LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 10: Robbie Rouse #8 of the Fresno State Bulldogs tries to avoid Lavonte David #4 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers during their game at Memorial Stadium September 10, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Fresno State came away with a 37-10 win against Weber State last week at home in new head coach Tim DeRuyter's first outing. Now, they head to Oregon for a vastly tougher test to face the Ducks, who are currently ranked #4 in the nation. Oregon leads the series all-time 6-2, having won the last 6. All but one of the games have been decided by 7 points or less; the Ducks taking the most recent meeting by a score of 52-21 in 2007.
Derek Carr was stellar in Fresno State's win over Weber State, completing 20 of 25 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns, while Robbie Rouse ran for 123 yards and 2 TDS. Davante Adams reeled in 7 catches for 118 yards and 2 TDs. Safeties Derron Smith and Phillip Thomas had 8 and 5 tackles (1 for loss) respectively, and CB Sean Alston reeled in a pick. as the defense allowed only 274 yards total. There were flaws, however. At the beginning of the second half, the offense sputtered. WRs dropped passes and the timing and communication fell off. The return of starting WRs Rashad Evans (Suspension) and Josh Harper (Injury), as well as 2nd-string Victor Dean (also from suspension) should help with this. The offense reappeared when Alston got his pick. On the defensive side of the ball, there were too many penalties after forcing stops, most of which seemed to be due to overintensity than anything else ( a lot of roughing the passer). DC Nick Toth will have to straighten that out if he wants to make it a game. Starter Jeremiah Toma appears to have a shot at returning from a foot injury suffered in camp. The Bulldogs also utilized a TE in a meaningful role in the passing game for the first time since 2008; Marcel Jensen had 2 catches for 41 yards, twice as many as ALL of Fresno State's tight ends last year combined.
Oregon comes off of a 57-34 win over Arkansas State. The Ducks jumped out to a huge early lead of 50-3 (29 in the first quarter) before pulling their starters. Arkansas State subsequently jumped back into the game and made the score look respectable. Freshman QB Marcus Mariota completed 18 of 22 passes for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first start, while star RB DeAnthony Thomas, a legitimate Heisman candidate at this juncture, had 8 touches and generated 125 yards and 3 TD. The Ducks' other main RB, Kenjon Barner, ran the ball 9 times for 66 yards and a touchdown. The Ducks forced two fumbles and an interception on defense. Oregon's team is FAST on both sides of the ball.
Fresno State's problem here is twofold. Not only are the Ducks an extremely talented team, but their up-tempo spread system is exactly what Fresno State is implementing. If both teams stick to their system, it becomes a shootout and beating the Ducks in a shootout is a monumental task for any team. (Side note- neither team used their full playbook last week, according to their coaches). Fresno State's defense is likely to become extremely tired, and their depth cannot match Oregon's in that respect. To stay in this game, Fresno State will have to do everything right. They'll have to execute properly on offense (No 3 and outs) and force quick stops on defense while keeping an eye on De'Anthony Thomas and keeping the ball away from him on kickoffs. They'll also have to avoid shooting themselves in the foot with penalties and take advantage of every opportunity to force turnovers.
Fresno State will likely keep a respectable pace with the Ducks at first. Look for Davante Adams to have another big game and for WR Victor Dean (6-7) and TE Marcel Jensen (6-6) to get a lot of focus in the red zone as the 'Dogs pass a lot to keep up with Oregon. Statistically, a big game for Derek Carr will ensue. Ultimately, they won't be able to however. The Ducks have a lot more experience running the same type of offense and their defense sees it every day. Fresno State will acquit themselves well, but it won't be enough. Prediction: Oregon 58, Fresno State 31.