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BYU Cougars vs. Fresno State Bulldogs Preview and Prediction

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Old Western Athletic Conference foes renew a rivalry once again in the valley. BYU travels to Fresno State for the first time since 1998.

This is the second game in a two-game series between these programs and at the time the series was announced in 2013, on paper it looked to be a series that would boast two of the best programs outside of the Power 5 leagues. The 2015 contest saw Fresno State enter Provo as a seven-loss team in the month of November. Fast-forward to this weekend, BYU (2-7) is the team with seven losses entering November. Will the Bulldogs (5-3) cruise to an easy win like BYU did two years ago?

BYU at Fresno State

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 10:45 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Fresno State -14

Three Things to Watch

1. Fresno State looks to bounce back after shocking loss to UNLV

Last week Fresno State was the toast of the Mountain West Conference after pulling off the biggest win since Derek Carr was at quarterback for the Bulldogs. Fresno State took down San Diego State, but the following week, laid an egg at home against a UNLV team that had a new quarterback. That quarterback for the Rebels was a backup linebacker the previous week, and the Bulldogs still lost.

Was Fresno State reading too much in the headlines and everyone patting the team on the back? Tough question. But the Bulldogs can’t afford to drop another game at home where they are a large favorite. If they do, all the good fortune they built with the win over San Diego State would go out the door. And Jeff Tedford’s team also just needs one more win to become bowl eligible for the first time 2014.

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2. BYU linebacker Fred Warner’s status

The 2017 season hasn’t seen many bright spots for the Cougars, but one player has been a joy to watch every week and that’s Warner. The senior linebacker (above, right) suffered an injury last week early against San Jose State. Head coach Kalani Sitake said Warner is currently “day-to-day,” but it’s very possible that Warner misses this weekend’s game which would leave walk-on Morgan Unga as the man to replace Warner. Unga had a team-high 10 tackles a week ago.

3. Fresno State wide receivers vs. BYU cornerbacks

Bulldogs wide receiver KeeSean Johnson is quarterback’s Marcus McMaryion's favorite target. Johnson leads Fresno in receiving with 555 yards with a long of 75 yards against New Mexico earlier this year.

BYU’s cornerbacks are a banged-up unit right now, but despite their injuries, they feel confident they are ready for the challenge of Fresno’s receivers, who did not play physical against an inferior UNLV secondary a week ago. BYU sophomore Dayan Ghanwoloku leads the Cougars in interceptions with two this season.

Final Analysis

This is going to be a closer game than the computers or sharks in Vegas are currently forecasting. BYU gained some confidence on offense by actually producing some big plays and points. The Cougars put up 41 points, but was that due to playing a bad San Jose State team? BYU’s offense is showing progress, but ultimately, there are still too many unknowns with this unit from week to week.

College Football Rankings: Fresno State

Fresno State’s defense is the best defense BYU will have faced since Wisconsin earlier in the season. The Bulldogs’ defensive line is physical and probably will have success against a BYU offensive line that has been solid throughout the year. That combined with the playmakers Fresno has on offense, allows the Bulldogs pull away late in the fourth quarter for a win over their old WAC foes.

Prediction: Fresno State 28, BYU 20

— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is BYU Insider for ESPN 960 Sports and Publisher of Cougar Nation, part of the Rivals network. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.

(Top photo courtesy of @FresnoStateFB)