Friday Football

Friday Football

Friday's College Football TV Capsule
October 23, 2007

Boise State at Fresno

Opening Line: Boise State by 6.

Series Record: Boise State leads 5-4.

Last Meeting: 2006, Boise State 45-21

Last Meeting: 2006, Boise State 45-21

Since joining the WAC in 2001, Boise State has won 44 of their last 45 conference games (48-3 overall). Their last conference loss came at Fresno State in 2005. ... Boise State has won 52 games over the last five years, second in the nation to Southern Cal (54). ... The Broncos have won eight straight nationally televised games. ... Fresno State has won eight of its last 11 games. ... Fresno State is third in the WAC in rushing offense (204.4 yards per game), passing defense (111.83) and total defense (394.4 yards per game). ... Fresno State has won five straight home games. ... Fresno State has not allowed a touchdown at home this season.

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Game Preview for Boise State vs Fresno State

STATS: Site: Bulldog Stadium (41,031) -- Fresno, California. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: BSU 5-0, FSU 3-0. Away Record: BSU 1-1, FSU 2-2. Neutral Record: BSU 0-0, FSU 0-0. Conference Record: BSU 3-0, FSU 4-0. Series Record: Boise State leads, 5-4.

GAME NOTES: Two teams fighting to remain undefeated in Western Athletic Conference play hit the field for a special Friday night edition of college football as the Fresno State Bulldogs host the Boise State Broncos. Nearly forgotten following back-to-back losses to Texas Aamp;M and Oregon on the road that pushed them to 1-2, the Bulldogs have gone on to win four straight games and are a perfect 4-0 in WAC play to match the start of undefeated Hawaii. Last weekend the Bulldogs thumped San Jose State at home by a score of 30-0, by far the easiest outing of the campaign for the squad. Similarly, the Broncos were taken out of the national spotlight after losing to Washington in the second week of the season and have bounced back with five consecutive triumphs. Boise State continued to turn up the offensive pressure by running away from Louisiana Tech last Saturday in Ruston by a score of 45-31. In their three WAC wins, the Broncos have scored a combined 172 points. With the victory, BSU also inched closer to getting back into the Top-25 as well. Boise State leads the all-time series with the Bulldogs by a count of 5-4, dismissing FSU in a 45-21 decision in Idaho a season ago. Fresno State head coach Pat Hill has had little success against the Broncos in his career with the program, posting a 1-5 mark.

With an injured Ian Johnson not even making the trip to Louisiana, the Broncos relied on Taylor Tharp to get them through against the Bulldogs. Tharp responded by hitting 21-of-35 passes for 328 yards and five touchdowns in the win, while Jeremy Avery stepped into Johnson's shoes and gained 110 yards and scored once on 21 carries. Avery, one of four receivers to catch a touchdown pass, also had four grabs for 79 yards, trailing only Jeremy Childs who had seven catches for 143 yards and two TDs. Regardless of whether or not Johnson will make the trip to the Golden State, Tharp has proven that he can take the bull by the horns and direct the offense. The signal-caller is completing 65.3 percent of his passes this season for 265.3 ypg, leading to 18 touchdowns. More importantly, Tharp has resisted trying to make the impossible happen, even if some see his seven interceptions as big mistakes. Thanks to the growth of Tharp, the team is second in the WAC and sixth in the nation in scoring with close to 43 points per outing.

Despite being one of the worst offenses in the WAC and the nation this season, Louisiana Tech still made a game of it against the Broncos on Saturday. Tech was allowed to roll up 463 yards of total offense and controlled the ball for more than 10 minutes in both the second and fourth quarters, and yet the home team still fell short by two touchdowns. Kyle Gingg registered a team-high 14 tackles for the Broncos, adding a fumble recovery along the way as well, while Orlando Scandrick forced a fumble and made an interception. Gingg now leads the team in total tackles after seven games, of which he has played six, with 52 stops. He has also registered two of the team's five recovered fumbles and recorded a team-high six pass breakups. Like Gingg, Mike T. Williams has missed one game, yet he leads the program with five sacks. The secondary is making it tough for opponents to battle back when they fall behind, allowing only 187.9 ypg to rank first in the conference and tied for 19th in the nation after play on Saturday night.

