Bumped to the front page.
First of all, if you haven't been checking out Bill Connelly's fantastic Football Study Hall here at SB Nation, do yourself a favor and give it a look-see. It's got an incredible amount of useful information.
A couple days ago, Connelly wrote up an interesting post about the South Florida Bulls of the Big East. The whole point was to illustrate the stark difference between how good the Bulls' defense was on standard downs and how bad it was on passing downs in 2010 (for the unitiated, the difference between the two is defined here). Looking at the list enclosed within the post, though, I discovered that Fresno State was plagued with the same issue.
Granted, the drop is not nearly as precipitous as that of South Florida's defense. As Connelly points out, going from a top 20 defense to a bottom 20 defense depending on the situation is a little baffling. In 2010, though, only USF and Kansas State had a bigger drop in performance than the Bulldogs did from standard downs to passing downs. The Bulldogs finished among the national leaders as a team in sacks and just outside of the top third in passing yards allowed per game, so you get the impression that the defense left something on the table.
Connelly then notes that there's a strong likelihood for regression in teams returning as many starters as Fresno State will in 2011. This has me a bit concerned, considering that WAC Defensive Player of the Year Chris Carter was drafted in April and the secondary returns only one starter from 2010, safety Philip Thomas. He and senior cornerback Isaiah Green are likely to have a lot on their hands covering for the inexperience elsewhere in the defensive backfield, and tackle Logan Harrell is going to have to prove he can get to the quarterback without the luxury of an elite defensive end.
Thankfully, the early season schedule isn't packed with high powered offenses, but by the time Boise State rolls into the Valley on October 7, Fresno fans should have a good idea about whether or not the defense can buck this newfound trend.