Who: Fresno State Bulldogs(4-1, 1-0MWC) v. Wyoming Cowboys(2-4, 0-2MWC)
Where: Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, CA (Capacity, 40,727)
When: Saturday, October 13, 7:30PM
How to Watch: Game will be broadcast on ESPNU
Hope everybody likes defense! A weak after the defense carried the load for the Bulldogs against Nevada, they return home to face a feisty Wyoming team known for defense. The Cowboys are back on the mainland after a heartbreaker in Hawaii, and are still looking for their first win in conference. Can the Bulldog offense rebound from last week, or will the Cowboy defense turn this into a low-scoring rock fight like last week?
Fresno State Preview:
The biggest problem from last week’s game was the running game. After avergaing 154yds in their first 4 games, the Bulldogs only managed 30 on 24 carries against Nevada. Yes, they were without Josh Hokit, and Jordan Mims was hobbled all week, but those are abysmal numbers against Nevada’s rough defense. And now they have to face a Wyoming unit that’s only allowing 115yds/game. All media reports though are that the RB corps is back at full strength for the Bulldogs, so that could provide them with the shot in the arm that they need for a strong running performance. In an offense based around balance and efficiency, you need a running game to open up the passing lanes for Marcus McMaryion and the massive stable of receivers.
The huge bright spot though was Fresno’s incredible defense. For how many pieces had to be replaced from last year’s unit, the Bulldogs have surged even higher to the #9 defense in the country. They are 1st in the country in red zone defense, and are 1st in turnovers, averaging an insane 3.2 takeaways a game. Tank Kelly is leading the way with 3INTs and 8 pass breakups that could have been even more interceptions. Probably won’t have too many chances to add interceptions to their total this week given Tyler Vander Waal’s lack of passing, but the defense will definitely be ready for whatever the Cowboys choose to throw.
Who Fresno State will have to watch out for is Nico Evans. The senior running back has been absolutely carving opposing teams up, carrying the ball 87 times for 612 yards. In a nutshell, he is the Wyoming defense. Except to see extra men in the box and pressure to try to contain Evans in the ground game, forcing Wyoming out of their comfort zone. Especially with Vander Waal’s terible 10% sack rate, I’m sure the defense will come out looking to bring lots of pressure to the table.
Last time these two teams met up, it was everything that was expected of them. It was a defensive showdown, and Fresno State came out of Laramie with a 13-7 win after stopping Wyo’s desperate last drive down the field. I’m almost tempted to predict a similar outcome here, but this Wyoming team isn’t as good as last year’s team, and this Fresno State team is a better one. Not to mention it’s being played in October in Fresno, not November in Laramie. That should help the offenses out, and Wyoming’s less accomplished defense should provide a few more scoring opportunities for the Bulldogs. FPI gives the Dogs a 93% chance of staying perfect at home, S&P gives them an 88% chance, and Vegas has the Bulldogs favored by 18. They clearly expect a bit more offense from Fresno State this week than we saw last week by getting Hokit and Mims back to full strength. I think the Bulldog defense can stymie the ineffective Wyoming offense, and create enough scoring opportunities for the offense to walk out with a solid win, and maybe even a statement one.