Game Preview: Boise State Broncos vs. Fresno State Bulldogs

The #5 ranked Boise State Broncos (4-0) are packing up for another road game this week. This week's matchup comes down in California against the Fresno State Bulldogs (2-3) on Friday evening. The Broncos will be taking on their former Western Athletic Conference foes at Bulldog Stadium. That game gets underway at 7 PM MT and will be televised on ESPN and ESPN3.

This will be the Boise State's fifth non-conference game of the season, but it could very well go down as one the toughest. After last year's humilating loss on The Blue against Boise State, the Bulldogs have a score to settle. That game ended in a Boise State shut-out with the 'Dogs going down 51-0 to the then #4 ranked Broncos. It was the worst defeat of the Bulldogs' 2010 season, and they finished 8-5 after a trip to the Humanitarian Bowl. You can't blame them for wanting some payback this week in front of their hometown fans.

Boise State is favored by 19.5 points this week. You might want to hedge that bet considering that in the past two games the Broncos have failed to cover the spread. And don't think for a minute that Fresno State coach Pat Hill won't have a few things to say about that spread as well.

Sure, I know.  The Bulldogs dropped their first two games of the season. But both were road games with the opener a 36-21 loss to Cal of the Pac12. The following week the Bulldogs traveled out to Nebraska to take on the #10 Cornhuskers, and went down 29-42 in a very competive game. The 'Dogs actually led the 'Huskers in the first half, put up more total yards (444-438), more first downs, and controlled the time of possession, but the Nebraska depth proved to be too much and the Cornhuskers were able to put the game away in the fourth quarter. Fresno State won their next two games over North Dakota and Idaho, and last Saturday hosted Ole Miss of the SEC. They lost that game, too, 38-28 but not before they racked up 444 total yards of offense compared to 430 for the Rebels. Once again, they actually led the game going into the 4th quarter. Head coach Houston Nutt's Rebels made the big plays, however, and pulled out the win. It didn't help that Fresno had two costly turnovers and several missed field goals.

Friday's game will have QB Derek Carr, 6-3 205 lbs, handing the pigskin for the Bulldogs. Through 5 games he has completed 101 of 165 passes for 1,291 yards with 10 TD's vs 4 INTs.  That's pretty impressive for a sophomore who can only improve.  But if he has a weakness it his inability to run. On 17 carries he is -55 yards and has allowed himself to be sacked 11 times. You can't blame all those sacks on the O-line. 

Carr has several good receivers he can go to if they can get free of the Boise defenders. WR Jalen Saunders, 5-9 160 lbs, is proving to be their deep man. He has 17 catches for 462 yards, giving him an average of 27.2 yards a reception. One of his 4 TD catches was an 86 yarder. Boise State defendeers will find he isn't alone out there. Pat Hill is letting his QB air it out this year and WRs Rashad Evans, 5-9 180 lbs, Devon Wylie, 5-9 185 lbs, Josh Harper, 6-1 185 lbs, and Isaiah Burse, 5-11 180 lbs have been catching their share of the passes.

But Fresno State has fielded a balanced attack this season. Not only does the team incorporate a passing corps of good receivers, but it continues to field a good running game as well.  Bulldog RB Robbie Rouse, 5-7 185 lbs, is the main reason for that. He has had 133 carries this season for 600 yards and 4 TD's. Last week alone he had 28 carries against Ole Miss for 123 yeards and a TD. He's definately going to be testing the Bronco D-Line. Luckily, Boise State head coach Chris Petersen knows what he needs to do to get the win: he'll be relying on Boise State's star QB Kellen Moore, 6-1 193 lbs, to deliver the goods. Moore was 19 of 33 yards for 142 passing yards last week against Nevada, and now has 1,135 passing yards.  The Fresno State cornerbacks and safeties will have their hands full covering the Bronco receivers because Moore  likes to spread the ball around to all his receivers.  His most likely targets are TE Tyler Shoemaker, 6-1 213 lbs, and WR Mitch Burrougths, 5-9 187 lbs. They are two of the Bronco's standouts. Both can catch the difficult passes in coverage and have sure hands.  Another receiver of note is Matt Miller, 6-3 215 lbs, who is becoming a fan favorite with his onfield performances.  The most important news on offense that the Bulldogs should be concerned with is about sophomore WR Geraldo Boldewijn, 6-4 200 lbs. Boldewijn has been reinstated by the NCAA and is expected to play in his first game of the season against the Bulldogs. Boldewijn is one of three players from the Netherlands who were suspended by the university this season while the NCAA investigated their eligibility. Boldewijn is important because he gives Moore a deep-threat target that has been nonexistant this year. He joins his countryman Cedric Febis, 6-3 202 lbs, who returned several weeks ago. The team is still waiting for word on defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, whose status still remains under review. The Fresno Bulldogs will also have to contend with a Bronco running game that continues to improve. The Broncos ran for 169 yards last week and that was more yardage than the Broncos put through the air. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease will be looking to test his ground game against the Bulldog defense. Look for a workout with RB Doug Martin, 5-9 215 lbs, who ran 21 times and gained 126 last week. He also will be trying to punch his way into the Fresno State endzone. Backup QB Joe Southwick, 6-1 197 lbs, will be in for the fourth quarter if Boise State is ahead. He took a turn with the pigskin last week against Nevada. The sophomore was 2 of 2 passes and is now 8 of 10 on the year with very limited play time behind Moore.  But Fresno defenders shouldn't take his coming into the game as coasting time. He can also take off on a run and is capable putting up decent yardage when he is behind the ball.  The Bronco special teams have been impressive the past two games after a slow start.  Kicker Dan Goodale, 5-9 184 lbs, has proven he can handle the job and last week kicked his first field goal for the season. Punter Brad Elkin, 6-2 195 lbs, continues to impress with his performance. So far he has punted 19 times, averaging 40.5 yards a punt. Most of his kicks have placed the ball inside the 20 yard line. Fresno State will not have to contend with Bronco cornerback Jerrell Gavins. He will be out due to injury and will likely redshirt the rest of the season. But they can look for center Matt Paradis, 6-1 286 lbs, to be back on the line, along with Cory Yriarte, 6-1 282 lbs. WR and punt returner Chris Potter is questionable right now. Boise State will be looking to keep their BCS bowl changes alive and a decisive win could put them back into the national championship conservation. But they also know they need a big win just to stay in the top five rankings. You can bet the Bulldogs have their own agenda in that regard. Next year when they face off against Boise State they will both meet once again as conference foes in the MWC. And the Bulldogs would like nothing better than to come into the conference next season as the winner over the Broncos, carrying their victory like it was a big, ugly bone taken right out of a horse's hind leg. Sorry, 'Dog, I like your game---but it ain't gonna happen. My score prediction: Boise State 42, Fresno State 17.
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