Fresno State can’t bake, and that’s okay
I was twelve years old when I figured out that baking wasn’t for me. I was never able to adjust recipes to get the exact outcome I wanted, and generally I just ended up frustrated having wasted time and effort. There were, and are, clearly better bakers in my family that would create much better baked goods.
I tell you that to tell you this: whoever is making the football schedules for Fresno State is adding entirely too much sugar. It’s a common mistake, to be fair. Sugar is good, so more of it must be better. For Fresno State, sugar means difficult Power 5 matchups. If the recipe is turning a team into a New Year’s Six contender, the folks in San Joaquin Valley are ruining it with extra ingredients.
Over the past five years, the Bulldogs have played nine P5 teams in their non-conference slate and won just once, against UCLA in a season where the Bruins went 3-9. In the next four years, they are already lined up to play another eight P5 teams. Seven of those games are on the road, and only Oregon State at home looks as if it could be a favorable matchup.
Fresno State, this is an intervention. We care about you, we love you, and it’s time to talk about getting yourself to a healthy place.
Why does it matter? Shouldn’t we encourage our best teams to play the best possible schedule?
If the Mountain West Conference is ever going to advance to a place where it is routinely putting teams in the New Year’s Six bowl game designated for the G5 conferences, it is going to need more than one perennial contender that plays on the ugliest football field in America.
Since San Diego State is committed to losing inexplicable divisional games every year (Nevada/Hawaii in 2019, basically everyone in 2018) it falls on Fresno State to pick up the slack. Most media members that live east of Denver don’t stay up for MWC games anyway, so let’s just assume they only consider records and not the actual quality of the teams on the other side of the Continental Divide. Not to be overly harsh, but I don’t think that is a large assumption.
As such, the Schedule Czar is putting the kibosh on this frankly absurd scheduling philosophy going forward and setting up the Bulldogs to be in the national conversation as often as possible. We are looking for double digit wins from the Bulldogs at least once every three years, but preferably every other season. Unfortunately, I’ve arrived too late to save anything before 2023, but 2024 is potentially salvageable and 2025 is wide open.
Of all the egregious aspects of FSU scheduling, the most painful feature of this philosophy is that Fresno State is not getting home-and-home arrangements, despite their positioning as a respected G5 opponent. 2024 is no exception, as the Bulldogs travel to Purdue and Arizona State with no return trips scheduled.
As a general rule of thumb, if you agree to travel to West Lafayette, Indiana for anything other than a funeral, there should be some sort of favor done in exchange.
It’s too late for that now, but at least neither of these teams is likely to be a world beater. Fresno State has scheduled two dominant teams before in the same season (in 2017 they played at #1 Alabama and at #6 Washington in consecutive weeks!), but this is workable. With a little luck and good timing, we could set the Dawgs up for a 3-1 non-conference record.
To do that, we are gonna have to put our thumb on the scale with the remaining two games. As always, the Schedule Czar recommends putting an FCS team on the itinerary. Let’s go ahead and bring in UC Davis for an ALL VALLEY TOURNAMENT matchup.
Good, we are on our way and have already locked in a Karate Kid reference. Obviously two FCS teams on the schedule would be a little conspicuous for all those AP Poll voters that couldn’t point to Fresno on a map of California, so we’ll add a G5 team on a home-and-home arrangement.
Here I recommend scheduling the Rice Owls. It’s a win, you get a return game in Houston to make yourself known to recruits in one of the most talent-rich areas of the country, and the meal the night before the game can be Tex-Mex. Perfect. We will take the return game in 2025, to make things simple.
There is a little more wiggle room in 2025. We’ve added Rice as an away game, and Fresno plays Oregon State in Corvallis as the second leg of a home-and-home arrangement. Now the Bulldogs have an opportunity to lock in a quality opponent for a two-game series, so let’s make it happen.
The MWC is going to need teams to step up and go head to head with AAC teams eventually. Fresno and Boise are the optimal candidates, and Boise already has series with UCF/Houston/USF on the books. In 2025, we are volunteering the Bulldogs to play a home game against Southern Methodist, and will gladly visit Dallas in 2026 or 2027. SMU showed life for the first time in a while this year, and Sonny Dykes has proven before he can win at the G5 level consistently.
Notching a win against SMU, coupled with Boise beating USF and Houston that same year, and the whole conversation around best G5 conference shifts immediately. Fresno would be in a favorable position to snag a spot in the Cotton/Peach/Fiesta Bowl, especially if they’ve taken care of business against Oregon State and Rice. If this is one of those seasons where everything lines up for the Bulldogs, we’ve now assured ourselves that their scheduling won’t be the reason they aren’t settling for the Cheez-It Bowl. Boise State and San Diego State fans should be equally appreciative of having Fresno State winning its non-conference games.
To wrap up we are adding a home game against Sacramento State. They are historically bad (2019 success aside) and we can’t risk an FCS upset in what is looking like a great opportunity for the Bulldogs.
Is it cynical? Sure. Are those baked goods going to taste delicious? Definitely.
Go on Bulldogs, make the rest of us look better.