This Saturday the Boise State Broncos (9-3) will host the Fresno State Bulldogs (9-3) in the 2017 Mountain West Conference Championship Game. Kickoff is set for 7:45 EST at Albertsons Stadium and will be televised on ESPN.
Oddsmakers currently have the Broncos listed as a 9-point home favorite with the total set at 49 points. Check out our Week 14 NCAAF odds page for a full betting schedule and for more links to our game previews.
Fresno State vs Boise State Game Preview & Betting Odds
When the season started no one was giving the Bulldogs a shot at winning the MWC West Division. Fresno State was a complete afterthought, as just about everyone had San Diego State pegged to defending their division title. Considering the Bulldogs were coming off a 1-11 season and 4-20 record over the previous two seasons, I don’t know how you could have picked them to being playing this weekend.
The remarkable turnaround has come in the first year under head coach Jeff Tedford. While the offense only ranked 74th at 27.8 ppg, that’s a big improvement over the 17.7 ppg they averaged a year ago. However, the biggest improvement came on defense, where they went from giving up 30.9 ppg and 415 ypg to ranking 12th in the nation, allowing just 17.3 ppg and 16th in total defense, giving up only 317 ypg.
As for the Broncos, most expected them to be playing for the MWC title, as that’s basically the standard for this program. Anything short of that would be considered a disappointment. However, since the Mountain West went to two divisions back in 2013, Boise State has only played in the title game once. That was in 2014, when they beat Fresno State 28-14. So while it may seem like this is a game the Broncos are well equipped for, they actually don’t have a lot of experience in these type of games.
An interesting quirk to this game is that the schedule set up to where these two teams just played in each other in the regular season finale last Saturday. Fresno State won the game 28-17 as a 7-point dog, but it’s important to note that game meant nothing to either side, as both had already locked up their respective division titles.
NCAA Football Free Pick & Betting Predictions: Fresno St +9
I would have to take the points here with the Bulldogs against the Broncos. I think this line speaks volumes to how much more a public side Boise State is. Say what you want about last week’s game not meaning anything, Fresno State clearly outplayed the Broncos. Even after losing by a 11-points on the road, there’s those that will be willing to lay the 9-points here with Boise State simply because they trust them more and the game is being played on their home field.
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I actually think it works in the Bulldogs favor here. Tedford and his staff can continue to use the disrespect hard to motivate their team, something that has fueled this team all season. Not only will they have the bigger chip on their shoulder, but they just might be the better team.
Fresno State’s defense is the real deal and has only gotten better as the season has moved on. Keep in mind they finished the season ranked 12th, allowing just 17.3 ppg, despite having to play both Alabama and Washington on the road in non-conference play.
One thing the Bulldogs did extremely well in the game last week against Boise State is shutdown the Broncos ground game. Fresno State held Boise to just 107 yards on 31 attempts (3.5 yard/carry). I like their chances of keeping the Broncos run game in check again and it’s a lot easier to play defense when you know the opponent can only beat you with the pass.
It wasn’t just the defense that shined, the Bulldogs put up 431 yards on a good Boise State defense. The Broncos simply didn’t have an answer for junior quarterback Marcu McCaryion, who threw for 332 yards and 2 scores, while also adding 27 yards on the ground. His favorite target was KeeSean Johnson, who had 6 catches for 119 yards and both of McCaryion’s touchdown passes. Jamire Jordan was also a factor, catching four passes for 91 yards.
The ability to attack this Broncos secondary is not only key to keeping this close enough on the road to cover, but it keeps open the backdoor if Boise happens to get off to a strong start. With all that said, I think Fresno State has an excellent shot at winning this game and simply feel that getting over a touchdown is a gift you can’t pass up on. Give me the Bulldogs +9.