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Mountain West Championship Game Prediction and Preview: Fresno State vs. Boise State

Mountain West Championship Game Prediction and Preview: Fresno State vs. Boise State

Mountain West Championship Game Prediction and Preview: Fresno State vs. Boise State

Sequels and reboots are all the rage in Hollywood and the Mountain West Conference is following that trend with another title game clash between Fresno State and Boise State on Saturday.

This is the fourth time in two seasons that the two schools are playing each other. The No. 22 Broncos hosted the No. 25 Bulldogs earlier in November and ground out a 24-17 victory on the Smurf Turf after scoring 21 straight points starting late in the third quarter. It turned out to be Fresno State's only regular season loss against another Mountain West team.

Boise State (10-2, 7-1 MW) claimed a share of the Mountain Division title for the second consecutive season after beating Utah State 33-24 to close out the regular season. The Broncos are making their third championship game appearance. They also faced the Bulldogs in 2014 and '17, winning on both occasions.

Fresno State (10-2, 7-1) claimed a second straight West Division title. The Bulldogs were perfect against divisional opponents and finished two full games ahead of second-place Hawaii. This is their fourth title game appearance.

Boise State holds a 15-6 lead in the all-time series between the two teams. Fresno State has not won in Boise since defeating the Broncos 37-21 in 1984.

Mountain West Championship Game: Fresno State at Boise State

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 1 at 7:45 p.m. ET


Spread: Boise State -2.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Can the Bulldogs stop Alexander Mattison?

Finding ways to contain Mattison is a genuine concern for the Fresno State defense. Mattison torched the Bulldogs for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries earlier this season. His workhorse effort allowed Boise State to control the ball in the second half and opened the door for the Broncos to rally from a 17-3 deficit.

Mattison has been on fire over his last six games. In that stretch, he has totaled 799 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Mattison ranks second in the Mountain West with 1,215 total rushing yards. He ranks fifth nationally with 16 rushing touchdowns.

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Fresno State catches Mattison at a time where he's coming off his best game of the season. The junior churned out a season-high 200 yards and rushed for a season-high three touchdowns against Utah State.

2. Brett Rypien vs. Marcus McMaryion

It is safe to say that both Boise State and Fresno State have quarterbacks capable of moving the chains and piling up impressive numbers in a hurry. Rypien and McMaryion are both important catalysts for the success of their respective teams. They are both strong-armed seniors who take care of the ball and are consistently accurate on their throws.

Rypien set Mountain West career records for passing yards and completions when the Broncos beat the Bulldogs in November. He was nearly flawless against Fresno State in that game, throwing for 269 yards and a touchdown on 24-of-29 passing. Rypien also made plays with his legs, scrambling for first downs on three different occasions and ultimately adding 30 yards on eight carries. On the season, he has totaled 3,580 yards and 29 touchdowns while completing 68.8 percent of his passes.

McMaryion is no slouch as a passer. The former Oregon State quarterback has flourished with Fresno State and was a big catalyst in that program's turnaround a season ago. He is ranked in the top 10 in the FBS in pass efficiency. McMaryion has thrown for 3,283 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing 70.5 percent of his passes. He has tossed just three interceptions all season. Against Boise State last time, he threw for 283 yards and a touchdown on 24-of-35 passing.

3. Which team wins on third down?

Third down conversions played a major factor in opening the door for Boise State to rally for victory when these two teams met earlier in the season. The Broncos converted 10 of their 16 third down attempts. It made it easier to chew clock and keep the ball away from Fresno State during critical stretches.

On the other side, things did not go smoothly for Fresno State on that critical down. The Bulldogs converted just two of their 10 third down opportunities. Eventually when their offense bogged down, their defense didn't have enough left in the tank to get late stops. Fresno State isn't the first team this season to struggle with staying on the field against the Broncos.

Boise State is the Mountain West leader in both third down conversions and opponent third down conversions. The Broncos convert 54.4 percent of their third downs while allowing opponents to convert only 31.5 percent of their chances.

Final Analysis

Fresno State has won twice against Boise State since joining the Mountain West in 2013. Both wins came in California. The Bulldogs have struggled in Idaho and there's little reason to expect that to change on Saturday. Boise State has caught fire on both sides of the ball at the right time of the season. Look for the Broncos to move to 3-0 in the Mountain West Championship Game.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Boise State

Prediction: Boise State 27, Fresno State 24

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.