Friday, September 29, 2006

Game Four: A Must Win Situation

What to Expect - From Fresno State's offense we should expect D-Wright, D-Wright, and some more D-Wright by the time this game is all said and done with. Wright averages 30 carries per game but I would not be surprised to see Wright end up with 35-40 carries in this game. Pat Hill did not put a lot of faith in the vertical game this past week when he said that he should have ran the ball every down against Washington. Hill feels the Dogs are at their strongest when they continually pound the ball play after play. I realize Wright is a huge factor in our offense and is big and strong and can take more hits than most running backs can. However, with so much use he could end up tiring out before the season is over, so we have to be careful with Wright. From time to time Fresno State will try to throw the ball but don't expect any trick plays or creativity from our offensive coordinator. He is just as vanilla as Frank Cignetti and the more this continues to happen the more it has to be put on Pat Hill that our offense just doesn't prduce in the passing game. I highly doubt that both Cignetti and Hagen were against throwing the ball. Hagen was the offensive coordinator for Nevada when they fnished in the top five in the nation in offense. That tells me he does have the ability to make an offense work, however if he is not given the chance to then it doesn't much matter. The way I view our offense is similar to the movie Any Given Sunday. In the first game the O-coordinator is begging Al Pacino to let him throw the ball but Pacino is adamant about running tha ball. I believe Hill and Hagen probably have a very similar relationship. I have a feeling that Hagen asks over and over again to throw and Hill instructs him to run. Regardless of the situation expect the Dogs to score in the high 20's to low 30's in this game. Our offensive game plan just doesn't allow us to score much more than we did against Nevada.

What to Expect - From Colorado State's offense: Well not much. Their qb is not that productive nor accurate. Their running game is a mess, and they just don't score many points. However, Colorado State is a good defensive team. As many have pointed out they have not been tested with respect to defense too often because their schedule has been weak up to this point in the season. Their only test up to this point had been Nevada on the road and Colorado State went down 28-10. However, if they had played better in the second quarter that game would have been much closer. Overall expect the Dogs to run on the Rams, and expect them to do it often. If the Rams can draw up a plan to stop D-Wright then the Dogs will be in trouble because I just am not sure they can throw the ball succesfully downfield. Colorado State will score 17-20 points. They won't score enough to win this game but they will make it close.

Game Prediction - Fresno State 28 Colorado State 20

I would like to think the Bulldogs can put up more than 28 points, but their offense has been so lethargic that I don't see this game as the one where the Dogs figure out all of their offensive woes. The fix is honestly realtively easy to accomplish for the Dogs. All they have to do is trust in Brandstater and let him throw the ball. Their will be a game down the line where Brandstater has to make it happen for us to win. The Dogs should be giving him more and more freedom as each game goes on. The funny thing is it seems like he gets less freedom as each game goes on. Unless the offense opens up Hawaii, Boise, and LSU are going to have a field day with this team.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Instant Replay, Conference Affilliation, and BCS Thoughts

In the last two weeks we have had game changing mistakes made by the instant replay officials. The first (and probably the most seen screw up in instant replay history) occured two weeks ago when Oklahoma played Oregon. Not only did the replay official miss that the ball was touched early by an Oregon player but the entire officiating crew seemed to miss that Oregon did not actually recover the ball in the first place. However, instant replay rules do not allow you to review ball possession after the fact. In other words if the ball is ruled down the replay official cannot review posession. Last week Houston played Oklahoma State and a similar mistake was made. Oklahoma State had caused a fumble and the replay booth was given the task of seeing if it indeed was a fumble. Instead the replay booth ruled the runners progress was stopped and therefore the play should have been whistled dead. In the end Houston kept the ball and scored a touchdown en route to their close win over Oklahoma State. Now the question I ask is do you as fans feel like the instant replay system in college football is working? I know that I am a proponent of the system because I feel like more often than not they make the right call. I just wish they would go to the same system that the NFL uses for replay. Just wondering if everyone saw the Oregon game and what they thought when they saw that.

Today I read an article in the Fresno Bee about the rivalry between the MWC and the WAC. I have to say I don't feel this so called rivalry between the two conferences, but I may be missing something. When Colorado State comes to town I don't feel the city gets up for it like we do when we play Hawaii. I realize we used to be in the same conference with many of those same teams in the MWC but does everyone else feel like these teams are true rivals to us at all? We used to play great games with BYU, San Diego State, and even Utah. However, if we scheduled any of these teams on our non-conference schedule I am willing to bet that the city of Fresno would not look at it as a great rivalry game, but instead a trap game. I have to say that althought the WAC has some terrible teams I prefer the WAC over the MWC without a doubt. In Nevada, Hawaii, and Boise State we have three other teams that can go out and play with great teams. Hawaii gave Alabama all they could handle to open the season and I am willing to bet they would actually beat Alabama now. Boise State is on the national scene as they are currently ranked #22 and have a chance to run the table. They probably would need TCU to lose since they started ranked higher and they seem to have the nation's support to make a BCS run. I am not saying it is impossible for two non-BCS teams to make it, but it is hard to say the least. The point I am making is between these two confences the WAC is jst as competitive. it may be a top heavy conference, but in a few years things will change as they always do.

BCS wise Boise State has a chance to make a BCS game as I stated earlier. Yes, this is a position Fresno State desires to be in yearly. So here is the question I pose to everyone. Is it better to run a schedule like Boise has this season with it's toughest opponents being @Utah, and Fresno State at home? Or is it better to schedule as Fresno State does, with LSU and Oregon on the non-conference schedule? The Bulldogs put their selves in a tough position and would make a BCS game if they could run the table, but with their schedule it would be a stretch to do so. Instead the Dogs may go 7-5 this season. What would you as fans think if we had a schedule like Utah did two years ago when they made their BCS game, with their big game opponent being an unranked North Carolina team at home? I have to say that if that is the way to make the big money in a nationally televised BCS game, then why not take advantage of it? I have a feeling that if we played Oregon State and Wyoming instead of Washington and Oregon, we would be 3-0 easily. Well if anyone cares to chime in on any of these topics, please do. I wrte this blog to find out what you have to say and to let you know what I think as well.

Note - The picture above is our victory at K-State. Remember the good times, they wll be back again soon.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

What's in a Redshirt?

Since I have been talking about our depth problem the last few days I started thinking about the number of Redshirt Freshman that are in our program yearly. I have never understood why a coach would go out to get a player and redshirt him. Ok, yes I get that you want the freshman to learn the system before he gets playing time but what does that do to a guy who is so young? Does it help that an 18 year old learns the system before he gets game experience? I would say yes if you are talking about the quarterback position. The quarterback has to learn the playbook in and out before he can get in the game. He has to learn defensive schemes, what adjustments to make and so on. If a freshman played the cornerback position he would have to learn coverage schemes, that's all. Yes covering a receiver in college football is no easy task, but the truth is these guys will not get any better without getting on the field and experiencing it for themselves.

A.J. Jefferson played in the first game this season against Nevada and did an outstanding job of blanketing Nevada's receivers. Since then I may have missed it but I have not seen him in the game. If that is the case then I have to ask why? I realize they might want to redshirt him, but if he has the physical and mental ability to play corner already why not play him? Will having him for that extra season really help in the end? Or would having him on the field make him a better player right from the start? I feel like if we stop redshirting every single guy that comes through the system our depth would imporve heavily. Instead of having to rely on rarely used freshman we could fall back on players that are now experienced sophomores. Maybe it's just me, but if you go out and recruit someone, shouldn't you want him in the system so he can play instead of getting him to sit back and watch the games? These guys do not want to go to college to sit, they want to go and play. Lonyae Miller is a very good example of using a freshman. His stats are not phenominal, but you can tell game by game that he is slowly getting better. By the time his sophomore year rolls around he will be ready to be a big part of the offense.

