Fresno State and Boise State sit near the top of the Mountain West Conference, so the importance of this weekend’s game cannot be understated. With a win, Fresno State can make the conference a two-team race between them and Air Force, and with two straight wins under their belt, I think they can make it three straight this weekend while also covering the number.
For Boise State’s standards, they are going through a bit of a down year with a 4-4 record. This year’s team does not look like the same one that was 10-4 when they met Fresno State in the conference championship game. Opponents have found far more success offensively on the Broncos this season, as they are allowing 29.3 points and 418.1 yards per game.
Stopping the pass has been the primary weakness of the defense, with the team ranked 104th in success rate and 110th in EPA on pass plays. The only reason their defense hasn’t affected their record more is because the Broncos possess one of the best run offenses in the country.
Behind Ashton Jeanty and quarterback Taylen Green, the Broncos average 204.1 rushing yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry, ranking inside the top 15 in their respective categories. To avenge their loss in the MWC Championship game last season, Jeanty and Green must play at a supremely high level to beat a Fresno State defense that is 23rd in the country in success rate.
On the way to their 7-1 record, the Bulldogs have allowed an average of 19.1 points per game and 117.7 rushing yards per game (27th in the country). While their defense deserves credit for where they sit in the standings, a majority of it belongs to Mikey Keene and the Bulldogs offense.
Following their 31-24 win over UNLV, the Bulldogs are 12th in offensive success rate on pass plays and average 306.1 passing yards per game. By throwing four touchdowns in the game, Keene boasts a 19:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio, so he has been the perfect quarterback to help Fresno State transition out of the Jake Haener era.
After they were three-point underdogs last season when these teams met, Fresno State is currently listed as (-3) point favorites for this meeting, and I’ll be backing them for my play. I think the tides have turned in the Mountain West, and Boise State no longer runs the show, which will be made clear by the end of this game.
The biggest advantage Fresno State has in this one is their passing game. Their strength aligns perfectly with Boise State’s weakness, and I think they’ll exploit it. The Broncos are 127th in yards allowed per pass, 128th in passing yards allowed per game, and 106th in opponent completion percentage, so Mikey Keene could be looking at a career day. The transfer QB has led his team to the 36th-best EPA on pass plays, and with plenty of weapons to throw to, the offense should take care of business on that side of the ball.
Defensively, Fresno State’s strength is stopping the run, which is what Boise State will be looking to do this weekend. Boise State is 25th in run-play percentage, but this is a Bulldogs defense that is 12th in defensive success rate. If they can slow Ashton Jeanty and force Taylen Green to throw more than usual, I think Fresno State secures a cover in this spot.
Fresno State (-3)