Ryan Mathews ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns in leading Fresno State to the shutout win over the Spartans at home last Saturday. Ryan, who now holds the freshman record for touchdowns in a season for the Bulldogs with nine, carried the ball 16 times for the home team as they won their fourth straight outing. Lonyae Miller added another rushing score for FSU, while Tom Brandstater converted 16-of-26 passes for 132 yards passing in the win as well. Brandstater may be the quarterback for this team, but he has not become the leader that coach Hill would have liked on the field, with a mere six touchdown passes on 176 attempts. The passing offense for the Bulldogs currently ranks seventh in the conference and 93rd in the nation with a mere 186.6 ypg. Thanks to the rushing attack, third in the league and 19th in the nation, that is putting up better than 200 ypg, the Bulldogs are plowing along thanks to the efforts of Mathews (596 yards, nine TDs) and Miller (402 yards, six TDs).

The Fresno State defense finally broke through last week, not only with the first shutout victory over the Spartans since 1942, but with their very first interception of 2007 as well. On the first play of the game, Damion Owens collected an Adam Tafralis pass and returned it 17 yards, snapping the defense out of a funk that made them the last team among the 119 in the Football Bowl Subdivision to register a pick. Marcus Riley posted a team-high 10 tackles, while Jon Monga made two of his three stops behind the line of scrimmage. Riley, who has two forced fumbles thus far, leads the team with 68 tackles over seven games. Monga has just 15 total stops on the year, yet he is tied for the team lead with eight TFLs and has six sacks, matching the numbers put up by all-conference performer Tyler Clutts who has 38 tackles. The team as a whole is ranked second in the conference and 13th in the nation with an average of eight tackles for loss per game. Even though the squad finally picked up that rare interception, the team is still eighth in the conference and 100th in the nation in turnover margin with minus-1.0 per game.

The Bulldogs had better dial up the pass defense for this week because Tharp is going to look for cracks in the secondary from one side of the field to the other. If Johnson doesn't play, Fresno State may have a chance, but if he does you can put this one in the win column for the Broncos.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Boise State 31, Fresno State 14

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Boise St. at Fresno St. 

A pair of WAC powers will take center stage Friday night when Fresno State plays host to Boise State. Most sports books are listing the Broncos as three-point favorites with the total wavering in the 62-63 range. Bettors can back the Bulldogs to win outright for a plus 135 payout.

Boise St. (6-1 straight up, 2-4 against the spread) has won five consecutive games since its 14-game winning streak was snapped at Washington in Week 2. The Broncos are 0-2 ATS in their road games, including last week’s 45-31 win at Louisiana Tech as 16-point favorites.

Taylor Tharp threw for 328 yards and five touchdowns to lead Boise to the ‘non-covering’ triumph. Jeremy Childs caught two of those scoring strikes in the fourth quarter, including an 83-yard TD grab.

Fresno St. (5-2 SU, 4-2 ATS) has won four in a row just one year removed from the worst season of Pat Hill’s otherwise outstanding 11-year tenure. After an abysmal 4-8 campaign in 2006, Hill’s 2007 outfit is trying to prove that last year was an aberration.

The Bulldogs seemed to be back to their old selves when they nearly pulled an upset at Texas A&M in Week 2. They eventually lost to the Aggies 47-45 in triple overtime.

Fresno was duck food at Oregon the following week, dropping a 52-21 decision as a 16 ½-point underdog. Were the Bulldogs out of gas off a triple-OT defeat and playing the second road games in as many weeks, or are they simply no match for the nation’s elite unlike the USC game in 2005 showed us?

Whatever the case, Fresno is certainly a contender in the WAC with its 4-0 record this season. The Bulldogs are tied for first place with Hawaii, both of whom are one-half game ahead of Boise.

They should be plenty motivated to face a Boise team that’s won five of the last six head-to-head meetings by an average score of 36-22. The Broncos jumped out to a 35-0 lead on the blue carpet last year, but they nearly got backdoored when the Bulldogs cut the deficit to 38-21 midway through the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, Petersen’s team got a late score to cover the 22-point number in a 45-21 victory.

Since the loss in Eugene, Fresno has taken the cash in three of four games, including last week’s 30-0 clubbing of San Jose St. True freshman running back Ryan Mathews ran for 144 yards and two touchowns to lead his team into the win column.

Mathews has been a major surprise for Hill, rushing for 596 yards and nine touchdowns. He averages 6.5 yards per carry.

Junior QB Tom Brandstater has played much better in ’07, improving his touchdown-interception ratio from 13/14 to 6/3. He’s also completing passes at a greater percentage – 60.2 percent compared to 54.5 – and has nearly equaled last season’s passing yards (1,490) with 1,248.

As for Boise, Tharp has been a more-than-adequate replacement for three-year starter Jared Zabransky. Tharp has connected on 65.7 percent of his throws for 1,857 yards, with an 18/7 TD-INT ratio. Childs is a darkhorse candidate for All-American honors, hauling in 47 receptions for 679 yards and eight TDs.

