WEEK 8: Fresno State Bulldogs (2-5, 1-3) vs. Air Force Falcons (3-3, 2-1)
WHEN: Saturday, October 24 -- 11:00 AM, PST
WHERE: Falcon Stadium; Colorado Springs, CO (46,692)
RADIO: Fresno's two ESPN affliates, 940 and 1600 AM, will broadcast the game in English and Spanish, respectively.
SERIES RECORD: The Falcons lead the series 4-3, but the Bulldogs won the last meeting at Bulldog Stadium in 2012, 48-15 to clinch a share of the MWC Title. This is the first time the Bulldogs have played at Falcon Stadium since October 18, 1997.
WEB SITES: GoBulldogs.com, Fresno State's official athletics site | GoAirForceFalcons.com, Air Force's official athletics site
It took four tries, but the Bulldogs finally got their first conference win last week against UNLV. This week they'll be facing a very tough Air Force team that's yet to lose at home this season with wins coming against Morgan State (63-7), San Jose State (37-16) and Wyoming (31-17). The Falcons boast the No. 5 rushing attack in college football averaging 312.17 yards per game, though as ironically typical with Air Force, they're averaging less than 100 yards per game through the air.
Though Fresno State found their way on the ground vs UNLV with 217 yards on the ground and four touchdowns, Air Force has only given up more than 200 yards on the ground once this season (270 yards to Navy). The Falcons have not only held every other opponent under 200 yards rushing this season, they held No. 4 Michigan State to 77 total yards rushing on 1.8 yards per carry. Which begs the question, how is Fresno State going to find their groove on the ground vs. this stout Falcons rush defense. Don't worry, because as always, I have the answer in this week's keys to victory for the Bulldogs...
1. Pass The Ball
Kilton Anderson threw his first pass of the season during a desperation plug and play during one series in the 49-23 loss at San Jose State. It was a quick pass to the left flat that was badly off target and nearly resulted in a pick-six. His next game against one of the top defenses in the conference, Utah State, Anderson completed 50 percent of his passes, but the other half were missed so bad it looked as if he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a tennis ball from ten feet away. He also threw three interceptions. Granted, this was his first start and it was against one of the best teams in the conference. What I've liked about Anderson thus far is his passing improved remarkably against UNLV, where he completed over 60 percent of his passes and didn't have a single turnover.
Air Fore is going to expect Fresno State to run and they should, because with Anderson at the helm it's what Fresno State will do best. Anderson gives the Bulldogs a legit threat at the quarterback position to tuck it, head up field and barrel over anyone who stands in his way, but in order to make this potentially potent running game work, the Bulldogs are going to need to complete some passes down field. This will keep the safeties honest to open the running game or make them pay for cheating down into the box. This game and a Fresno State victory is going to rely on Anderson's arm as much as it will his legs and if he continues to improve the way he did between the San Jose, Utah State and UNLV games it may be just what the Bulldogs need to secure a victory in Colorado Springs. It will be no easy task though, as Air Force averages less than 200 yards per game through the air on defense and has given up only 11 touchdown passes all season.
2. Stop The Run
Everyone knows that Air Force loves to stay out of the air and keep the ball on the ground. The No. 5 rushing offense in college football racks up over 300 yards a game on the ground at a 5.3 yard average per carry to go along with 19 rushing touchdowns. This isn't what any Bulldog fan likes to see for a defense that has given up 19 rushing touchdowns to FBS opponents which have averaged 236 yards a game at nearly a five yard average per carry. The good news is under Coach Tim DeRuyter have continued to improve against run option teams like the Falcons. However, in the five games under Coach DeRuyter where the Bulldogs have faced a similar offense they've given up an average of 243 yards per game. Tobenna Okeke, the Bulldogs starting outside linebacker back on the field appears to be ready to take the field again after missing the last two games and most of the San Jose State game with a knee injury. His presence will hopefully help the Bulldogs with depth at the linebacker position and support the emergence of freshman star outside linebacker, James Bailey. As is always the case with the Bulldogs and as the coaches say, if the defense can stay "assignment sound", they will hopefully fill the right gaps and refrain from over pursing, they should be able to contain the Falcons dominant running attack
3. Get Jamire Jordan the Ball
There's no two ways about it, Jamire Jordan is the most exciting player on the Bulldogs. It doesn't matter if he's catching the ball or lining up in the backfield and running the ball, when the ball is in his hands you can see the defense hold their breath. Listed at 5'10" 168 pounds, Jordan is an electric player who has the ability to escape tight spots, turn and burst in the oddest and most unexpected directions and quite frankly whether he's going for two yards or 20, he makes the defense work to bring him down in a way that nobody else on the team does. In order to keep the rushing lanes open for Anderson and Marteze Waller the Bulldogs need to get Jordan the ball, since he has the ability to not only stretch the defense vertically, but also horizontally. Put the ball in Jordan's hands and the Bulldogs will be singing "I've got the Bulldog Spirit" in the visitors locker room at Falcon Stadium