One week after trouncing the UNLV Rebels to move back to .500, the Bulldogs have their sights set on stringing together two wins in conference by hosting the Colorado State Rams for Homecoming.
Who: Colorado State Rams (2-5, 1-2 MWC) v. Fresno State Bulldogs (3-3, 1-1 MWC)
Where: Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, CA (Capacity, 40,951)
When: Saturday, October 26, 4:30PM
How to Watch: Game is broadcast live on ESPNU
After starting out Mountain West play with a bit of a thud against Air Force, the Bulldogs rebounded strongly by taking advantage of UNLV’s mistakes in a 56-27 trouncing last Friday night. Now after an extra day of rest, the Dogs will stay at home to take on a Colorado State team that has shown flashes of great play, but have been hindered by injuries and big mistakes in crucial moments.
The Rams come to town coming off a 14 point win over New Mexico, and are definitely looking for a better season than they had last year. As tension mounts over Mike Bobo’s future, the Rams need bowl eligibility to justify their investment in him. To get there though, the Rams must win 4 of their next 5 games, including over a Fresno State squad that looked absolutely rejuvinated last Friday night.
The biggest turnaround for the Dogs was their defense. A week after getting absolutely pushed around by Air Force’s triple option attack for 340 yards and zero turnovers, they were able to hold UNLV’s rushing attack to only 157 yards, and 2 fumbles. This was in addition to Kenyon Oblad throwing 3 interceptions helped turn an 8 point game into a 37 point game over the course of 12 minutes. They will hope to build off of that defensive performance with another strong showing from Justin Rice, Levelle Bailey, Aaron Mosby, and Juju Hughes, all who registered turnovers against the Rebels.
The defense will be tested though against CSU’s receivers. While they are still plagued by injuries at the QB position taking Colin Hill away again, Patrick O’Brien has stepped strongly into the role by working with 3 strong receivers. Nate Craig-Myers, Dante Wright, and Warren Jackson has provided sure hands and big play abilities that have kept the CSU offense moving. Especially with Marvin Kinsey being removed from the team, expect the Rams to throw the ball around the yard, and challenge the more inexperienced players in Fresno State’s secondary. Chris Coleman has been growing in his role after switching to corner, but he is still new to the job.
On the offensive front, the youth movement is in full force for Fresno State, and it really seems to be working out well. True freshman Bula Schmidt made his first appearance on the offensive line, Zane Pope and Jalen Cropper have been really coming into their own at receiver, and Keric Wheatfall has had the immediate impact we were all waiting for. This is definitely one of those scenarios where the team will be incredibly good in a year or two as they mature. The one question left is on the left side of the offensive line. With Netane Muti’s injury ending his year, the position has rotated between Quireo Woodley, Bula Schmidt, and Nick Aibudefe. It looks like Schmidt has grabbed the position for now, which would be good for the chemistry of the line to keep one set of players. There has also been some talk that 4* recruit Tyrone Sampson could move up in into the starting center spot, but it looks like it’s still Matt Smith’s as of today.
Keys to a Fresno State victory:
- Keep up the turnovers- After forcing five against UNLV to blow that game wide open, the Bulldog defense looks more like the dominating force it was for the last two years, and a mistake-prone CSU defense could provide another chance for them.
- Get Jalen Cropper the ball- After coming so close to his first touchdown against UNLV, he needs to get that first score. Every time they run that jet sweep with him, he has been electric. His breakaway speed is great for giving a big spark to the offense, and they need to give him more opportunities to get on the board.
- Get the ball through the uprights- kicking woes continue to plague the Bulldogs this year. Things seemed to improve after an 0/3 night against Sac State, but Cesar Silva again went 0/3 last Friday. In his defense, one of those was on a fumbled hold by Blake Cusick, but the kicking game has to improve. Every Bulldog fan saw how important kicking was last year, as Asa Fuller’s leg, and one blocked PAT were needed to win the championship for Fresno State.
Coming off one strong showing against UNLV, the Dogs should be able to do it again against a rapidly fading Colorado State team. FPI has the Dogs with an 85% chance to beat the Rams, and SP+ gives them an 82% chance to win. The Vegas line has the Dogs as 14 point favorites, and Bill Connelly’s numbers have them as a 16 point favorite. I think there’s a great chance that the Dogs beat the spread again, and move above .500 for the first time this year.