Maybe I am just bringing up something that doesn't really matter. I just really wish we had more depth. I know it's Fresno State and we don't get the amount of top line recruits that a PAC-10 school does, but we do have plenty of capable players that just don't have the exprience yet. In order to have a successful season a team will have to learn to make it through injuries. I always complain that our best players get hurt every year, well so do most teams. Jarrett is out for USC as is their starting fullback. Let's see how they respond in the next 2-4 weeks of the year. Fresno needs to be able to do the same thing. We need to be able to have that Linebacker that can step in and take Riley's place if he is hurt. We need to be able to have that corner to step in if McCauley goes down for a few plays. I believe our lack of depth will forever be a problem if we continue to redshirt at the high rate we do. It may be pointless to think about, but in the end I feel like it really does effect the team in the long run.

New Scoreboard Ready - As most of you can see, the new video board is just about done. It is said to be up and running this Saturday and honestly, does it not look ten times better than we had thought it would? Make the trip out this weekend and watch the game against Colorado State even if it is just to check out the new video board out (although I hope the reason you go is to watch the game). This will be our last home non- conference game so I hope we can support the Dogs during this game.

Game Comparisons - You might notice I have not really compared Fresno State and Colorado State. The only reason I haven't is Fresno State is a much better team in all facets of the game and should win this game quite easily. Will they? I don't know if our offense is good enough to blow anyone out, but however bad our offense is, Colorado State's is far worse. So I think a game prediction is all that is needed here. If anyone wants to know what Colorado State brings to the table just let me know and I will write something up on it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Random Thoughts on the Young Season

Panic seems to be the emotion of choice for most Fresno State fans and who am I to judge you fans for feeling this way? We currently sit at 1-2 and have a chance to lose the most games this season since 1998 when we finished 5-6. What seems to boggle most Bulldog fans is we have what could be the best collection of talent Fresno State has ever put together. We have quite possibly four players that may very well be drafted in the first two rounds. I am not 100% sure, but I would venture to say Fresno State has never had that many players drafted so high in the same draft. How is it possible to have such a strong collection of talent and wind up losing two out of the first three games this season? The answer: Depth.

Fresno State may have outstanding talent in many positions but once a star player is hurt we have very little to back that player up. Yes we have Lonyae Miller at backup but is he truly on the level of Dwayne Wright? If Marcus McCauley were to go down how would the Bulldogs handle that problem? Well if you watched the Oregon game you were able to see what would happen. Oregon immediately attacked McCauley's vacated side of the field play after play leading to a touchdown pass from Dixon. The reason I bring up depth is that the Bulldogs in the span of three days have learned they will be missing three key players for most of the season. Jaron Fairman will miss the remainder of the season due to an ACL injury. No Fairman is not the most talented player on this team, but he runs great routes and has amazing hands as the third receiver. Chastin West and Marlon Moore will have to step in and try to show they are ready to be an important part of the Bulldog offense (that is if we decide to throw the ball anytime soon). Cole Popovich will miss six to eight weeks due to an injury sustained during the game against Washington. Now this injury hurts but not as much as the others have because our offensive line tends to do a great job regardless. The third loss the Bulldogs will have to deal with is Mike Lingua. Robert Malone has stepped in to punt for Lingua but the difference has been obvious to most. In the Oregon game Fresno State allowed more punt return yards than they did the entire 2005 season because Malone does not have the hang time that Lingua did. This ends up hurting the Bulldogs with respect to the field position battle throughout the course of the game.

What do we have to look forward to is what most fans are wondering. Will the Bulldogs come together and make this a memorable season for both the players and the fans? I believe they will, and I believe we will recover beginning with the game this week. I believe Pat Hill is going to allow Brandstater to throw the ball eventually this season because he knows he has to. I would look for a stretch somewhat close to this:

Wins Vs. Colorado State, New Mexico State, Idaho, San Jose State, La. Tech, and Utah State
Losses vs. Boise State, and LSU
Tossup against Hawaii

Now take a look at those results. If the Bulldogs can win those games they should and win one of the three monster games that remain they fiish the season 8-4 with a 7-1 WAC record as long as they beat either Boise or Hawaii. That will be good enough to get us in the Poinsetta or New Mexico bowl this year. I would hold out hope for the Emerald bowl, but they shunned us once already so I wouldn't expect that bowl to come calling. The unfortunate problem here is that Boise beat Hawaii last weekend. Hawaii winning that game could have given Fresno State a chance to tie for the WAC as long as we beat Hawaii in return. Now I am hard pressed to say Boise may very well run the table and end up in a BCS game. If that is the case then we will come in second or third depending on how Hawaii finishes.

This season has many possibilities and if Fresno can figure out a way how to fix their offensive woes they will have a successful season. I know many of you have lost faith but we have only lost two games. I may not always agree with Pat Hill's decision as head coach (ok I usually don't) but these players this season are far too talented to not succeed. Brandstater or Norton or whoever will succeed at qb whne they finally allow the throwing game to open up. The running game will continue to tear up defenses and we have a chance to do some damage against both Boise and LSU. Do not count out the Dogs, we have plenty of time to show the nation how truly good we are.

Monday, September 25, 2006

An Injury Worth Discussing?

I was searching the net today when I came across an interesting article in the Merced Sun-Star. According to the article Tom Brandstater was injured when he was hit early on in the Oregon game. Now anyone who has seen this hit knows Brandstater was on the ground for a good five minutes after he was drilled with a helmet directly to his ribs. However, Brandstater being hurt from this hit creates a situation that has continually upset me over the years with respect to Pat Hill. Now I am not saying Brandstater is truly hurt, I am going off of an article I read that was put in the paper in Merced. However, if this is true that means that Hill played a quarterback against Washington that was hurt. If he played Brandstater hurt then he put our chances of winning that game in jeopardy. If we had no other backup quarterback I could see why Brandstater played the entire game against Washington, but we have Norton. I don't know what is going on behind closed doors inside Fresno State's locker room but it is becoming quite disturbing. I am not sure what Sean Norton has done to make this situation so anti-Norton but am I the only who is beginning to think this is ridiculous? I realize this could be speculation and I might be way off base but if it is true then Hill is risking wins to keep someone in the game that is hurt. Why would someone do that to the football team? This has continually been a problem with the Hill regime in Fresno.

In the past we have seen Hill stick to his guns with both Volek and Carr. Those two quarterbacks worked out well for Fresno State as they both can be viewed as two of the better qb's the school has ever seen. However after these two qb's moved on the qb situation rapidly changed. Jeff Grady was supposed to step in as the next great Bulldogs qb but he was injured early in the 2002 season. A young inexperienced Freshman stepped in and was annointed the starter the rest of the season. His name was Paul Pinegar. Regardless of how Pinegar played over the course of his career he was always the starter. While the backups during Pinegar's tenure were not necessarily great, many times a change at qb could have changed the season around. Pat Hill did not budge and left Paul in there. Until the end of the 2005 season this decision always seemed like the right one.

