Who: Fresno State(3-1,0-0 MWC) @ Nevada(3-2,1-0 MWC)
Where: Mackay Stadium, Reno, NV (Capacity 27,000)
When: Saturday, Oct. 6, 7:30PM
How to Watch: Game will be broadcast on ESPNU
After closing their OOC time with a dominating win over Toledo, Fresno State will take their show on the road to Reno to take on the Nevada Wolf pack. This is the second year in a row that Fresno State has started conference play against Nevada, and they won last year 41-21 in Fresno. Now it’s a trip to the normally chilly Mackay Stadium for a showdown with the feisty Nevada team.
In Year 2 under Jay Norvell, their offense has improved a lot, and they’ve already gotten as many wins as they did all last season. This has been through the arm of Ty Gangi, but he enters Saturday’s game as questionable after a hit against Air Force last week. If he can not play, that’s a big problem for the Pack. He’s thrown 183 of the 186 passes the team has attempted this year, and 2 of the other passes came from the RB Toa Taua, who I’ll talk more about in a second. If there’s no Gangi, the QB responsibilities will fall to Junior Christian Solano. He’s thrown one pass this year, so it’s very hard to have film or a look at how he’d run the offense.
The Air Raid offense that the Pack runs is all about throwing the ball, and they’ve got good receivers for it. McLane Mannix and Kaleb Fossum are both at 399yds, and Mannix has accounted for 5TD catches so far. Both of these outside threats bring speed and length to the position, so look for the Fresno State secondary to get a workout against these two. Again though, this is dependent on who is distributing the ball, so this whole section could be completely moot Saturday. I retain the right to be wrong
The nicest surprise for the Nevada offense this year has to be the emergence of Toa Taua at the running back position. The freshman has already racked up 407yds and 4TDs, averaging 7.5yds/carry. And if there’s no Gangi, even more of the weight will fall to Taua. I’d expect the Bulldog defense will try to take the passing component out of the game, and force Nevada to run into the teeth of the 15th ranked defense in the country. Nevada is averaging on 167yds/game on the ground, but 262yds of their rushing total came against the Toledo team that Fresno State destroyed last week, so I wouldn’t put a ton of stock into that number.
Fresno State Preview:
Last week was definitely the most explosive we’ve seen the offense since Game 1, and they were rewarded with Marcus McMaryion winning Conference Player of the Week again after passing for 368yds against Toledo’s beleaguered defense. And this is a Nevada team that gave up 63 points to an offense Fresno State gave up only 13 to before garbage time. I’d expect another offensive fireworks game from the Bulldog offense, and even more action for newly healed Ronnie Rivers. After missing the first three games, and all of Spring and Fall, the sophomore back had 2 carries for 25 yards, plus an 18 yard punt return. It was great for the fans and team to see him back on the field, and I’m sure the coaching staff will look to get him some more carries as he becomes comfortable again.
Where the Dogs have really excelled this year is on the defensive side, and they come into this game allowing only 18.8points/game. This is a unit that’s just as strong as last year’s elite unit, and they seem poised to shut down Nevada’s high flying offense. About the only thing they struggle with is mobile QBs, as they’re so blitz-heavy. I’m sure we all see the Nevada receivers proving a test against the Bulldog secondary, but that also gives them a chance to add to their turnover total. They’ve already taken the ball away 14 times this season after only having 16 takeaways all last season. Mykal Walker will also be looking for another turnover after getting a pick-six against Toledo last week, and continues to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
When Nevada and Fresno State met last time in Reno, the Dogs were in the midst of their worst season ever, and lost 27-22 after throwing the ball away at the goal line. Last year’s 41-21 win was a good start to exorcising those demons, but I’m sure the Dogs want a win in Reno to fully get revenge. They come into this game as a 15 point favorite, after starting the week at 8. A lot of this is dependent on Gangi being able to play, but I’d expect the Bulldogs to win and cover this one. FPI gives the Dogs an 87% chance in this game, and S&P gives the Dogs an 81%, with a 15 point projected margin. Looks like everyone is in agreement, and I am as well. I’ll be a bit more optimistic about the offensive output for the Dogs, and I think they take this one by at least 3TDs. Nevada’s defense is really not good, and their offense hasn’t faced a defense anywhere near the calibre of Fresno State’s. Nevada’s defense ranks 107th in S&P, with the 66th ranked offense. Fresno State’s defense is 18th, with the 55th ranked offense. Definitely seems like a chance for the Dogs to flex their muscles to start conference play, and continue their division title defense.