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Is It a Rivalry? Boise State vs. Fresno State

The battle for the Milk Can

Mountain West Championship - Fresno State v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

In this new series, our writers will be looking at various Mountain West matchups and determining whether or not they qualify as rivalries. Our newest edition features Boise State vs. Fresno State.

Record: Boise State has 15 wins to Fresno State has 7 wins

Longest winning streak: Boise State’s longest winning streak is 7 and Fresno’s is 3.

Largest margin of victory: Boise State 61-10 in 2008. Fresno 42-7 in 1977.

How does each team feel about the opposition and its fanbase?

Zach: Boise State fans despise the Bulldogs. I think there was some level of mutual respect when Pat Hill was the head coach. But Boise State became what Fresno State almost was in the early 2000’s and that was a national Cinderella. Boise State crushed Fresno’s dreams in 2001 and that is when the two programs went in opposite directions.

Matt: I hate every single thing about them. We were supposed to be the BCS buster, the giant killing program, but those dang Broncos had to happen. They became everything we were supposed to be, and we’ve never forgiven them for that. Even though we’ve been able to scrape out a few wins, it’s not the same as the absolute beatdowns we had to suffer when Boise was at their peak and Pat Hill couldn’t be bothered to prep for those games.

Would you consider the rivalry competitive?

Zach: Air Force, San Diego State, and Fresno State are the only programs that have given Boise State a true run for their money. Boise State has still been relatively dominant in this century, winning 15 of the 19 contests. But these games are usually fairly competitive and both teams look forward to the game. The only reason this rivalry has taken a step back, is because the two teams no longer meet annually.

Matt: It’s gotten more competitive recently. Under Tim DeRuyter and Jeff Tedford, we were at least able to keep games close, and get a few wins, which was a huge difference from the end of the Pat Hill era. We’re still constantly mad that our conference commissioner broke us apart, so now we won’t see each other each year unless we meet in the Conference Championship Game. There should have been a clause that says we have to play every year. We really need to make the rivalry more competitive, to at least get into double digit wins.

Which matchups stick out in your mind?

Zach: I remember how excited Fresno fans were in 2013 when they beat arguably the worst Boise State teams this decade by one point. That one still stings a little. The 2017 and 2018 games were all great contests that came down to the wire. But my favorite games were in 2010 and 2011, those Boise State squads were just different.

Matt: The 2017 and 2018 games were awesome games from two teams operating at their best against each other. All close games with title implications, and ranked teams fighting each other for supremacy. The 2013 win was huge for Fresno State, being the first win in 8 years, but the Tedford era games meant a whole lot more for the program.

If you asked Fresno fans what they think about Boise State what would they say aloud? What would they secretly be thinking?

Matt: We’d say aloud that they are our most hated rival, and the one team we want to beat more than any other when they appear on the schedule. It’s a lot like a Michigan/Ohio State, where both fan bases would gladly lose every other game as long as they can put the hurt on their rival. In secret, we’re jealous of their success. They did everything we were supposed to do, and were the darlings of college football for a decade. We want that consistency to say that an 8 win team was our worst one in a decade.

If you asked Boise State fans what they think about Fresno what would they say aloud? What would they secretly be thinking?

Zach: The more seasoned fans have a strong disdain for the Bulldogs. I think the more recent fans would consider BYU a bigger rival. Secretly, Boise State fans hate Fresno and are very proud of their success over the Bulldogs. But they also want them to do well because it is good for the conference. The 2018 championship game was a hard pill to swallow.

Final verdict, would you consider these two teams to be rivals?

Zach: Absolutely! I think the Mountain West really dropped the ball when they put these two teams in different divisions. I think both groups of fans wish this game happened every year. The Milk Can trophy also adds another layer to the rivalry.

Matt: 100%. They are our chief rival, and it’s an absolute travesty that we don’t get to play every year. That needs to be fixed in the next round of conference negotiations, and they’re not allowed to leave for another conference without taking us with them. Having a real trophy now helps, because we have a tangible symbol to put in the trophy cases, and they’re not super lame like a bunch of the Big Ten trophies. There’s a grudging respect, because we both want the other team to be great to represent the conference, but we can’t wait to play and beat each other.