Few coaches in the country know the Boise State football program better, or respect it more, than Fresno State's Pat Hill.
And maybe no coach has paid more of a price for the Broncos' success. Hill is 1-9 against the Broncos, who entered the league in 2001, just as Fresno State became the nation's mid-major darling, Boise State immediately stole the attention and has spent the past decade in the limelight.
Hill can get a little revenge, and prove his program is ready to compete with the Broncos in the Mountain West next year, by upsetting the No. 5 Broncos on Friday night in a nonconference contest.
"This is going to be a very intense game for us, not only physically, but mentally," Hill said. "We've just got to execute, that's the name of the game. We're playing against the premier team in the country in execution."
Boise State has delivered back-to-back 51-point wins over Fresno State in Boise but has been much less dominant in Fresno. Two years ago, the Bulldogs nearly erased a 21-point deficit before Boise State pulled away for a 51-34 victory.
"It's a good environment down there," coach Chris Petersen said. "Great stadium. They've got passionate fans. They like to play us. It always turns out to be a hard-fought game."
--Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore is coming off the worst game of his career statistically. He and his receivers were out of sync the entire game against Nevada, with dropped passes and mistimed plays part of the issue.
--Sophomore wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn has been reinstated by the NCAA. He served a four-game suspension for an unspecified eligibility issue. He is the Broncos' fastest and tallest receiver and should be an impact player.
--The Broncos are averaging 13.6 yards per punt return and 27.1 yards per kickoff return this season. They are limiting opponents to 1.3 yards on punt returns and 19.5 yards on kickoff returns. Those numbers are helping them completely dominate field position.
SERIES HISTORY: Boise State leads Fresno State 9-4 (last meeting, 2010, 51-0 Boise State)
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Broncos improved their run game enough last week to bump the yards per carry for the season from 3.4 to 3.7. Tailback Doug Martin continues to run like one of the top prospects in the nation, which is his reputation, and is extremely dangerous when he gets into open space. He had a 92-yard TD run called back against Nevada on which he ran from one sideline to the other -- similar to the screen pass he took for a score against Toledo. The pass game should get a boost this week from the return of wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn, who will give the Broncos the deep threat they've been missing.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Broncos are coming off their best performance of the season, completely dominating Nevada. The group has played shut-down defense for much of the season but a couple drives per game had been leaving them with a sour taste. The dominant defensive line, which battered Nevada quarterback Tyler Lantrip, makes it difficult for offenses to develop any rhythm. The question this week is how sophomore cornerback Quaylon Ewing-Burton holds up against Fresno's talented receivers in his second career start.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Not every throw is going to be perfect. You guys have fallen under that spell as well." -- Boise State coach Chris Petersen, on expectations for Kellen Moore
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Boise State at Fresno State, Oct. 7 -- The Broncos have dominated this rivalry, winning nine of 10 when they were in the WAC together, but the games in Fresno have been competitive for the most part. In fact, Boise State hasn't won by more than 17 points in Fresno but has won the past two in Boise by 51 points apiece.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Fresno State is going to need to make some big plays in its passing game and contain Boise State tailback Doug Martin to make a run at the upset. Special teams are always intriguing when these two teams meet because they're known as two of the best special-teams programs in the country, but the Broncos appear to have an edge there.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
WR Mitch Burroughs -- The junior is the mildly surprising leading receiver with 21 catches for 216 yards and a touchdown. He's been involved in several other potential big plays -- a 51-yard TD pass that he dropped, a TD run that was erased by penalty and a trick-play pass that he threw incomplete.
RB D.J. Harper -- He makes his third appearance at Bulldog Stadium. As a true freshman in 2007, he rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown. As a junior in 2009, he rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown but also tore an anterior cruciate ligament. Those are the only 100-yard games of his career.
DE Shea McClellin -- He leads the team with 21 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He also delivered a big hit on the quarterback last week to force an interception.
--Cornerback Jerrell Gavins still is likely to redshirt. He has a knee injury. "If we thought he could get back in four weeks, then it's a tougher decision," coach Chris Petersen said. "At this point, we don't think it will be that soon."
--Backup center Matt Paradis will be able to play this week but it hasn't been determined whether he or Cory Yriarte will start. Yriarte started and played well last week. Senior starter Thomas Byrd is improving, Petersen said.
--Wide receiver and punt returner Chris Potter's status will be determined later this week.
--Senior fullback Dan Paul remains week to week.