Fresno State Non-Conference Preview: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Rutgers QB Gary Nova - USA TODAY Sports

Can the Bulldogs start the year off with a bang and a solid win over Rutgers?

The Fresno State Bulldogs open their non-conference schedule at home against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Kickoff is at 10:30 ET and the game can be viewed on ESPNU.

Coach: Kyle Flood (9-4, second year)

2012 record: 9-4, 5-2 Big East

2012 season in review: The Scarlet Knights reeled off seven straight wins to start the 2012 season and were beginning to think "BCS Bowl" when lowly Kent State from the MAC rolled into town and popped that bubble. They lost three of their next five games, and struggled on offense significantly from that point onward, averaging a mere 14.2 points per game over their last 5 games, and concluding their regular season with a heartbreaking loss in a huge Big East game to Louisville, following up with a loss to Virginiia Tech in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Returning Offensive Starters: 6

Returning Defensive Starters: 4

Key Returning Starters: QB Gary Noba, WR Brandon Coleman, OG Kaleb Johnson, DE Jamil Merrell, LB Jamal Merrell, SS Lorenzo Waters

2013 Strengths: Offense, particularly the offensive line, where four starters return. The Scarlet Knights bring back a talented (if somewhat erratic) QB in Nova and a huge target in 6-6 WR Brandon Coleman, though they have to replace departed RB Jawan Jamison. There's talent there, although it might not show at times. The Knights struggled down the stretch on offense in 2012 and will have to put that behind them in 2013.

2013 Weaknesses: Defense. DT Isaac Holmes and DE Jamil Merril both return along the DL, but neither starting DT tops 275 pounds. The secondary is especially thin on returners; only SS Lorenzo returns. Jamal Merril - twin of the aforementioned Jamil - is the only returning starting linebacker.

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