While Pat Hill's decisions have paid off up to this point, if he did leave Brandstater in there injured I would love to hear why. I would love to hear the reasoning for keeping someone on the bench who is mobile and free of injury right now. I would love to hear the reason why we kept someone in to essentially hand the ball off play after play. Can Norton not accomplish a hand-off? Is it that hard for Norton to understand the offense? He seemed to have a grasp on it early in the season and I don't think he has given up hope on playing. Is Norton ever going to have a chance? The way it looks I would venture to guess that Colburn will be the second string quarterback next season. If Hill has a problem with Norton's height he obviously has not been watching Florida's Chris Leak who is also 5'11. he is listed at 6'0 but that is generous. He is leading Florida to an undefeated start and has looked amazing in Florida's offense. Leak is vertically challenged with respect to quarterback size, but is starting for the demanding Urban Meyer. Sean Norton cannot break into the Bulldogs offense even with Brandstater being hurt. I just wonder what Bulldog nation thinks about this? If this article were true does it bother anyone else that we essentially played someone that was hurt and could very well have cost us a win? Just wondering because it looked like Brandstater could have ran the ball many more times than he did but he held back. That really makes me wonder, what about everyone else?

Is The Ride Over?

For Fresno State it all began with the man to the left. David Carr brought a sense of euphoria to Fresno State that had never been witnessed in this mid-sized central valley city to date. With a 6-0 start in 2001 including victories over Wisconsin, Colorado, and Oregon State the Bulldogs of Fresno State climbed all the way to the eight spot in the nation. The city of Fresno for the first time was on a national stage as Sports Illustrated put David Carr on the front cover and did an article on the small school that could hang with the big boys of college football. However, was this the beginning of the end for Fresno State? Fresno State would drop two conference games to Boise State and Hawaii that in turn cost the Bulldogs a shot at the national championship. Since that season Fresno has lost at least three games each year although they have had promising starts in two of those seasons only to see the same thing happen each time. Because of our slow start this season and the outlook on the 2007 season I ask all Bulldog fans out there: Is the ride over for Fresno State? Are we slowly returning to the football program we were before David Carr arrived?

To prove my point let's take a look at Fresno State over the past five years since David Carr departed. While it is true we have played in a bowl game each year, aside the Virginia game what bowl game was against a top 25 team? UCLA, Georgia Tech, and Tulsa were not ranked teams meaning we played average schools at best in each of these bowl games. In each of these seasons we also lost three games or more. I realize we lost three games with David Carr in his senior season, but the wins we compiled that season thrust the Bulldogs into the spotlight, something that has only happened one time since. In 2004 Fresno State opened with road wins against Washington and Kansas State only to lose it's fourth game of the season to La. Tech. So where does that leave the 2006 Fresno State Bulldogs with respect to what the team has done over the past five years under Pat Hill?

This year the Bulldogs could legimitely lose six games. With remaining games against Hawaii, @ LSU, @ Boise, and @ La. Tech Fresno State is going to have a hard time finishing the season at 7-5. If the Bulldogs were to pull out an 8-4 year (which is what I felt they would do at the starting of the year) they will have done an outstanding job to get to that point with two losses already in the books. However, Fresno State may have an even worse season next year. With road games @ Oregon, Hawaii, and possibly Auburn or Tennessee Fresno State is already looking at three losses and that is not including the rest of WAC play. We will lose Dwayne Wright, all three of our senior receivers, Kyle Young, Marcus McCauley, and Dwayne Andrews. I realize Wright is a junior but he would be crazy to pass up the NFL with the season he is on his way to having. To say Fresno State will be weak next year would be an understatement. If the Bulldogs do not get some outstanding recruits who can step in immediately and contribue it will be a long season. In other words, expect this team to be down for a year or two. Football is a cyclical game with teams winning for years at a time followed by down years. Fresno State will be going through some hard times here in the future and it is quite possible that the high we have experienced over the past five seasons will be gone. However, all is not lost.

With the national recognition came better recruits, a brand new scoreboard, ESPN telecasts, and an overall sense that the Bulldogs had become a national player for the first time in Bulldogs history. The Dogs may be down for a year or two but they will be back. One day Pat Hill will have moved on and we will have someone else step in and do a great job in his place. Remember the years of David Carr. Remember Pat Hill. Remember Dwayne Wright, Bernard Berrian, and Mracus McCauley. These were the men that started it all for us. Ten years from now when Fresno State has become a top 25 program year after year, it will be these men that we reference to our children as the beginning of it all for the Bulldogs. One down year does not mean the program is going to fall off the map. Continue to support the Dogs, the foundation has been established and it is only a matter of time before everything comes together for this team. I know it's hard to see right now, but give it time. Every team has it's year and I still believe our best is yet to come. Let me know what you as fans think as well. I know I am a bit of an optimist, but I love Fresno State's football team and always will. There is nothing that will ever turn me away from following the Bulldogs and I hope most of you Bulldog fans that read this blog are the very same.

FSU-Colorado State QB/RB Preview

Quarterbacks - At first glance this game looks to be one of the bigger mismatches of the season for Fresno State as Colorado State may be 2-1 but that is no indication of how this team has played up to this point. With their first two wins being over Weber State (A division I-AA school Fresno State knows well) and the underachieving Colorado Buffaloes the jury is still out on Colorado State as a whole. If their loss at Nevada was any indication of how good this team is, Fresno State in turn should have very few problems Saturday. However, most Fresno State fans know better than to take any opponent for granted with our storied history of dropping games to lesser opponents (such as Washington only a week ago). The quarterback situation for the Bulldogs has been well documented up to this point as it has been non-existant to say the very least. Last week Jeff Rowe of Nevada completed 19 out of 22 passes for over 200 yards against this weak Colorado State defense. Brandstater will have time to throw and will even have the lanes to throw if the offense so desires it, but that has not made a difference up to this point as Washington gave us every opportunity to throw down field and we did not take advantage of it. I want to give the quarterback edge to Fresno State but I cannot go off of talent anymore as far as advantages go. Promise and talent only take you so far in college football. Execution is the most important aspect in college football and our passing game has not executed. I have no reason to believe that we will open up the passing game against Colorado State. Although their starting quarterback (Caleb Hanie 49 for 70, 1 td, 3 int's) has average numbers at best, they are no worse than Brandstater's numbers up to this point (48 for 73, 3td's, 3 int's). I am going to call the quarterback competition equal, but not because I feel it truly is. Instead I am calling it a draw only because I know Pat Hill will not allow Brandstater to throw the ball as he should be able to. Our play calling is the only reason this aspect of the game is equal.

Quarterback Advantage - Even, due to lack of creativity in playcalling for FSU.

Running Backs - Fresno State will enjoy an enormous advantage with respect to the running game. Colorado State's leading rusher (Gatrell Johnson III) has gained 64 yards on 34 carries up to this point. Yes those numbers are correct, he is averaging less than two yards per carry. Dwayn Wright (one of the nation's best up to this point) has gained 448 yards on 83 carries for an average of 5.5 yards per carry. Fresno State should be able to completely control the line in this game. If Dwayne Wright does not rush for at least 150 yards and two scores I will be surprised. he is far too powerful and Fresno State's O-line is much too effective for Colorado State to disrupt the Bulldogs running game. However, here in lies the dilemna against Colorado State. Does Fresno State finally try to work in a passing game that will be necessary to beat Boise, Hawaii, and LSU or do they continue to run the ball continuously because Colorado State cannot defend it? We shall see what the Dogs do, but if I were to guess I would say they continue to pound the ball time and time again.

