Mountain West Conference Championship
Utah State at No. 23 Fresno State
Dec. 7, 10 p.m. ET, Bulldog Stadium
HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE:
Utah State: In its first season in the Mountain West, the Aggies finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak to finish the MWC conference slate with a 7-1 record. USU lost early season contests with Utah and USC by a combined seven points, preparing the Aggies for its Mountain West schedule. A convincing 35-7 win over Wyoming gave USU the Mountain Division championship and its berth in the first ever Mountain West Championship Game.
Fresno State: Fresno appeared ready to pull off an undefeated season before being upset by San Jose State in the regular season finale. The Bulldogs had won their first 10 games of the year while averaging 47.3 points per game and leading the country with 410.3 passing yards per game. Had Fresno State remained unbeaten, a shot at an at-large bid to a BCS bowl game was certainly possible.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Jake Doughty, LB, Utah State: The unquestioned strength of the Utah State football team is its defense. The Aggies are seventh in the country in points against, allowing only 16.8 points per game. To stop Fresno State’s fourth ranked offense, linebacker Jake Doughty and company will need to be at the top of their games. Doughty, a senior, is ninth in the country with 130 total tackles while also registering 10 tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception.
Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State: Davante Adams is only a sophomore but he is already putting up ridiculous numbers. Adams leads the country with 22 touchdown receptions and is second in the country with 113 catches and 1,477 receiving yards. The Derek Carr-to-Davante Adams has torched defenses all season. Look for USU senior corner Nevin Lawson (four INTs, 17 PD) to try to contain Adams.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: As the Big Ten Championship Game trudges to an end, you won’t regret flipping over to CBS at 10 to see the Fresno passing offense in action. In addition to Adams, Derek Carr has other explosive targets in Josh Harper and Isaiah Burse, but will the Bulldogs be able to bounce back from the disappointment of the San Jose State loss? The gritty Utah State defense will definitely pose a challenge.
WHAT’S ON THE LINE: The winner of the MWC title will earn a berth in the Las Vegas bowl to take on a Pac-12 team. The loser will likely drop to the Poinsettia Bowl to play Army or the Hawaii Bowl to play a C-USA team.
PREDICTION: Fresno State players have admitted that the San Jose State loss has been a tough pill to swallow. An undefeated season could have elevated the Bulldogs to a BCS at-large bid, but there’s no chance of that now. It will be tough to re-group against a tough 8-4 Utah State team, but the Utah State offense, led by freshman quarterback Darell Garretson, does not have the firepower of the SJSU team that torched the Fresno defense last Saturday. In the end, the Bulldogs’ passing attack is just too tough. Fresno State 41-31.
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