Fresno State (8-1) at USC (10-0)
TIME/SITE: 7:15 p.m. (PT); Los Angeles, Calif.; Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (92,000/Grass)
TELEVISION: Fox Sports Net; Barry Tompkins, Petros Papadakis, Jim Watson
SERIES LOOK: Fresno State won the only other meeting back in 1992 when the Bulldogs beat USC, 24-7, in the Freedom Bowl at Anaheim, Calif.
COACHES: Fresno State’s Pat Hill is in his ninth season as a head coach and has a record of 72-39.
GAME NOTES: Fresno State – has a seven-game winning streak, tied for the fifth longest in the nation ... has punted 10 times over its last five games ... its only loss came at 10th-ranked Oregon, 37-34 ... the Bulldogs led 17-0 in that game ... Wendell Mathis, a transfer from UCLA, has rushed for more than 100 yards in four straight games and has scored at least one touchdown in every game this season ... Paul Pinegar has thrown a touchdown pass in 18 straight games. USC – played at California last week and won 35-10 ...has won 32 consecutive games, the eighth longest streak in NCAA history ... has won 25 straight at home ... opened its season at Hawai‘i where it won 63-17. -wacsports.com
The Real Gameday
The folks at ESPN will be airing a feature on Pat Hill and the Bulldogs this morning on ESPN Gameday. The first time I remember ESPN Gameday ran a feature on Fresno State was in 1989, when the 10-0 Bulldogs were preparing to finish 11-0. Fresno State lost that day 45-22 to a 1-10 New Mexico Lobo team.
Gameday ran another feature about Fresno State and the "Shut and Hit Somebody" mantra in 2001. Fresno State upset Wisconsin that day, let see what happens today?
Clint Stitser is out for the season. Jason Shirley, Joe Fernandez and Ahijah Lane are expected to play. Who would miss this game?
NCAA 06 Prediction
According to Sony Playstation's NCAA Football 06 Paul Pinegar throws for a school record 576 yards but it was not enough as the 'Dogs were beaten by USC. The Trojans jumped out to a 21-0 lead and Fresno State never recovered.
USC jumped out to a 28-7 lead towards the end of the half, but Fresno State responded to cut the lead to 28-14. Reggie Bush put the game away with 74 yard touchdown run to give USC a 35-14 lead. Pinegar threw the ball over the place in the second half but stalled drives and interceptions killed any comeback hopes. Fresno State loses 42-21.
Guest Analysis and Prediction
1) Special Teams: If Fresno State is to play with USC the special teams will be one of the most important areas for the Dogs. They cannot consistently play on a long field in turn giving USC a short field to work with. Both teams have electrifying players with respect to the kick return game. Both Adam Jennings and Reggie Bush are two of the fastest return men in the nation. Currently Adam Jennings is the only player in the nation in the top ten in both returning kickoffs and punts. However, Reggie Bush is Reggie Bush and not much more needs to be said. If Fresno State is to win the battle of field position Fresno State's punter Lingua will have to show his usual five second hang-time which severely limits any chance of a return from Bush. Fresno State has the advantage with respect to special teams, but that is the case regardless of who Fresno State plays.
2) QB Play: Obviously Matt Leinart is going to play well; one would be crazy to think he won't have a big game. He is the best qb in college football and probably has been the best qb for the past three years. He never seems uncomfortable when throwing the ball and rarely makes mistakes. Fresno State is going to have to pressure Leinart often in order to force him to throw the ball earlier than he wants. This may sound easy but honestly aside Notre Dame Leinart has played amazing this season. Paul Pinegar has come along nicely for Fresno State and finally has developed into that qb that dog fans can count on week after week. He throws the ball over the middle well and always seems to get the ball into Williams's hands on the outside when it is needed. Pinegar will also play well against USC's defense as the Bulldog offensive line rarely lets Pinegar feel the pressure. However, the advantage here still sits with USC and Leinart.
3) Reggie Bush/Lendale White vs. Wendell Mathis/Bryson Sumlin: USC and Fresno State are similar with respect to their running backs. Fresno State primarily uses Mathis as their starter but Sumlin can come in and dominate a game very easily. Mathis may be the faster running back but Sumlin is the kind of running back that will not go down the first time he is hit. USC may be surprised at the strength in these two running backs for Fresno State. Of course USC has two Rb's that are over 1000 yards already and are both high draft picks if they leave this year. Fresno has been suspect against the run this year allowing big plays from time to time. The advantage here has to go to USC.
4) Dwayne Jarrett/Steve Smith vs. Marcus McCauley/Richard Marshall: Jarrett has already eclipsed the 1000 yard mark for the season and Smith should also get there before the season is over. Leinart will throw the ball often against these two corners, but if he is smart he will stay away from McCauley as he will not let a receiver beat him two times. Zambranski tried to throw McCauley's way twice in a four down series and the second pass was intercepted. It will be up to these two corners to limit Matt Leinart and what options he will have deep down the field. There is no clear advantage here as the db's and receivers match up evenly against one another.
5) Paul Williams/Joe Fernandez vs. USC corners: Fresno State will try to run the ball as it has all year. However, their offense has become vertical of late getting both of these receivers involved often. Williams will make catches that most receivers cannot get to. In the end Pinegar is going to need a big day from both of these men in order to keep the game close. In the end you can break down FSU-USC however you want to. Any fan will find a reason why their team can win the game. FSU is the underdog and rightly so. If FSU can keep the game close in the first half they will begin to see they can beat USC. This Bulldog fan believes Fresno will play the best game of the year but will come up short due to the fact they are playing the best team of the decade. USC - 35 FSU - 24 -Neil Coppola