Running Back Advantage - Fresno State

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Boise-Hawaii In Game

Well I may have been wrong about the Hawaii-Boise game. Right now Hawaii trails Boise 24-12 pending the extra point. It would be a 22-14 game but Boise blocked an extra point and returned it for two points. Colt Brennan has 230 yards passing and two touchdowns right now against Boise's weak pass defense. However, Boise can stop the run, hmm does that spell trouble for Fresno State since we have yet to establish a passing game? I would say I am definitely afraid of both of these teams right now. Hawaii converted the two point conversion, they now trail 24-14 with 5:50 left in the first half. This could turn out to be a good old WAC shoot out. Anyhow I will get the final score on here when the game is over. Thus game could be very important as to who comes out on top of the WAC this season. Here's hoping for a great finish.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The WAC Weekend

The WAC weekend will be without Fresno State for the only time this season. However, the marquee game for the conference is no dud with Hawaii visiting Boise State this Saturday. The game will begin at 5pm here in California and can be seen on Boise State's athletic web site. I advise all Bulldog fans worried about the WAC title to watch this game as these will be two of the better teams in the WAC this season alongside our Bulldogs.

Now moving in another direction I have had a week to deal with our last loss to Washington. MDG wrote a blog on Fresno State's credibility as a giant killer and after our loss to Washington I would be hard pressed not to agree with him. Fresno State needs a big win against a marquee opponent and it needs to happen sooner than later. The problem is the only BCS school we have left on the schedule this year is LSU, who by no means is an easy victory. I did watch the game against Auburn (who plays a much better defensive scheme than we do) but I have to say LSU is not this juggernaut that I thought them to be. If Fresno can fix it's problems by the time we face LSU we definitely have a shot to do some damage against them. We run virtually the same offense as LSU (aside the fact they actually open up the playbook for Russell and throw vertically) and that should give us a chance to hang with them deep into the game in Death Valley.

At the same time there is a situation going on right now between Bulldog fans over on the Barkboard that is becoming problematic in my opinion. The situation over whether we should keep Brandstater or start Norton is getting out of hand. If anyone has noticed the past two games Brandstater has not lost these games. In fact I would go as far as saying he kept us in the Oergon game by minimizing his mistakes and making big plays when he had to. The Collegian feels like we as fans shouldn't give up on Brandstater . Tom Brandstater only one week ago was praised by so many Bulldog fans for being tough and playing through many ferocious hits from the Oregon Ducks. Only one week later many of our fans are ready to crucify Brandstater for a loss that for the most part should be pinned on our lack of execution with respect to the special teams unit. Give this man some time. Opening the season against Nevada, Oregon, and Washington is no easy task and if you want to try and compare him to someone Like Booty from USC you have some issues because Booty has so much more to work with than Brandstater ever will.

In the end the only point I am trying to make is this Bulldog team is going to be just fine. On a side not the video board was installed yesterday and is on schedule to be in operation next Saturday against Colorado State. There are no high school games and the game is at seven pm next Saturday so there is no reason for fans not to be out to support the Dogs. If you need a reason to get out there how about the weather being beautiful and the new board being installed? I don't feel like I should have to give you reasons to go watch Fresno State get back on track, but with how fair-weather many of our fans are I am sure people will not be attending simply for the fact that the Dogs are not ranked and are 1-2. Prove me wrong people, please do.

The WAC this week faces a tough road as I see only two teams coming away with wins. here is the WAC schedule:

NorthWestern @ Nevada: Nevada should come away with the win at home

Utah State @ BYU: Utah State can only hope to keep it close

La. Tech @ Texas A&M: Tech can stay close as A&M struggled with Army

Idaho @ Oregon State: Idaho just isn't that good and won't do much here

Cal Poly @ San Jose State: San Jose better win here against an inferior team

Hawaii @ Boise State: I am going with Hawaii in a shoot out. I know Hawaii doesn't win away from home, but this team just seems different.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What Happened To The WAC?

With a loss Saturday Fresno State fell to 1-2. Fresno State's last two weeks of football will be games that we as fans would just as soon forget. Yes, Fresno State could very easily be 3-0 right now but we have to accept that they aren't. Our non-conference schedule has bitten us in the worst possible way this season, but I think too many people are forgetting what our first goal should be year in and year out: To Win The WAC. In the off-season Fresno State fans made it a point that our team should concentrate on the WAC championship this season. In the past our hot starts always lead us away from paying attention to our conference. This season is obviously far different from most. We will not be a BCS team this year as we have no chance of being in the top 12 at the end of the year. Maybe it is a good thing that for the first time in the past three years we have no chance this early in the season. Maybe for the first time Fresno can actually turn this thing around and take the WAC and run with it. Obviously it will not be easy because of two games that are on the schedule: Hawaii and Boise State. Is it possible for the Bulldogs to win the WAC this season? The answer is absolutely. We were able to see the difference in the run defense with the addition of Marcus Riley. Yes, I realize Stanback ran for plenty of yards but the two running backs for Washington rushed for a total of 30 yards. Every time James or Rankin touched the ball they were absolutely swarmed. If Fresno State can figure out how to stop someone on third and long they may be able to turn their season around. If Fresno is to return to prominence this season a few changes need to be made. Some of these changes in my opinion are:

1) On defense Fresno State needs to create pressure on the quarterback in one way or another. Whether it is through blitzing corners, safeties, or linebackers they need to figure out a way to get into the backfield (on a side note our safeties cannot cover anyone anyway so why not blitz them from time to time?). At the same time Fresno State needs to create turnovers. We had a chance to be 3-0 and have no interceptions on the season. I may be wrong but we only have two fumble recoveries this season as well. In order to control the game we need to create more opportunities and that won't happen without turnovers.

2) We need to figure out a way to open up the vertical game. If the coaches do not trust Brandstater to make these throws then put Norton in. I don't care who our quarterback is as long as the coaches let him throw the ball. It is continually becoming annoying to watch the Bulldogs run only because our passing game is no where to be found. We have some great receivers and we need to start taking advantage of this part of the game.

3) Fix the special teams problems. If we played special teams like we normally do we would be 3-0 at the moment. Right now we are 1-2 but if we can tweak the special teams back to what they were a year ago we will begin to win again.

I know these seem like simple answers but we really aren't that far away from being a very good team. We may finish 8-4 or 7-5, but 9-3 is not out of the question. We have some tough games remaining, but remember we are 1-0 in the WAC. Let's take advantage of that and run with it. I hope to see everyone out at the Colorado State game next weekend. It has been a tough start but we can support the Dogs and help them turn this thing around.

Monday, September 18, 2006

WAC Supremacy

When one thinks of the WAC Fresno State and Boise State automatically come to mind for most people. The one team they are leaving out to start this season may be the one team that walks away with the WAC crown, and is a team that should scare the crap out of every single Fresno, Boise, Nevada, and whatever other fans of WAC teams there are out there. That team this season is Hawaii. The Warriors opened the season with a last second loss to Alabama in Bama's house which obviously is never an easy place to walk out of with a victory. At the starting of the year I said Hawaii could conceivably go 9-3 with losses to Fresno, Boise, and Alabama if they decided to play a little defense. Let me retract that prediction. Hawaii may have played offensively challenged Bama and a pretty bad UNLV team, but they have yielded 38 points in the process. If the Warriors limit the offenses of other teams to 30 points a game they will win every game remaining on theirs schedule. Yes, they will beat Boise, Fresno, Nevada, and La. Tech. It doesn't matter where these games are, the offense for this team is absolutely unreal.

