This week’s predictions
Boise State is a 2.5-point underdog Friday night against Fresno State — the first time in 19 years that the Broncos have been home underdogs in a conference game. The over/under is 54, a number the teams didn’t approach when they played in the regular-season finale in Fresno and Mountain West championship game in Boise last year. The home team won both games.
Fresno State in the next nine days has a chance to prove it’s better than Boise State and San Diego State, the two programs that have combined to win the past four Mountain West championship games. Fresno State beat both of them in the regular season last year.
Boise State hopes to prove that it’s still the team to beat.
The key matchup could be the Broncos’ battered but resilient defense against the Bulldogs’ improving offense. Linebacker Riley Whimpey will be the eighth defensive starter to miss at least one game, and his torn ACL marked the second time this year that the Broncos’ leading tackler was lost for the season.
My pick (7-2 straight up, 3-6 ATS):
The Bulldogs outscored the Broncos 42-34 on aggregate in back-to-back meetings last season — and Fresno State definitely comes into this game with more momentum. I’m a little suspect of the Bulldogs because of the weak schedule, but the metrics say this defense is fantastic regardless. That’s a problem for Boise State’s inconsistent offense, which will need quarterback Brett Rypien to play one of the best games of his career. Rypien threw 61 passes against Fresno State last year without a touchdown. Defensively, the Broncos have been absolutely ravaged by injuries — and that’ll be the difference on Friday night.
Fresno State 27, Boise State 20
Fresno State perspective, from Robert Kuwada of The Fresno Bee (opponent view is 8-1, 4-5):