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September 15, 2009

Boise St.-Fresno St. Preview

(AP) -- A berth in a BCS bowl game seems possible for Boise State if it can make it through its conference schedule unscathed.

That hasn't been a problem for the Broncos in recent years.

The 10th-ranked Broncos begin pursuit of their seventh Western Athletic Conference title in eight years Friday night at Fresno State, which is coming off a heartbreaking loss.

Boise State (2-0) is heavily favored to take the WAC again after outscoring opponents by an average of 31.1 points in winning all eight league games last year.

With their sixth conference championship in seven years and an undefeated season in 2008, the Broncos were hoping to land in a BCS bowl for the second time in three years, but instead went to the Poinsettia Bowl.

Boise State set the tone for a memorable 2009 with a 19-8 victory over then-No. 16 Oregon in its opener, but to be considered for BCS bowl, it will need to be perfect again in the WAC.

The Broncos have been pretty close to that lately, going 54-2 in conference play since their title run began in 2002.

One of those defeats came at then-No. 20 Fresno State in 2005.

The Broncos have won three straight over the Bulldogs since then, beating them 61-10 last season. Boise State outgained Fresno State 494-294 in that game, and the Broncos' offense and defense are looking similarly dominant this season.

Boise State defeated Miami of Ohio 48-0 on Saturday, getting 307 passing yards and career-high four touchdowns from Kellen Moore even though he played less than three quarters. Titus Young finished with six catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns, and he has emerged as one of Moore's favorite targets.

Young's speed and deep-threat potential give the Broncos a dimension they lacked last year.

"It's nice to see him with a little bit of space and the ball in his hands," coach Chris Petersen said.

With Moore - who threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns against Fresno State last season - and Young leading the passing game, Petersen is looking for improvement from the rushing attack.

The Broncos ran for 127 yards against the RedHawks, but the backfield tandem of D.J. Harper and Jeremy Avery looked flat in the first half.

"I'd like to run the ball a little bit cleaner," Petersen said. "We're still a work in progress."

While Boise State's offense is rounding into form, the defense already looks like one of the best in the country for a second year in a row.

The Broncos, third in scoring defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision last season at 12.6 points per game, have yielded eight points and 346 yards through the first two contests. They have given up 69 rushing yards on 43 attempts.

That defense, though, will face tougher competition from Fresno State (1-1). Led by running back Ryan Mathews, who has rushed for 213 yards on 30 attempts, the Bulldogs have amassed 489 yards on the ground.

"I'm anxious to play (Friday) just because I think we are going to be tested in a much different way," Petersen said. "From what I've seen of Fresno, they are a power run team. This will be a nice test coming up."

The Bulldogs had no trouble moving the ball Saturday against Wisconsin, but some costly turnovers down the stretch kept them from escaping Camp Randall Stadium with a win.

Fresno State opened up a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter on three touchdown passes by Ryan Colburn, but the junior threw three second-half interceptions and the Bulldogs lost 34-31 in double overtime.

"We have to regroup," coach Pat Hill said. "We have a big game Friday against Boise State, so we can't dwell on this one too long."

Fresno State has lost nine straight against ranked opponents since defeating then-No. 18 Virginia 37-34 in overtime in the 2004 MPC Computers Bowl.

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