Do not look at this as someone trying to prop up Hawaii, this is going to be my WAC weekly review from here on. I realize Hawaii played UNLV but take a look at the rest of their schedule including their final four games:

Sept 23rd: @ Boise State
Oct 1st: Eastern Illinois
Oct 8th: Nevada
Oct 14th: @ Fresno State
Oct 21st: @ New Mexico State
Oct 29th: Idaho
Nov. 4th: @ Utah State
Nov. 11th: La. Tech
Nov. 18th: San Jose State
Nov. 25th: Purdue
Dec. 2nd: Oregon State

Now there is not one person out there who can view this schedule and think Hawaii will lose more than two games on this schedule. They finish with their last four games at home and should be a tough game for both Fresno and Boise. If Fresno tries ball control against the Warriors and it fails we could conceivably be blown out of the stadium because of how fast their offense scores. Overall I am just giving out a warning here to us Dog fans and every other team in the WAC. The Warriors are going to be tough to beat. Don't pencil them in for an automatic victory, they are just too good to do that to anymore.

The rest of the WAC had a good week aside Fresno State (Loss @ Washington) and Utah State (loss to Utah). Conference play begins for many teams this week and the highlight game of the week for the WAC is Boise State vs. Hawaii. I am actually stunned they are not carrying this game on television Saturday. These two teams have top 25 caliber talent and apparently the college football world does not see this. For any Dog fans who want to check these teams out they will be playing a live stream on Boise State's website. Just go to the football schedule and click on the tv there and you will be able to see it. it should be a very good game. I will not pick a winner, they are to damn close in talent to say who will win, but it will be close just like last year's game was on the island.

Who's To Blame?

The last two weeks have not been very good to Fresno State fans. With two close losses that could have easily been wins Fresno State is now looking at an uphill battle to turn this into a successful season. The problems that lay ahead for the Dogs is the fact that their schedule still includes Hawaii, Boise State, LSU, and La. Tech. If Fresno State does not fix their offensive woes they will lose all four of these games leaving them with a 6-6 record this season. Obviously that will not go down as a great season for a Fresno State team that has continually made it to a bowl game year after year. Over the last two weeks I have read many comments on who is to blame for this mess that we have had on the football field. Some fans blame the players, while others blame the special teams. Other fans blame the coaching or some have just pinned it on inexperience and bad luck. Here is my take on who is to blame for the past two games.

1) Inexperience - I am not sure why so many people thought the transition from one quarterback to the next would be flawless. Look around the nation and aside USC most schools struggle with this aspect in college football. You cannot take a four year starter (albeit I was never a fan of Pinegar) and replace him with someone who has thrown a total of 13 passes in his college career. Yes, Brandstater has been in the system for two years up to this point, but his game experience had been next to nothing. You cannot simulate game experience and because Brandstater has little game experience you had to feel he would struggle throughout the early games this season. I am one of those fans who is in the Norton corner, I just can't understand putting a parade All American on the bench but I trust in Pat Hill and know he does what is in the best interest for this football team. Those of you who are calling for Norton this early in the season can't be serious. If you feel like Brandstater is the reason we lost the last two games you are not watching closely. Brandstater is not given the chance to throw the ball unless you consider throwing it 21 times in a game a chance. Fresno State is a run first offense and as long as Hill is the coach they always will be. I will touch more on the qb situation a little later in this post.

2) Play Calling - Cignetti left Fresno and for most of us this wasn't something that seemed to be a bad thing for Fresno State. Cignetti's offense has been known as vanilla by so many other coaches because of the relative predictability that it entails (North Carolina is not doing too much better with Cignetti as their coordinator) . I have to say that Steve Hagen's offense is exactly the same. Everyone knows it is going to be Dwayne Wright on first down and a majority of second downs as well. Many of our fans will say that is because Brandstater cannot make the throws, but how do you know that? Do you know why Brandstater struggles on third and longs? How many chances during the course of a game is Brandstater given the chance to throw the ball 15 yards? Against Washington he probably threw the ball 15 yards four times. So of course when the game is on the line with a 3rd and 15 he is going to mis-fire. Brandstater has to have the opportunity to unleash the ball from time to time and the offensive play calling does not allow this. Case in point: Watch the film from games 1-3 and tell me how many times he has gone deep to someone else aside Williams? If your answer is none then you are correct. What kind of offense only draws up deep routes for one player? If your answer is Fresno State you are correct. Even with Cignetti we still tried to go deep to Williams and Jennings. Now defenses know they just have to cover Williams deep because the Dogs will not throw to anyone else down field aside Williams. If the Dogs are to make this a successful seaosn (which is definitely possible) they need to open up the playbook. Dinking and dunking the ball five yards here and there isn't going to get it done. If it didn't work against one of the bottom three teams from the Pac-10 it isn't going to work against anyone.

3) Special Teams - I don't understand what has happened to this facet of Bulldog football. First you have the blocked field goal that turns into a nightmare. Next you have the fake field goal that ends up being the difference in the game. The following week you have two botched snaps and a ball trickle into the end zone that should have been downed on the one yard line. Not to mention our special teams coverage has been bad this season. Against Oregon we allowed two big punt returns putting the Ducks in great field position to start drives. Stitser had every reason to be upset the past week as his holder could not get the ball down into good position for him on both missed kicks. He also pooched it beautifully on a field goal he could have easily made and I believe that is why he was so upset. Hill took a chance away from Stitser to give us three points because he wanted to pin Washington deep and our special teams could not get it done. If there is anyone area of the Bulldogs that has been a disappointment this season it has been the special teams unit.

However you look at the start of the season there are two people you cannot in any way blame for the losses: Pat Hill and Tom Brandstater. Pat Hill does not call the offensive plays, Steve Hagen does. If you have a problem with the offensive playcalling (which I definitely do) address Hagen when posting, not Hill. If you have a problem with the quarterback situation realize that Brandstater has thrown the ball 91 times in his college career. If you expected him to come in and take over right where Pinegar left off then you put unrealistic expectations on this young man and that is on you as fans. There is no way anyone should expect Brandstater to be flawless at this point in his college career. If he still makes the types of mistakes he has made this year as a senior then you have a reason to complain but right now he is learning and the play calling is not helping him one bit.

Fresno State has an opportunity to get back to 3-2 before Hawaii comes calling. It is going to be very important over the next three weeks to get Brandstater some snaps against both Colorado State and Utah State. These games are both very winnable games for the Dogs. If they can pull these out then we have our biggest rivalry coming to town on October 14th (somebody's 29th birthday by the way, yes it's me). If ever there was a time that Fresno needs our support as fans it is now. Every year is not going to have an 8-1 start with a #16 ranking. We need to support the Dogs when Colorado State comes to town. The point I always make is Tennessee did not play in a bowl game last year but still sold out every home game. Their fan support was there and look how they started out this season. They lost to a very good Florida team but are now ranked #15. If you just have faith it will work out in due time. Fresno State will be ok, just let them work out their problems. It is early in the season, and believe me it is much better to have these problems now rather than later. If we can just fix them the season will be a success. It's still Bulldog football, don't forget that.

So my question for all of you Dogs fans is who do you blame for what has happened and why? Should we blame anyone or should we just support the Dogs? I am on the latter half here. I do throw blame out there but I will be a Bulldog fan regardless and I hope most of you will as well.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Frustration Is Setting In

I am a faithful Bulldog fan and always will be. I love Fresno State football and really am happy with what Pat Hill has brought us over the last ten years. However, I am at wit's end with this offense and what they have done. Every game we have the chance to absolutely take the other team out early on (as we did against Washington) and we don't do it. Yesterday up 7-0 we get the ball back on the 45 yard line. That is the time where you start going for the kill. I realize Dwayne Wright has been a great running back for us, but you throw the ball deep on the first play when you get it back. Instead Fresno gets the ball back and does absolutely nothing with it. I mean we had series where we ran the ball all three downs. TB only threw 9 passes by halftime. We were down 14-7 and he had thrown nine passes, you cannot say that is efficent by any means. I said Fresno would not be any better than an 8-4 team this season, but I was not counting on a loss to Washington. I figured we would have a three game losing streak with Hawaii (whom I picked to win 9-10 games), Boise, and LSU.

