The Fresno State Bulldogs will have a chance to crown themselves as Mountain West Conference champions this Saturday, but first they will have to face the only team to defeat the ‘Dogs in conference play this year, the Boise State Broncos.
Fresno State will visit the Broncos’ signature blue turf this Saturday in a rematch of its Nov. 9 game that resulted in a 24-17 win by Boise State. The game will start at 4:45 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN’s flagship channel.
This is also the second consecutive year the Bulldogs and the Broncos will play each other in the MW title game. The Broncos took the trophy last season with a 17-14 win. The Bulldogs will be looking to beat the Broncos for the first time since last year’s regular season finale when the ‘Dogs won 28-17 at home.
Both teams are 10-2 overall and 7-1 in conference and are currently ranked in the top 25 teams in the nation in both the AP and Coaches polls. For the Bulldogs, 2018 marks the first time they have had a 10-win season in consecutive years since the 1988 and 1989 seasons.
Fresno State’s only two losses came early and late in the season. Its first loss came against the University of Minnesota and its second was against the Broncos. The Broncos’ first loss of the season came against Oklahoma State University and their second came halfway into the season against San Diego State University.
The Bulldogs punched their ticket to the championship game a few weeks earlier than the Broncos by defeating San Diego State on Nov. 17 in the second-to-last game of the regular season, 23-14, giving the ‘Dogs With the West division title.
Boise State got into the championship last weekend when it defeated the No. 14 team in the nation, the Utah State Aggies at home giving the Broncos the Mountain division title. The Aggies had an undefeated conference record and had only lost once in the entire season before their game against the Broncos.
Some believed that the Aggies had the best chance of winning the conference, but after their defeat at the hands of the Broncos, they were left with the same record, and the head-to-head match up went to Boise State.
The last two games that the Bulldogs and the Broncos have played against each other were thrilling to say the least. Each game ended with a difference of seven or fewer points, but with the Broncos taking the win in each of those games.
In order for the Bulldogs to get their much-desired revenge on the Broncos, they will have to convert more third downs than last time. In the last encounter, the ‘Dogs only managed to convert 2 out of 10 third downs and had about 10 fewer minutes of possession than Boise State.
They must use their big weapons on offense like wide receiver KeeSean Johnson and tight end Jared Rice early to get and keep the momentum and dictate the flow of the game. On defense, the Bulldogs must find a way to stop the Broncos rushing attack that put up an average of 4.1 yards per rush.
During the press conference after the ‘Dogs’ game Saturday against San Jose State and before finding out their championship opponent, linebacker George Helmuth said that the team was ready to face the Broncos again.
During a Monday press conference, head coach Jeff Tedford said that the team already knows what it is like to go onto the blue turf and into a hostile environment, according to the Mountain West’s official website, themw.com. Tedford also said that Boise State is a really good team with a lot of talent and a very good coach.
“If we take care of the little things, typically the big things take care of themselves, so we really have to focus on one play at a time,” Tedford said. “This is going to be a tough, very physical game, so we are going to prepare our best…and make sure we play smart and we play disciplined.”
Broncos head coach Bryan Harsin said during a press conference that they know how talented the Bulldogs are. Harsin talked about the history between the two programs and how they have played four games in the span of a year.
“We have to take care of Fresno, but we also have to take care of us, and that’s why we have a week to do that and go out there and play our very best,” Harsin said. “Fresno has our attention, and if anyone on our team is thinking of other teams, that will show up on game day.”
The game will be an exciting one with both teams going all out to bring the championship trophy home. In the end, the Bulldogs might have a better shot at winning just because they had a less-demanding game last weekend, but it should still be a close game worth watching.