The Bulldogs completed their 2006 football schedule with a road game at LSU on October 21. The first meeting between the two schools will be a one game deal televised nationally on ESPN tentatively set for 5pm PT.
After about a month of speculation who Fresno State was going to play in their 12th game, it's all over. First there was talk of game at Virginia Tech, then Georgia and Miami were rumored, but nothing ever materialized. Many Bulldog fans were in favor of a game against a California IAA school such as Cal Poly, Sacramento State or UC Davis to open the season. But now, very few are disappointed about a battle in the Bayou at Tiger Stadium, aka "Death Valley".
LSU will be a preseason national title contender, and should be ranked near the top 5 to start the season. Fresno State on the other hand, will be under radar all season unless it beats Oregon on September 9. Many people throughout the nation still remember Fresno State's valiant effort last year against USC in the Coliseum. The Bulldogs will be hard pressed to match that performance playing at night inside Tiger Stadium. A night games in "Death Valley" is one of the best spectacles in all of college football. Very few teams walk into Tiger Stadium and win a night game.
Is this Fresno State's toughest non-conference schedule ever? Hardly, the 2003 schedule with games at No. 12 Tennessee, Oregon State, at No. 1 Oklahoma, and at Colorado State was the toughest by far. This year's slate is still tough but manageable, at Washington and Colorado State are the other non-conference opponents.
I assume Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson will do Fresno State a big favor and schedule New Mexico State as the Bulldogs WAC and season opener Sept. 2. I can not think Pat Hill would have agreed to play at LSU, if Fresno State had to open up against Oregon without a game under his belt.
Playing New Mexico State in the home opener is necessary for many reasons. First and foremost it give the 'Dogs a "tune up" game before the Ducks come to town. Oregon opens up their season at home on Sept. 2 against Stanford. A rookie quarterback making his first start against a top 20 Oregon team with a game under its belt would not be a welcomed sight.
Not to play devil's advocate but there is one negative about playing at LSU on October 21. If Fresno State does play NMSU on Sept. 2, then either FS could play other WAC pasties before and after LSU but have a heavy loaded schedule to end the year, like last year. Or FS could have a trap game before or after LSU but have a somewhat easier slate to end the year. It's just nitpicking but after so many people, including myself, were disgusted how Fresno State ended 2005, it's worth mentioning. Last year I thought this team had the mental make-up to finish out a season, but October just came late last year.
A bulk of the success for this year rests on the shoulders of a rookie quarterback. Either Sean Norton or Tommy Brandstater will be expected to win games and not "throw" them away like Paul Pinegar did. I liked Pinegar, but his last pass as a Bulldog and his first pass in the East-West Shrine game pretty much summed up his career as a Bulldog quarterback in most fans' eyes.
The 2006 Schedule
9/2 New Mexico State*( just guessing this date but it makes sense)
9/16 at Washington
9/30 Colorado State
10/21 at LSU
at Utah State*
at Louisiana Tech*
at Boise State*
at San Jose State*
**the WAC schedule should be announced early next week.**