I came away from yesterday's game with one thought: our coaching is the reason we do not win games. I talked to MDG about it last night and he and I both agree that the coaches hold the team back. I know that sounds assanine but the truth is look at the play calling. We run such a predictable offense and the amazing thing is we should be 3-0 right now. How much talent does it take to do what the Dogs do on offense? I mean you have a quarterback who completes 50% of his passes (which in our system is horrible because the passing game is so one dimensional). Yesterday TB was saved by a false start on offense, and then threw the exact same ball again for an interception. Brandstater has a problem with a couple of fundamentals that quarterbacks cannot have. Here are some of his problems:

1) More often than not Brandstater throws off of his front or back foot. He does not set and just lets the ball fly, which is why he over and under throws receivers so much. Yesterday on third and fifteen he missed Fernandez wide open. On 3rd and eight he underthrew Fernandez who was wide open again. With the game on the line he had Fairman open on a middle slant (which is always open, I don't know why we don't exploit that more) not once but twice and both times overthrew him badly. All of this can be attributed to not setting himself as he throws.

2) TB does not seem to have pocket presence yet. He doesn't know when to move up, when to step back, or when to run. He just kind of looks lost in the shuffle during plays.

3) My biggest complaint of them all, he holds on to the ball to long. He waits and waits and waits until the receivers have cut four or five times. This is so frustrating to watch because you know with our three receivers and tight end that someone is open every play.

I don't know if Sean Norton is the answer. I don't know if opening up the passing game is the answer. But when you have Ralph Wood (who literally knows next to knothing about football) commenting on how Fresno State will not be able to rely on the run for the entire season then you know something is wrong. He unfortunately is right. I have been clamoring about this since our first game. If we don't start passing the ball we will not win games and eventually we will begin to get blown out. Boise will stop the run. LSU will definitely stop the run. Boise's weakness is the vertical game deep, something we cannot take advantage of right now.

In the end it is going to come down to play calling and opportunities. If the coaches dont give us opportunites then this will never end and we will finish 7-5 this season and not play in a bowl game. It could become an ugly season, I just hope it doesn't get to that.

Rant..Part of this is for the Dog Talk Crew its 1 AM and I am Half-a-Sleep

The defense played good...UW only gained 297 total yards and Rankin and James combined were held to less than 30 yards. Stanback killed the defense with some good throws at inopportune times and his legs.

This game falls on the offensive playcalling and coaches. Brandstater has looked better, but give the kid a chance. The play calling is heavy Dwayne Wright and when Tommy needs to go deep, he just can't get it done. The Bulldogs are lucky Wright is so freaking good. Otherwise, FS scores maybe one touchdown on Saturday. The offense had no rhythm, Tommy had only completed 6 throws well into the 4th quarter and he only had 11 for the entire game. He should have completed 6 throws in one drive.

I see Paul Williams was finally added to the game plan, but the offensive coaches forget about the other WRs, who caught a combined 1 catch for 4 yds (thanks to Fairman). PW had 6 catches for 86 yards, but Fernandez is just as valuable.

Hill let Pinegar fling the ball all over the field, why not let Brandstater. He has the better arm, but is accuracy is suspect. Brandstater is slowly becoming a game manager and not a quarterback. At this pace it doesn't look like he will pass 200 yds passing in a game for few reasons:

1. Against really bad teams, Wright will be the offense and the passing game will not be needed per se.

2. Against good teams, Wright will largely be the only offense the team will muster. Brandstater has yet to prove he can beat teams with his arm alone.

3. Against average teams, Wright will again have a field day, and Brandstater may or may not have to make plays. Against Nevada he didn't need to, against UW he had to and didn't.

The Dogs are playing SEC football, but their opponents are hardly SEC quality. IMO, the only reason this team is and will be staying in games is because of Wright. Teams can stack the box, but Wright will still get 100 yards. Only if the vertical game would some appear. Dare I say Sean Norton?

In 2002, Grady was crap, Hill got lucky when Grady got hurt and was able to insert Pinegar. By mid-season, Pinegar became the starter, even though Grady was healthy again. Hill didn't break any of "his rules" per se, by giving Grady's job to Pinegar, because his reasoning was a health issue. Pinegar was healthy, but Grady wasn't. If Grady beat out Pinegar in fall camp in 2002, he must have been better, right? Or was it just because he knew the offense better? Also keep in mind there was also a new OC in 02 (Stagnetti). So if Grady beat out Pinegar in fall camp and knew the offense better, why didn't Hill insert him back into the lineup when he finally got healthy?

Now, why was Brandstater named the starter again...he beat out Norton in fall camp and he knew the offense better, supposedly... right?...through three games thus far in 2006, the offense doesn't look too complicated, give Wright the ball, and throw the ball on 3rd and long and hope your WR comes down with the ball.

Did that "QB controversy" hurt the team in 2002? I know Pinegar got his chance because Grady got hurt at Wisconsin, but he still got his chance and showed he could play in 2002(remember pre-chest injury).

I say give Norton was reps during the off week, prepare him for some game time action against CSU. Hill said if his QB was not playing well, he wouldn't hesitate to pull him. If Norton sucks against CSU, then Tommy is the QB and through thick or thin. But if he doesn't suck, then why not play the QB that gives the team the best chance to win...

the Dog Talk host were ranting that a QB change would break up the team because they wouldn't know who their starter is, that it would break up the flow of the offense(what flow, we're not talking about taking out Wright) and it would destroy Brandstater's confidence (I think it is a little too late for that). Hill said from day 1 of fall camp that he has two guys that could start and would be comfortable with either one playing...he wouldn't lie on TV would he???

The Dog Talk hosts were also calling out a caller to give an example when a change at the helm worked? The caller said NE with the whole Bledsoe to Brady debacle. The Dog Talk hosts said no, it has to be a college example. Okay, first, yes the NFL is different, second, it is freaking hard to just remember what you have for lunch, much less come up with an example of when a QB change worked at the college level.

Apart from injury, I can almost guarantee the 2002 team would not have won 9 games with Grady, but it did with Pinegar, that changed worked. But like I said apart from injury.

For the Dog Talk crew, last season Mike Stoops pulled his starting QB in favor of a true freshman Willie Tuitama. He was criticized but Tui led the 'Cats to a win at Oregon State, a blowout of top 10 UCLA, and a near upset of rival ASU.

Norton is the program's only Parade All-American, I would like to see him get some practice time with the first team.

I have seen both QBs evolve over the last year, Norton has always been a great passer, Brandstater has only recently become a great passer. Brandstater has the upside because of his height, but you can't measure Norton's intangibles.

Give the kid a shot, FS is 1-2 with Brandstater, Norton couldn't have done much worse. The next game is two weeks away and CSU should not be a stiff challenge. Brandstater starts, but give Norton the second and fourth series of the 1st half. And we can see how he performs under pressure in real game situations outside of high school.

Friday, September 15, 2006

What About the Athletes?

