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Bulldog Bytes: Back on the Field

After a two-week layoff, Fresno State is back

Fresno State v Utah State Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

WHO: Fresno State (3-1) @ Nevada (5-1)

WHEN: Saturday, December 5th, 7:30PM

WHERE: Mackay Stadium, Reno, NV

HOW TO WATCH:Game will broadcast on Fox Sports 2

After a two game cancellation due to COVID problems in the Bulldog program, Fresno State is heading back onto the field against the Nevada Wolf Pack Saturday night in a deciding game for the Mountain West title game. Since the two title game participants are chosen based off conference winning percentage, Fresno State is still in the hunt despite losing the games against SJSU and SDSU. Let’s take a quick look at what looks to be an exciting shoot-out Saturday night.

The first game for Fresno State was admittedly rough, with 5 Fresno State turnovers dooming them against Hawaii. Since then though, the offense has been firing on all cylinders, pitching in 38 points per game. Ronnie Rivers and Jake Haener have been dynamic, and we’re finally seeing the potential of Jalen Cropper as a home run hitter we all expected when he committed to the hometown Bulldogs. Now they will go against a Nevada defense that’s been giving up 21.2 points per game. Both defenses are coming in with a 4-2-5 base look, so at least the Bulldogs will be used to seeing the formations on the far side of the ball.

On the offensive side, look for Fresno State to try to build on the games against UNLV and Utah State, and that includes setting Ronnie Rivers and Jalen Cropper loose. While he hasn’t been used as much in the sweep rushing game, Cropper has grown into an effective downfield threat for Haener. Add in the strong running of Ronnie Rivers, and hopefully a more effective O-Line to keep lanes open and Haener upright, and Fresno State should be able to score points and stay in the game.

If there’s been one thing we’ve seen out of Nevada this year, it’s that Romeo Doubs is a star receiver. So far, he’s caught 37 passes for 788 yards and 9 touchdowns in Nevada’s dynamic offense. The Wolf Pack have been known for their passing game, but still have Toa Taua to keep the ground game going. Last week, Hawaii did an effective job shutting down Doubs and the passing game, but did it by giving up large chunks of yards on the ground to Taua and Devonte Lee for 208 yards in a 24-21 win to end Nevada’s undefeated season. Rushing defense has been a problem for Fresno State so far this season, so it will be interesting to see if they can put a stop to the running game. The hope is that Levelle Bailey, Kwami Jones, and David Perales are back at full strength after the break to make the defense more formidable.

Checking out the various betting aggregates and stats predictions shows that everyone is looking for a shootout between the Bulldogs and Nevada. The current over/under is predicted at 59 points, and Nevada is currently a 6 point favorite. ESPN’s FPI gives the Wolf Pack a 57% chance of winning, and Bill Connelly’s SP+ has things decided by a touchdown as well. Comparing the common opponents for the two teams, both handily beat UNLV and USU while losing to Hawaii. Nevada lost to the Warriors by 3, and beat the Rebels by 18 and the Aggies by 25. Fresno State lost to the Warriors by 15, beat the Aggies by 19 and the Rebels by 13. Relatively close, but Nevada has been slightly more dynamic on offense this year. I think things will be close in either direction, with us crossing the over Saturday night. The Dogs need a win to stay alive in the conference race, but this will be a tough challenge against one of the best offenses in the 2020 MWC.

Score Prediction: Fresno State 31-34 Nevada