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November 25, 2008
Fresno St.-Boise St. Preview
(AP) -- It's not common in college football that an undefeated team's final regular-season game has almost no significance toward bowl positioning or a conference title.
But that will be the case for Boise State on Friday when Fresno State visits the ninth-ranked Broncos, who have already wrapped up the outright Western Athletic Conference championship but have little chance of reaching a BCS bowl.
The Broncos (11-0, 7-0 WAC), who carry a 48-game regular-season home winning streak into this contest, earned another impressive victory on Saturday, topping 40 points for the fourth straight game in a 41-34 victory at Nevada.
The offense, which averages more than 37 points, kept rolling. Even though freshman quarterback Kellen Moore had the first multi-interception game of his career - getting picked off three times by Nevada - he still threw for a career-high 414 yards and three touchdowns in the victory, as Austin Pettis and Vinny Perretta each had 126 receiving yards.
Boise State also held the Wolf Pack, who came in averaging 325 rushing yards, to 144 yards on the ground, regaining the outright WAC title after Hawaii had taken it last season.
"Our coaches worked hard and came up with a great scheme," Broncos coach Chris Petersen said. "It was definitely a different look than we have shown in the past."
But after the Broncos wrapped up their sixth WAC title in seven years, they got bad news later Saturday night, when No. 8 Utah beat BYU to finish its regular season at 12-0. Since the Utes are ranked higher in the Bowl Championship Series standings than Boise State - a gap the Broncos seem unlikely to overcome - Utah will earn the guaranteed at-large spot for non-BCS conference teams.
It's unclear how much finishing the regular season undefeated for the third time in the last five years would change Boise State's bowl status, but that won't stop them from pursuing that goal against Fresno State.
"The season is not over," Petersen said. "To take that WAC trophy feels very, very good, but we've got a game next week and it will be a big one. It's always a big game with Fresno."
The Bulldogs (7-4, 4-3) were in the Top 25 earlier this season after starting 3-1 in non-conference play, but they dropped three of their first five WAC games to sink out of contention.
They've rebounded with back-to-back victories, including Friday's 24-10 win at San Jose State - their fifth in six road games this year. Fresno State trailed 10-3 at halftime, but got a 49-yard punt return for a touchdown by Chastin West to tie the game in the third quarter, and a pair of Anthony Harding TD runs in the fourth won it.
Harding rushed for 99 yards on 17 carries, keying the Bulldogs' 171-yard effort on the ground that helped compensate for a 5-of-18, 71-yard performance by quarterback Tom Brandstater.
"Just run the ball downhill," Harding said. "That's Bulldog football. That's something we love to do."
The win was key for Fresno State to help lock up a bowl berth. The Bulldogs had already been eligible for a bowl, but a seventh victory likely solidified their chances of reaching the postseason.
"We just know that we're going to a bowl," Harding said. "That's what is important to us right now. Obviously we didn't get our WAC championship or BCS run, but there's still a game left and we can finish on a high note."
That will be difficult against Boise State. The Broncos have won six of seven against Fresno State since joining the WAC in 2001, including all three meetings in Boise by an average of 29.0 points.
Last year in Fresno, Boise State ran for 282 yards in a 34-21 victory on Oct. 26.
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