Boise State’s Bryan Harsin on Riley Whimpey and facing Fresno State
The Boise State football team enters Friday’s critical Mountain West showdown with No. 16 Fresno State as a home underdog — a position the Broncos never have experienced in a WAC or Mountain West conference game.
The last time the Broncos were home underdogs in a conference game, according to oddsshark.com’s database, was the 1999 Big West matchup with Nevada, just as the Broncos were starting to emerge as one of the top programs outside of the power conferences. Nevada was favored by 2 points but Boise State won 52-17 in the Oct. 23, 1999, game.
The Broncos rarely have been home underdogs in nonconference games, either. They lost the last two times that happened — the first and last home games of coach Dan Hawkins’ tenure:
- In the 2005 MPC Computers Bowl, Boston College was favored by 3 points and beat Boise State 27-21. Hawkins coached that game after accepting the Colorado job.
- In the 2001 home opener, Washington State was favored by 4 1/2 points and beat Boise State 41-20.
This is the seventh time Boise State has been an underdog in a conference game in the WAC/Mountain West era (since 2001). The Broncos are 3-3 in such games, winning last year at San Diego State.
Fresno State is a 3-point favorite — and the numbers say it should be at least that. The Bulldogs are 8-1, with a 21-14 loss in their second game at Minnesota. All of their wins have been by at least 18 points. One caveat: The two best opponents they have beaten are Nevada (5-4) and Toledo (5-4).
Dating to last year, Fresno State has won 13 of its past 15 games, including a 28-17 upset of Boise State in Fresno in the regular-season finale in 2017. Boise State avenged that loss a week later with a 17-14 victory in the Mountain West championship game in Boise.
Fresno State ranks 13th nationally in scoring offense (40.4 points per game) and tied for second in scoring defense (12.3 ppg). The Football Outsiders analytics rank Fresno State 22nd in offense, one spot behind Boise State, and eighth in defense, 43 spots ahead of Boise State. The combined rankings have Fresno State as 11.2 points better than Boise State on a neutral field. Sagarin has Fresno State about 6 1/2 points better.
Fresno State is favored against Boise State for the fourth time in the past 18 meetings, according to oddshark.com. Fresno State won as a home favorite in 2013 and 2005 and lost at home in 2001.