Who: Fresno State (9-2, 6-1 MWC) v. San Jose State (1-10, 1-6 MWC)
When: Saturday, November 24, 4:00PM PT
Where: Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, CA (Capacity, 40,727)
How to Watch: Game will be broadcast on ESPNU
One week after clinching the West Division, and a spot in the conference championship game, the Fresno State Bulldogs still have one more regular season game to go. They will stay at home to face a flailing San Jose Spartans team in the Valley Trophy game, which is also senior day for the 28 Bulldogs using up their eligibility.
With a win tomorrow evening, Fresno State will have won double-digit games for the 9th time in their history, and only the 2nd time they’ve done it in back-to-back seasons. If that doesn’t show how incredible of a job Jeff Tedford and everyone involved has done, nothing will. The Bulldogs won 10 games combined from 2014 to 2016, and now they’re poised to win 10 games in two straight years, as long as rivalry voodoo doesn’t rear its ugly head. We’ve seen SJSU ruin incredible seasons for Fresno State before, but that 2013 Bulldog team had no defense, and that Spartan team was a whole lot better than this one.
Let’s start with the Spartans. Oof. What else is there to say about this year in San Jose except for ouch. After what was not a good 2017, most people expected some improvement to come in Year 2 of the Brent Brennan era. Except that in 2018, they got worse. They’ve only snagged one year, and that was over an equally dreadful UNLV team in a game that was an affront to everyone blessed with sight. An affront is pretty much the best way to describe this SJSU team, and it’s not going to get better tomorrow against a Fresno State team looking to get back into the Top 25 before conference championship week.
If there’s anything that will kill any sort of positive momentum a team may have on offense, it’s constantly shuffling QBs, either through injury or insufficient play. After starting the year with Montel Aaron, Michael Carrillo and Josh Love got work under center, Love and Carrillo have gotten the bulk of the snaps. Not that it’s really helped, but it looks like Love will get the start on Saturday, with Carrillo ready to step in if needed. Aaron is probably the QB of the future for SJSU, but he hasn’t played since the Army game, and probably won’t until 2019’s season. There is pretty much no running game to speak of though to take pressure off the QB, and it’s not like the SJSU QB’s have known which team to throw the ball too, so I’m guessing the Dogs will bring a lot of pressure to rattle the QB and fold them early.
Normally when you see a defense ranked 107th, that’s the worst part of a team. Not so for the 2018 Spartans. Their defense is bad, but their offense ranks 123rd, far and away the worst unit in the conference. And now they get to go against a Top 10 defense, including one of the best secondaries in the country. Last week, this Fresno State defense held San Diego State to a season low in rushing, and were 3 big passes away from keeping SDSU under 150 total yards. Now they face an offense that poses almost no threat, the challenge will be staying engaged and playing hard for 4 quarters. This definitely has the potential to get ugly really fast, unless SJSU somehow finds a wizard to cast a spell to make them a real football team.
On the Fresno State side, the goal tomorrow is to honor the seniors, make sure everything is ready for the conference title game, and make sure nobody gets hurt. Avoiding injuries is priority number 1 for sure. This has been a long football season, and guys get banged up down the stretch playing strong teams. And there’s at least one more Top 25 team waiting next week in Logan or Boise in the conference title game. In order to protect everyone, this may be an empty the bench type of game if it’s a blowout early on. Give the starters some extra rest, make sure nobody gets hurt, and you can get the younger players some vital game reps before the championship game and bowl game.
The running game still hasn’t materialized the way we all hoped it would this season, and a big part of that has been the musical chairs along the O-Line. It does appear that everything is settled now, with a line of Cronk, Hughes, Boyer, St. Andrew, and Tuitele. That should help spring the running backs, and having Ronnie Rivers back has paid dividends in the back half of the year. Look for a steady diet of running the ball tomorrow if things get well settled for the Dogs. Maybe this will be the game where we get those explosive plays, and get our rushing average above 3 yards/carry.
On the stats front, this game is supposed to be an absolute blowout. FPI gives the Bulldogs a 98% chance to win, S&P+ says 99%. S&P+ gives the margin at 39 points, with Vegas giving the Dogs 31 points. Both can see how dreadful San Jose has been this season, and how good Fresno State has been. I’m thinking that even with pulling starters, and making sure that all the seniors get playing time on their last home game, I think the Dogs will cover this spread pretty easily. SJSU will not be able to provide any sort of offensive threat, and their defense can’t stop a tackling dummy, let along Marcus McMaryion and Keesean Johnson.
So if you’re Fresno State, enjoy Senior Day, take care of business, and make sure nobody gets hurt. If you’re San Jose State, umm, try to have fun out there? Hope it doesn’t rain? Don’t really have anything else for them.