The presence of All-American RB Ian Johnson certainly helps the Tharp-to-Childs’ cause, particularly in the play-action game. Johnson has nine rushing touchdowns and a 5.4 YPC average. However, he will miss his second straight game with a bruised kidney.

Redshirt freshman RB Jeremy Avery has been sensational this year and Boise’s offense hasn’t missed a beat with him in the lineup. For the season, Avery has run for four touchdowns and has a 6.4 YPC average. He produced 189 yards from scrimmage last week and scored a pair of TDs.

Fresno owns a 7-3 spread record as a home underdog under Hill. However, the Bulldogs were 0-2 ATS as home ‘dogs last season.

They are undefeated in three home games this year, posting a 1-1 spread record. The lone ‘non-cover’ was a 17-6 win over La. Tech as 11 ½-point ‘chalk.’

All gamblers with a clue are familiar with Boise’s profit production at home in recent years, but the opposite has been true on the road. In fact, the Broncos are 1-6 ATS in their last seven spots as a road favorite.

The ‘under’ has a 3-2 record for the Broncos, while the ‘over’ is 4-1 for the Bulldogs.

ESPN2 will provide television coverage at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, one hour after the usual kick-off time on Fridays.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Boise St. has won 19 of its 20 games since Chris Petersen replaced Dan Hawkins.

--Fresno hasn't won an outright conference title under Hill. The Bulldogs were co-champs in '99.

--Southern Miss RB Damion Fletcher is enjoying another outstanding season. The sophomore sensation ran for 152 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Golden Eagles past Marshall 33-24 last week. Fletcher is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and has run for nine TDs.

--UConn owns a 6-1 spread record in its last seven games as a home underdog. The Huskies are 4 ½-point home ‘dogs Saturday against USF.

--Wake Forest has a 4-15-1 ATS mark as a home favorite under Jim Grobe. The Demon Deacons are six-point home favorites Saturday vs. UNC.

--FSU has a 4-7 ATS mark in its last 11 games as a double-digit ‘chalk.’ The ‘Noles play host to Duke this week as 18-point favorites. They are going back to Drew Weatherford as the starter at QB.

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Boise State (6-1, 2-4 ATS) at Fresno State (5-2, 4-2 ATS)

Boise State takes to the road for the second time in five days when it visits Fresno State for what is usually a very entertaining Western Athletic Conference affair.

The Broncos arrive in Fresno with a five-game winning streak, as they followed up a wild 69-67 overtime win over Nevada two weeks ago with Saturday’s 45-31 victory at Louisiana Tech. However, they failed to cover as a double-digit favorite in both contests.

Fresno State is off to a 4-0 start in WAC play (3-1 ATS) following Saturday’s 30-0 rout of San Jose State as a 13-point home favorite. The Bulldogs have surrendered just nine points in three home games against San Jose State, Louisiana Tech and Division I-AA Sacramento State.

Boise State crushed the Bulldogs 45-21 as a 21½-point home chalk last year, improving to 5-1 SU and ATS in the last six meetings. As far as this series history is concerned, the home team is on a 3-0 SU and ATS run, the favorite is on a 5-0 SU and ATS run and the straight-up winner has covered the spread in each of the last seven meetings.

The Broncos have scored 38-plus points in four straight games, averaging 52.5 per game during this stretch. However, after giving up just 61 total points in its first five games (12.2 per game), Boise has surrendered a total of 98 in its last two.

Fresno State has outscored its opponents 133-71 during its four-game winning streak. Ironically, though, the Bulldogs were outgained in all four outings, and they’ve finished on the short end of the yardage battle in five consecutive contests.

Both teams have been very impressive on the ground, with Boise averaging 205 rushing yards per game (4.8 per carry) and the Bulldogs grinding out 204 rushing ypg (4.8 per carry). However, the Broncos have been much better against the run (134.4 ypg allowed) than Fresno (199 ypg allowed).

The Broncos have thrived in these Friday night contests, going 7-1 ATS in the last eight. On the downside, though, they’re mired in ATS slumps of 5-12-1 on the road since 2004 (0-2 this year) and 4-11 as a road chalk.

Fresno State is stuck in ATS funks of 1-10 against winning teams and 3-13 when playing on grass.

On the injury front, the Broncos will be without injured star RB Ian Johnson (693 rushing yards, 9 TDs) for the second straight week.

The under is 3-1 in the last four series meetings and 6-2 in Boise State’s last eight games on grass. However, the over is 8-3 in the Broncos’ last 11 WAC contests.


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