With the discovery of Reggie Bush's wrongdoings while attending USC being released today it made me think about how much of a fraud the NCAA is to their athletes. How much money do you think Peyton manning brought into Tennessee? How much money do you think Reggie Bush brought into USC? Both of these athletes put fans in the seats with their phenominal play while at the same time making money for their respective universities through jersey sales and such. How much money would these athletes receive if they did not accept money from boosters or agents? If your answer is nothing then you are correct. True, most athletes are on scholarships but the fact is that hardly covers daily life. While the universities first priority should be the health and well being of the athletes I can point to at least three reasons why the universities could care less if an athlete graduates or is injured.

1) Money - it will always come down to money. Athletics in college is about profit. Sure its great to have a team that wins the national championship in football. However, what a university president will be extremely happy about is the 17 million dollar payout that comes from making the championship game. Isn't it funny how these presidents can all get together and pretend to care about the athletes themselves but as soon as money comes up it changes everything?

2) The 12th Game - Prior to 2006 a 12th game would only be approved every other year and that was only if you made the trip to Hawaii (it's the island exception rule). University presidents who say a playoff cannot happen because it will interfere with school and cause to much of a burden for the athletes somehow think it's ok to have a game twelve. So instead of shaving the season back two games and having a playoff with the addition of one game the presidents will keep the BCS format and will now require twelve games out of each institution. But wait, isn't that more work for the athletes that the presidents care so much about?

3) Bowl Games - Bowl games purely exist to earn profit. Now there is the argument that a bowl game is a nice reward to a good season and I will not argue that. However, who is happy to play in the Silicon Valley Classic? Who is happy to play in the Humanitarian bowl? I am not saying the latter of the two is a bad bowl but you earn virtually nothing and it is a strain on the institution. If a playoff were to take place then these strains may not be nearly as tough on the student-athletes.

I am sure there are many more points that can be argued as to why the presidents in college football have screwed the game up horribly. The fact of the matter is that money is what makes college football work. Athletes are not given anything aside the sense of pride for playing their asses off. Some make it big and never have to look back, but most are not as lucky. What do you do to these players aside tell them that you are proud of their efforts? You don't pay them a penny and know they just went out and played their asses off for you and your university. The NCAA is the biggest fraud in the nation today. It's to bad that very little can be done about it aside allow these old men to keep operating under a system that sucks to say the least.

Allegations May Cost USC National Title

He won the heisman trophy in 2005. His team won back to back national championships in 2003 and 2004. He would go second in the NFL draft (and probably should have gone first). He electrified the college game with every single ball that he touched. Reggie Bush is a once in a lifetime college football player. He is one of those players that comes along once in a decade that we will not forget because of the amazing things he could do on the football field. But was Reggie Bush the football saint that the college world made him out to be? It has come to light in recent days that Reggie Bush and his family may have accepted over 100,000 dollars from sports agents who were reportedly trying to lure Bush to become a client. But I don't want to focus necessarily on what Reggie Bush did here, it isn't like he would be the first student athlete to accept money. Instead I want to focus on what this is going to do to him and his old teammates at USC.

USC won an unprecendeted 34 games in row starting in 2003 and ending in 2005. USC finished as co-national champions in 2003 and won the outright championship in 2004 after blowing out Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Reggie Bush then won the Heisman Trophy in 2005. If these allegations are true there is a chance that Reggie Bush will cost USC their title in 2004 as he played a major role in getting the Trojans to the championship game that season. Think about all of the players on the team that will lose their championship ring because Bush decided to take money. Will they understand why Bush did this, or feel betrayed that they could not trust their star player? I am willing to guess there will be a large amount of resentment towards Bush from anyone he played on the field with at the time. Matt Leinart also played at USC and came out during the same draft as Bush did. However, we do not hear any allegations of Leinart taking money. He is in the same situation now as Bush is; In the pro's making large sums of money and living a good life. What is different between the two is Leinart did not put his team in jeopardy. Leinart made sure that it wasn't only about him but also about everyone else on that playing field.

My question to all of you as readers is: Is a player like Reggie Bush worth having if he is going to put the program in jeopardy? If Fresno State had a player like Bush and won national championships but had to forfeit them in the end would you still want him on the team? For me the answer is no. I would much rather have hard working players such as Marcus McCauley, Paul Williams, and Kyle Young who play every down like it is their last in college football. All three of these men will be drafted at the end of the season but play college football the way it should be played. Reggie Bush may be a special athlete, but if the end result is forfeiting everything your team accomplished over the past two seasons, then what is the point of acquiring stars like that in the first place if what they do in the end doesn't matter?

Special Teams Preview/ Game Prediction

Special Teams - I took a lot of crap last week for putting both Fresno State and Oregon as equals with respect to special teams. However, Paul Martinez hit a 36 yard field goal, their kick return team outperformed ours, and they made the special teams plays we didn't. I know it doesn't happen often, but Oregon's special teams outplayed Fresno's last weekend. I would not look for the same thing to happen this weekend. Although Fresno has lot quite a bit in the kick return game with Joe Fernandez as opposed to Adam Jennings, Fernandez does not turn the ball over on kickoffs and that is something we should be thankful for. He holds onto the ball and will get the ball out to the 25-30 yard line on every kickoff. The punting game has taken a hit with Lingua not being able to kick as Malone just doesn't have the hang time that Lingua does. Opposing teams are returning punts at a much better rate this year than they did last year against Fresno. As usual our kicking game is fine as Clint Stitser is one of the best in the nation and will continue to get better as the season goes along.

Washington counters with a decent kick return game. Roy Lewis averages 18 yards per kick return which is acceptable in today's kick return world. However, Washington has a distinct advantage in the punting game. Their punter Sean Douglas averages over 50 yards per punt this season and actually has had one punt registered at 82 yards. If he can continue to boom the ball the Huskies are going to enjoy a field position battle that we all know is very important in the game of college football. Overall Washington's special teams are definitely capable of making big plays. Fresno State has become one of the premier special teams schools in the nation and has a slight edge over Washington here. As long as the Bulldogs can remember that teams from time to time will run a fake field goal because the Dogs block so many kicks they should be in good shape in this one.

Special Teams Advantage - Fresno State

Prediction - Washington is far improved from the last time these two teams met. At the same time Fresno State is also a much improved team overall. Everyone knows about Fresno State's problems rebounding from a tough loss, but last season they came back and drilled Toledo a week after they lost to Oregon in similar fashion to this season. Washington will give Fresno more than they wish to handle in this game. The line on the game is around two but the Bulldogs will be hungry to win this game and get another winning streak started. Overall it should be a very competitive game with Fresno State coming out on top in the end.

Fresno State 34 Washington 24

Thursday, September 14, 2006

New Fresno State Blog

AOL Sports has launched a new college football site devoted to college football blogs. And Fresno State is the only non-BCS school -- besides Navy -- that has its own page. I will be contributing most of the content to the new blog.

So add one more site to your daily grind of Bulldog football info. And I want to thank NSC for contributing to the FSFB. His insight and perspective is different from mine. So when I contribute and post, it is not just repetitive information.

Should We Concentrate on Losing Streaks?

