BOISE, Idaho — The second time is the charm, right? It'll have to be when the 5-1 Boise State Broncos take on the 6-0 San Jose State Spartans on Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas for the Mountain West Conference Championship.
Since San Jose State cannot host at its home field due to local COVID-19 restrictions, the Spartans will call Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas its home-away-from-home again when they take on the Broncos at 2:40 p.m. MT on Saturday.
The 25th ranked Spartans were scheduled to travel to Boise and play the Broncos at Albertsons Stadium on Nov. 28 until the game was canceled hours before kickoff due to COVID-19 cases within Boise State's program.
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The Broncos are in the Mountain West Conference Championship for the fourth consecutive year and fifth time during Bryan Harsin's tenure as head coach.
With no fans and no inclement weather to contend with, Saturday's game will truly decide who is the better team.
"We're looking forward to traveling, and being there in Vegas and playing at Sam Boyd Stadium against a very good team," Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said on Monday. "This is why you work so hard, to be in a game like this and to be able to play for a championship. You expect that the other team is going to be very good, which is exactly the case and we wouldn't want it any other way."
In any other year, the Spartans' shocking path to being 6-0 for the first time in over 80 years would be the talk of the Mountain West, but in 2020, just having the conference championship was the main worry this week.
The Spartans were last 7-0 in 1938 and this game is the big game for tem.In the preseason polls, San Jose State was voted to finish the season in tenth place.
"We are playing the best team in the Mountain West Conference and has been for a long time," coach Brent Brennan said during a press conference earlier this week. "It's the first time that we've ever played in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game and we've been in the conference for eight years."
"I think Saturday's game is significant because it's the first time we're playing for a Mountain West championship," San Jose State quarterback Nick Starkel said. "It's the first time for a lot of these players if almost everyone to play in the postseason and it's an opportunity for us to prove what we have, to continue to prove to the nation that we are a good football team and that we can compete with the best in our conference."
Starkel is one of the Spartans' offensive leaders that Boise State cornerback Avery Williams is looking out for on Saturday. The senior grad transfer has thrown 1,453 yards 13 touchdowns and four interceptions this season.
"He's a very composed player. We know he was a five-star coming out of high school and you can tell that he's lived up to what he was in high school, the fact that he is a big-time player and makes big-time throws," the reigning Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year said. "He has the explosive players around him but he makes things happen too."
The Spartans also have several weapons in the passing game. Bailey Gaither is their leading wide receiver, but it's not just him, Tre Walker has over 400 yards receiving while tight end Derrick Dease is also a big threat, especially in the red zone with four touchdown grabs.
"They have a very complete team when it comes to throwing the ball," Boise State defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding said. "Obviously, you mentioned the two receivers, their quarterback is doing a great job. They do a good job of getting guys in situations in one on ones then going to make plays. The tight end does a very good job as well. They look for him in the red zone."
Slideshow: Boise State vs. San Jose State in the 2020 Mountain West Conference Championship
When Boise State and San Jose State meet in the title game this Saturday, the Spartans will be looking for their first-ever win against the Broncos.
Boise State is 14-0 in the all-time series.
After the 2020 conference champion is crowned, KTVB will live stream the post-game press conference on KTVB.COM, the KTVB YouTube channel and on the KTVB mobile app.
Interviews with coach Bryan Harsin and players will be posted online soon after the press conference ends, so you can watch the press conference whenever and wherever you want.
Stay tuned to KTVB.COM after the game for a game recap, highlights, and slideshow from the game.