If Friday night football is your thing, you're in luck: one of the best non-BCS games of the regular season is coming up this week, as Boise State travels to Fresno State in a clash of the Mountain West's two best teams. Since 2005, the two teams have played for the Milk Can trophy shown above. Take that, Indianapolis 500: Boise and Fresno's celebratory milk comes in a giant metal can.
This is the toughest game left on either team's schedule by a substantial margin (perhaps Colorado can make a case when their postponed game with Fresno finally gets played, but probably not) and it's an opportunity to see 10 of the Mountain West's 22 preseason all-conference players in action.
Boise head man Chris Petersen is one of the top coaches in the nation, full stop, and Fresno's second-year coach Tim DeRuyter is rocketing up that list — especially if he keeps calling phenomenal FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN plays. No quicker way to a nation's heart.
Rankings and records: This has been a matchup historically dominated by Boise State. The Broncos are 11-2 all time against Fresno State, with one of the losses coming in Boise's first year at I-A. This time, Fresno's the more highly-ranked team, coming in at No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and two slots away from the AP's Top 25. Boise, meanwhile, is currently receiving only a handful of votes in either poll.
Vegas: The oddsmakers are expecting a close one, with Fresno favored by four points in early betting and a healthy over/under of 66 points. Visit OddsShark for more.
Weather: It still gets plenty hot in the Central Valley in mid-September, but with a kickoff at 6 p.m. local time, expect the temperature to start in the mid-80s and drop fast into the upper 60s over the course of the game.
Three names to know
Boise State is led by QB Joe Southwick, who shook off a slow start to 2013 and incinerated Air Force's defense in Week 3. Southwick set a school record by completing 27 of his 29 passes for 287 yards, and added 53 more rushing yards in the 42-20 victory. Another big performance from him will be crucial to Boise's success.
Fresno State QB Derek Carr (yes, that David Carr's brother) is the Mountain West's returning Offensive Player of the Year. He hasn't disappointed in 2013, completing 71 percent of his passes and throwing for eight touchdowns to only one pick. He's got a fantastic opportunity to showcase his skills against a legitimate defense this week, and the NFL will be watching closely.
Carr's favorite target thus far is Davante Adams, a sophomore wideout with ample size and speed. Adams has 19 catches for 179 yards and three scores already. He should figure early and often into Fresno's plans.
Two things at stake
The winner of the Mountain West has an outside shot at a BCS bowl bid — particularly if the winner happens to be Fresno State or Boise State, as no other MWC team received an AP poll vote and only Utah State received any in the Coaches Poll. CBSSports.com currenly projects Fresno State to make that BCS run, facing Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.
The next two bowl spots for the MWC? The Las Vegas Bowl against the Pac-12's fifth slot, then the Poinsettia Bowl against Army (or whoever's replacing it because Army is not a bowl team this year). Woof. This is not just a prestige thing either (but yet it's that too); a trip to a BCS bowl means an enormous financial windfall for the conference and teams involved.
Past that, and past that phenomenal Milk Can trophy, this is an important scouting opportunity for both teams: Barring some awesome charge from another Mountain West team, these two teams will probably be meeting again in the conference championship.
How to witness
TV: ESPN will carry this game at 9 p.m. ET with Carter Blackburn and Danny Kanell reprising their Friday night roles and Allison Williams on the sideline.
Radio: Fresno State broadcasts on 940 AM ESPN Radio and ESPN Deportes Radio 1600 AM. Here's the Bronco Radio Network for Boise State partisans.
Online streaming: As with all ESPN games, this one will be on ESPN3 as well. Check with your local service provider, etc. etc.