybe the biggest reason the Broncos should be concerned? Fresno State is really good.

Quotable

“That would be a great way to end your senior year off, but we can’t control that right now. All we can control is doing our part and finishing the game right. I actually have heard about that a lot, but we can’t control that. It’s a blessing for sure that it’s still attainable, but it’s not in our hands really. We have to control what we can control. If we lose a game and then they lose a game, it still won’t help anybody. We can’t really focus on what UCF does, we have to focus on what Boise State does.”

-Senior wide receiver A.J. Richardson on the possibility of UCF losing and opening the door for a spot in the Fiesta Bowl

Prediction

Boise State seems to have something special going right now. They’ve won seven in a row, including two over ranked teams in the past three weeks. They can’t expect for another fourth-quarter comeback and have talked all week about starting faster. The two teams are evenly matched, but I’ll give the edge to the Broncos at home. They keep things rolling, and a UCF loss also puts them in the Fiesta Bowl. It will be a special night on The Blue. Boise State 27, Fresno State 20.

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