Nevada vs. Fresno State: Game Preview

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

The Wolf Pack look to keep their dim bowl hopes alive Saturday night against the Bulldogs, who are fortunate to be undefeated.

WEEK 10: #16 Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Nevada Wolf Pack

WHEN: Saturday, November 2 -- 7:30 PM, PST.

WHERE: Bulldog Stadium; Fresno, CA (41,031)

2013 SEASON: Fresno State 7-0 (4-0), Nevada 3-5 (2-3)

TV: ESPNU

RADIO: Fresno's two ESPN affiliates, 940 and 1600 AM, will carry the Bulldogs broadcast in English and Spanish, respectively. The Wolf Pack broadcast can be heard on Reno's ESPN radio affiliate, 94.5 FM.

SERIES RECORD: The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 25-18-1. In 2012, Fresno beat Nevada in a 52-36 track meet at Mackay Stadium.

WEB SITES: GoBulldogs.com, Fresno State's official athletics site | NevadaWolfPack.com, Nevada's official athletics site

Life after Chris Ault has been like deja vu all over again for Nevada in 2013, in that dark clouds seem to be swirling over the program in his absence. The non-conference schedule was every bit as unforgiving as one might've expected. The star quarterback has been nicked up and the defense has been a nightmare. The Fremont Cannon is red, and the Pack's faithful is feeling blue about the team's fading bowl hopes.

Coach Bill Polian will have his hands full trying to stop the Fresno State Bulldogs. If last weekend is any indication, however, Tim DeRuyter's team is vulnerable. Fresno's BCS hopes were read their last rites before Marcel Jensen leapt up and successfully appealed for a stay of execution. Such 11th hour heroics can't be counted upon every week, and if nothing else, Nevada has the horses to test a stretched-thin Fresno defense.

What to watch - Nevada: The greatest difference in Nevada's attack from a year ago to now is a running game that has gone from great to average, a difference of about 100 yards per game. Oddly enough, the Pack have won the time of possession battle in 6 of 8 games, but their 3.58 yards per carry is well below the national average and has forced Cody Fajardo to shoulder a lot of responsibility. He has been game, but the offense lacks true explosiveness; 12 quarterbacks have thrown more passes per game than Fajardo, but only two have done less with them. Brandon Wimberly is among the nation's leaders in receptions, but his 10.2 average ypc is inadequate.

The Pack will need to find a way to exploit a Fresno secondary that is getting dangerously thin. Already without Sean Alston, the 'Dogs will be without L.J. Jones, who suffered a scary looking leg injury last weekend but will simply miss sometime with a sprain. Wimberly will probably draw Curtis Riley, who was last seen struggling to keep up with Ezell Ruffin and now must be the number one corner.

What to watch - Fresno State: It may have puzzled a lot of Fresno fans to watch Derek Carr take so many shots downfield when nickel and diming seemed to be working so well. Seizing control of this game probably will not require such a high level of difficulty because Nevada has one glaring weakness: Run defense.

It's easy to imagine that Marteze Waller is licking his chops for this matchup, especially after being marginalized in last week's game plan, because the Wolf Pack have allowed 6.6 yards per carry in 2013. Patrons at the local Harrah's must wish they could hit the jackpot as often as opposing running backs have had the run of this front seven. They've been particularly awful on third down, as the average spikes to ten yards per carry. Needless to say, there's never going to be a better time to balance the offensive game plan.

On defense, ensuring that Fajardo is at least one-dimensional will be key, even if that one dimension racks up 350 yards. Ejiro Ederaine has developed into a pass-rushing terror just in time for Halloween, but fellow linebackers Kyrie Wilson and Karl Mickelsen will need to be disciplined in order to keep Fajardo contained on the ground.

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