The Mountain West Conference championship game is definitely in Fresno State's future. What's murky are the Bulldogs' chances of making a BCS bowl.
Having been passed by Northern Illinois in the BCS rankings for the spot as the top non-automatic qualifying candidate for one of the top postseason games, the No. 16 Bulldogs look to keep those hopes on track when they visit San Jose State on Friday.
Fresno State (10-0, 7-0 Mountain West) clinched the West Division and a berth in the first MWC title game with little trouble Saturday, scoring the first 35 points en route to a 69-28 victory over New Mexico. There wasn't cause to celebrate when the BCS poll came out the next day, however.
The Bulldogs went into last week 15th in the BCS, one spot ahead of NIU, but the unbeaten Huskies jumped past Fresno State, moving into 14th after a 35-17 victory over Toledo. NIU made the move based on better computer rankings, but some observers were surprised at the size of the jump.
Fresno State is 16th, four spots from the automatic qualifying line of 12. But this season could play out like last, and NIU or Fresno State might only need to finish in the top 16 of the BCS standings to earn an automatic bid because the American Athletic Conference's champion could be ranked behind the non-AQ league champs.
All the Bulldogs can do is focus on winning their season finale and the league title game, and Derek Carr should give them a good chance to do so.
The MWC co-offensive player of the week threw seven touchdowns and went 27 of 37 for 522 yards while going a fifth straight game without a pick last week.
"He's as good as there is in the country," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "That's why I think it's very well-deserved that he should be in the Heisman discussion. He's led us to a 10-0 record which is the most important thing for a quarterback. Statistically, he's got to be up there with anybody in the country."
Carr will try to help the Bulldogs go 11-0 for the first time. Fresno State has beaten San Jose State (5-6, 4-3) in 17 of the past 19 meetings, but it came up short in the most recent one. Carr went 19 of 28 for 276 yards with one score and one interception Nov. 26, 2011, but Spartans built a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and held on for a 27-24 victory.
Carr will seek redemption by looking for Davante Adams and Josh Harper, who have combined to catch 31 of his 39 TD passes and all seven last weekend.
Carr, Adams and Harper lead a Fresno State passing game that's second in the country with an average of 399.9 yards, but San Jose State only allows 219.7 through the air and has picked off 11 passes.
The Spartans have yielded just 217 passing yards over the last two games, but that's because they've surrendered 743 on the ground.
They gave up 432 and seven rushing touchdowns while falling 58-52 in triple overtime to Navy on Friday as their losing streak reached three. San Jose State has allowed an average of 43.3 points during the skid.
Like the Bulldogs, the Spartans lean on a pass-heavy offense that ranks second in the conference with 335.8 yards per game and 28 touchdowns.
David Fales' total of 7,835 passing yards is San Jose State's all-time record, and he tied another with five touchdown passes Friday. He finished with 440 yards while going 42 of 56, but tossed a costly interception in the third overtime.
Fales' 13 picks are tied for most in the MWC, though he's thrown only one along with six touchdowns in the past two games.
San Jose State has dropped 21 straight to ranked opponents since beating then-No. 9 TCU on Nov. 4, 2000. They fell 34-12 to then-No. 5 Stanford on Sept. 7.
"Gotta play hard. Gotta be focused. Gotta come out with fire and energy, and just play well," coach Ron Caragher said. "We don't have to be superheros to win this game, but we need to come out and play Spartan football. We've seen it throughout the course of the year, but we just haven't as of late played particularly in-sync at all times."
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