When San Diego State knocked off Boise State last Saturday it gave Fresno State a second chance to take home the Mountain West title, at least in a shared manner. Fresno State hasn't won a conference title since 1999 when the 'Dogs shared the WAC title with TCU and Hawaii. That could all change this year if the Bulldogs win their final two games, starting with a road trip to Nevada.
Fresno State is 7-3 and has won three straight games, scoring 40 or more in each of them. Derek Carr is second in the nation in passing yards (3070) and passing TDs (30) despite being pulled early in several blowouts. Redshirt freshman Davante Adams is having an absolutely stellar season, with 71 catches for 907 yards and 10 touchdowns. He leads both all freshmen nationally and the Mountain West in those categories, and is top 10 overall in each. Adams is a shoo-in for All-MWC first team and should also be a freshman All-American. Phillip Thomas and Derron Smith are first and second in the nation in picks with 7 and 5 respectively. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, WR Victor Dean went down for the season in last week's win over Hawaii. The 6-7, 210 pound WR was enjoying a breakout season in the temporary absence of starter Josh Harper. He suffered a broken femur and had surgery earlier this week.
Nevada is 6-3. The Wolf Pack come off of a bye preceded by 2 straight losses to Air Force and San Diego State. With the exception of perhaps the Air Force game, the Wolf Pack have had no trouble scoring points. It is their defense that has failed them, especially in losses to South Florida, the Aztecs, the Falcons, and even a scare against FCS Northwestern State. Duke Williams simply cannot be everywhere. The tandem of Cody Fajardo and Stephon Jefferson was putting up video game numbers early on, and still is scoring plenty, but Jefferson has been held under 100 yards in each of his last two outings.
This is an interesting matchup. I pegged it as a Nevada win before the season started, but Tim DeRuyter has done such a great job of turning the Bulldogs' defense around that I have to reverse my projection. Derron Smith and Phillip Thomas each have more interceptions individually than the entire Nevada team. In addition, Fresno State has as much of an insider on Nevada's offense as there could be in OL coach Cameron Norcross, who was the OL coach for the Wolf Pack since 2003 before being hired by the 'Dogs. Nevada may catch a break if Josh Harper is unable to go; he is questionable for this game due to a groin injury. If Harper cannot go it will most likely be true freshman Justin Johnson starting in his place. Johnson hasn't gotten much playing time due to what was considerable depth at WR, but he looks promising The weather also favors the Wolf Pack in this one. Nevada will want to grind out the clock and keep Fresno State's offense off the field while avoiding falling victim to Phillip Thomas and company. I think Fresno State's improved defense will be the difference-maker here, however. It is the best defense Nevada will have faced all year.. Prediction: Fresno State 35, Nevada 24.