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Fresno State football: 3 reasons why the Bulldogs will defeat Boise State

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Last year's battle for the Milk Can was a back-and-forth affair, and despite some uneven results there's hope for the Bulldogs to hold onto the trophy another year.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

WEEK 8: Fresno State Bulldogs (3-4, 2-1 Mountain West) vs. Boise State Broncos (4-2, 2-1)

WHEN: Friday, October 17 -- 5:00 PM, PST

WHERE: Albertson's Stadium; Boise, ID (36,387)

TV: ESPN

RADIO: Fresno's two ESPN affiliates, 940 and 1600 AM, will broadcast the game in English and Spanish, respectively. The Broncos broadcast can be found in and around Boise on 670 AM or 96.9 FM.

SERIES RECORD: The Broncos lead the series 11-5.  In the last meeting on September 20, 2013, however, the Bulldogs survived late and secured a 41-40 victory.

WEB SITES: GoBulldogs.com, Fresno State's official athletics site | BroncoSports.com, Boise State's official athletics site

The 2013 season featured plenty of highs for the Fresno State Bulldogs, but few of them matched the satisfaction of finally getting a big win against Boise State.  On the heels of an upset last week in Las Vegas, though, it is understandable if there is some trepidation about this year's trip to the blue turf.  Few teams have a more decisive home-field advantage than the Broncos, and even fewer teams have more first-hand experience with this than the Bulldogs:  It's been 30 years since Fresno stole a win in Boise, and the average margin of defeat in the last five visits is just over 30 points.

One shouldn't be without hope, though, so while the Bulldogs have been erratic (at best) so far in 2014, relinquishing the Milk Can trophy isn't a foregone conclusion.  It's a matter of whether they can play to their strengths.  If.

Three Reasons Why Fresno State Will Win

1. Boise's run defense looked stout in the season's first month, but there may be a few cracks in the foundation after allowing nearly five yards per carry the last two weeks against Air Force and Nevada.  In addition, it might be that Marteze Waller is the best running back they've seen so far.  It's hard to say the junior Waller could do much more with the opportunities he's been given as the lead back, considering he's averaging 6.24 yards per carry.  That figure, by the way, is 7th-best among backs who have matched his 106 carries.

2. You never want to wish ill upon an opponent, but Bulldogs fans must be relieved that the Broncos will be without wide receiver Matt Miller, who is now lost for the year to injury.  Fresno's defensive backfield remains a soft spot but Miller, who was averaging nearly 16.5 yards per catch, was by far Boise's best receiver.  Thomas Sperbeck and Dallas Burroughs figure to be more manageable assignments for Curtis Riley and Jamal Ellis.

3. Donte Deayon has an argument for being the best cornerback in the Mountain West, but let's not mince words: Josh Harper is on another level right now.  He hauled in a season-high 12 catches for 187 yards last Friday, including a couple of tough catches in traffic.  He's raised his game as a result of inconsistent quarterback play, and Deayon will have his work cut out for him.

Three Reasons the Bulldogs Might Falter

1. The Bulldogs have not protected Brian Burrell particularly well this year, which makes the offensive line one of the quieter disappointments. Meanwhile, Boise has racked up 17 sacks in six games, so even though no Broncos has more than Beau Martin's 3.5 takedowns, it won't be surprising if Burrell has pressure in his face all evening and forces poor throws as a result.

2. Fresno State's run defense has been up and down all season.  In recent weeks, they've been able to adjust and bottle up Crusoe Gongbay and Donnel Pumphrey after halftime, and Tyeler Davison in particular has played very well. Jay Ajayi, however, is more in the mold of an top-flight running back... if he can hang onto the ball.  His role was limited in last year's loss, if you'll recall, when he had an attack of fumblitis, but he's already blasted a couple of well-regarded defenses with big games this year.  If he's able to break a long run early, he could see 30 touches and make it a long night.

3. I feel as though I'm repeating myself week after week, but Fresno's special teams woes have really gotten out of hand.  The lack of a trustworthy kicking game cost them a win last week when Kody Kroening missed an extra point that would've given the 'Dogs a late lead.  There are no answers on the horizon, and though Fresno has shown a willingness to adjust their fourth-down aggressiveness as a result it is no sure thing:  9-of-18 amounts to a coin flip, and Boise is good enough to punish turnovers and short fields.