Special Teams - Throughout the course of the year there will be few teams who can match Fresno State on special teams. The Bulldogs kick coverage teams tend to be solid year after year as they send players such as Williams and McCauley on kick coverage plays and their speed will combat any players abilities during a return. At the same time our kick return game always tends to net great results. If Clifton Smith were healthy Fresno State would have one of the top kick returners in the nation. Unfortunately that is not the case for the Bulldogs. Joe Fernandez looks to be the kick returner for the time being. Fernandez did return a punt last year 72 yards for a touchdown against Idaho and does a good job of making sure he catches the ball before he does anything else. Chastin West may be the sleeper here as he has been taking reps as the kick returner in practice. The kicking game at Fresno State is solid once again with the return of both Lingua and Stitser. Clint Stitser may be one of the top five kickers in the college game, however he has only attempted twelve field goals in his college career. He has one of the strongest legs to ever come through Fresno State as 50 yard field goals are a definite possibility. Mike Lingua may not punt the ball 50 yards each time but due to his amazing hangtime Fresno State tends to net the lowest punt return yardage in the nation. Most teams are forced to fair catch the ball instead of returning it giving the Bulldogs valuable field position throughout the course of the game.
Nevada will have an excellent kick return game as long as Hubbard's hands are on the ball. If you don't remember Hubbard just think back to 2005. Hubbard is the back that ran all over the Fresno State defense. Hubbard is an exciting athlete and has speed that is hard to counter. Fresno State will have to rely on Stitser to kick the ball through or into the end zone in order to limit the amount of yards Hubbard can gain on kickoffs. Nevada's field goal kicker Brett Jaekle had a decent 80% kicking rate in 2005 as he was 12 of 15. However only two of those field goal attempts were from 40 or longer. Nevada lost it's punter and will have to begin from scratch with respect to this part of the special teams game. Overall Fresno State will have the special teams advantage. If Fresno State can make one or two big plays on special teams look for this game to swing in favor of the Dogs in the end.
Special Teams Advantage - Fresno State
Prediction - This is going to be as close as the odds makers have deemed it to be. The line on the game began at -11.5 points in favor of the Wolfpack. However, that has steadily gone down over the past few weeks. Today the line sits at -6.5 in the Wolfpack's favor. In other words Nevada is getting 6.5 points in this game. I honestly feel that this game will come down to the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Jeff Rowe will be able to dictate his pace on offense if he gets time to throw. He is experienced and makes plenty of great throws. He will only get better as the season moves along so in a sense it is good that Fresno State opens with Nevada this season. Fresno State is going to try and run the ball continuously in order to control the clock. With a quarterback who has little experience the Bulldogs will rely on Dwayne Wright to get them downfield. If the run game is not effective this game could very well go South for the Bulldogs. In the end Fresno State should have enough to pull this one out at home. The Bulldogs usually play outstanding football to start the season and being at home will only help the cause. That being said don't be surprised if Nevada walks out of Fresno with a win in an upset.
Prediction -Fresno State 31 Nevada 24
Well we have finally reached the end of the line, the college football season begins today. All Bulldog fans show up tomorrow and support the Dogs. Let's fill the stadium and show this Fresno State team we are behind them.