Recently I have realized that the newspapers, television, and even Fresno fans seem to have concentrated their focus of Fresno State on the losing streaks we have gone thrugh over the past 10 years. For every season Pat Hill has coahced the Bulldogs they have had at least one losing streak of two games or more every year. Yes, it is a frustrating fact for Bulldog fans to deal with, but there is much more to this losing streak problem than one may realize. For example here is the losing streaks we have endured over the last ten years:

1997: Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oregon and Colorado State, San Diego State
1998: Colorado, Texas Tech, Nevada and Texas Tech, Utah
1999: Oregon State, UCLA
2000: Ohio State, UCLA
2001: Boise State, Hawaii ***** (best shot at BCS)
2002: Oregon, Oregon State and Boise State, Hawaii
2003: Colorado State and Hawaii
2004: La. Tech, Utep, Boise State
2005: USC, Nevada, La Tech, Tulsa

If you take a look at these losing streaks you will notice one thing in common: They are all losing streaks to pretty good teams. Yes, Fresno State has lost WAC games they shouldn't have such as the La Tech, UTEP streak in 2004. However, for the most part each of these streaks have been valid losing streaks. We may have been the better team in 2001 but losing to Boise State and Hawaii is nothing to be ashamed of. Both of those teams (who we also lost to in 2002) are continually considered in the upper echelon of the WAC.

Now I know, what's my point here. My point is maybe the media, the fans, and Fresno should stop concentrating on losing streaks. The Dogs don't go out there and hand these games to other teams. They don't try to lose games, they play hard every game. The only game I have ever questioned there effort in would have been La. Tech last season. Fresno State football does not need their fans second guessing whether they are going to lose or not. It's football, just support the team. If they win great, but if they lose don't abandon them. This is coming from a Anaheim Angels fan since the age of 6. I am 28 now and in 2002 we won the world series. Do you think anyone ever thought that would be possible? Just keep hope and do not focus on the losses. The Dogs will have their year, just give them some time.

FSU-Washington Secondary/LB Preview

Linebackers - Marcus Riley will make his return this week for Fresno State. He will not be playing the entire game and will not start. However, Riley returning is one of the better things that can happen to this Bulldog defense. Riley may be a little rusty when he returns after being out for almost an entire season, but his addition to the team makes this defense that much better. Goodwin, Andrews and Riley form a three Linebacker set that is much stronger than most teams Fresno will play. Last year with both Andrews and Riley in the game the Bulldogs allowed 14 points per game. It is obvious that this team is much stronger with Riley playing than without him in the game. In the first two games the opposing teams have been able to run a Tight End down the middle of the field virtually oncovered because our Linebackers are not picking up the receivers in the middle of the field. If Washington decides to do this (which will be a surprise seeing that they throw to their Tight Ends about as much as Fresno State does) they might be able to take advantage of the Bulldogs. Washington though is dealing with the fact that their top two Tight Ends on the depth chart are out. Fresno State's Linebackers will have to make plays to keep Washington's running game in check. If they continue to miss tackles this will be another long day for the Bulldogs defense. I don't think the Bulldogs are going to get beat up again on defense but if they do something needs to be changed. Whether it be defensive coordinator Dan Brown or the players itself, something is wrong with the defense. They cannot continually allow big plays to the running backs and passes to the middle of the field. The Linebackers can do more to stop this than anyone on the field, and they will be asked to do this against Washington.

Washington does not necessarily play great defense. They have given up 29 points to San Jose (which could have easily been more) and 37 points to Oklahoma which is nothing to be ashamed of. The Linebackers for Washington will have their hands full with respect to trying to plug the holes that Dwayne Wright will be given throughout the course of the game. Oregon's Linebackers could not stop Wright as he rushed for over 150 yeards for the second game in a row. Fresno State will try to establish the run as they always do, and it will be up to the Linebackers to stop the Dogs. Washington has a tough test awaiting them in Fresno State's offense and i just don't feel like they are going to be able to stop our running game. Fresno at the same time is being given a big task in trying to stop Washington's running game. The Huskies run the ball efficiently and the Dogs will have to step up and stop the run game if they want to win this game. Fresno State will do a better job of stopping the run, giving them a better chance to win.

Linebacker Advantage - Fresno State (Riley is back)

Secondary - If Fresno had four Marcus McCauley's there would be no problems. Unfortunately our secondary is made up of Simmons and Jenkins, Mays, and Shirley who all seem to arrive a second to late on every play. I honestly feel like our secondary is one of our biggest weaknesses on the team. McCauley will take the lead receiver out of the game, he has already done it twice. However, it will be up to the rest of the team to force bad throws from Stanback. Will Washington turn the ball over? Fresno is yet to force an interception on the season and with the play of our safeties and corner I don't foresee it happening anytime soon. McCauley may pick one off, but the rest of the secondary is definitely light years behind this season. Mays needs to pick his game up, he has been in the program for four years now and should know the system by now. Jenkins and Simmons continually make mistakes on the corner and if this continues to occur I feel like A.J. Jefferson should be given a chance. I realize he is a Freshman but at least he showed he can stay with receivers against Nevada. I am sure I will take a lot of heat for this, but our secondary just doesn't leave me with a lot of faith to stop passing plays unless they throw #17's way and we all know that just isn't going to happen.

Washington obviously has had a terrible time stopping the passing game. The only reason Fresno has an edge here is because Washington's pass defense has been so bad, not because Fresno State's has been very good. Brandstater should be able to throw on Washington often, but there is no guarantee that Fresno State will even push the issue as they tend to fall back on their running game more so than most teams in division one. But what will the Dogs do if the running game is rendered unsuccessful because of a stout defensive line? Hopefully then can find some type of passing game against Washington because if they don't the Dogs will be in deep trouble when LSU comes calling.

Secondary Edge - Fresno, and believe me this is very close

Other WAC games this week and my picks for them:

1) Boise State @ Wyoming - Boise State, I can't pick against this team

2) Idaho St. @ Idaho - Look for Idaho to get their first win here

3) Nichols St. @ La. Tech - La. Tech, it will be ugly

4) Utah @ Utah State - Utah, but closer than most expect

5) Texas Southern @ NMSU - NMSU, 2 wins in one season simply amazing

6) Colorado State @ Nevada - Nevada gets thir first win at home

7) UNLV @ Hawaii - Hawaii and Hawaii big

It should be a good week overall for the WAC as Fresno is the only team playing a BCS opponent. The rest of the WAC should do well and win most of their games.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

FSU-Washington O-Line/D-Line Preview

Offensive Line - Fresno State possesses one of the top offensive lines in the nation. To see this you have to look no further than to Dwayne Wright's run production. Wright has rushed for over 150 yards in each of the first two games of the season and there is no reason he cannot keep that torrid pace up with Roshon Vercher leading the way. Kyle Young is arguably the best center in all of college football. With Young anchoring the offensive line Fresno's run game and quarterback protection tend to be better than most other teams could hope for. Fresno State will have an advantage comapred to most other teams with respect to the offensive line. Oregon had a good offensive line but Fresno's played so well against Oregon that they were able to post a plus ten minute differential in the time of possession department. If Fresno can operate with the same gameplan they did against Oregon they should control the ball and win this game.

Washington's offensive line has done a very good job early in the year. They have continually opened up holes for their running backs to gain yard after yard. Kenny James and Louis Rankin have combined for over 380 yards rushing in their first two games. If you throw quarterback Isaiah Stanbacks rushing yards in Washington has rushed for over 500 yards in their first two games this season. The offensive line will continue to open holes as Fresno State not only has had a hard time putting pressure on the qb, but this time they will have to do it without Tyler Clutts (pictured above). Overall these two offensive lines will allow both running games to flourish on Saturday. This game will come down to which quarterback has better protection and time to throw. Because of that I feel that Fresno State has the advantage on the offensive line.

Offensive Line Advantage - Fresno State

Defensive Line - If there is a weakness for Fresno State this has been it. Not only do the Bulldogs give up large sums of yards both on the ground and through the air, they also get very little pressure on the quarterback. The picture above of Clutts sacking the quarterback in the only sack this season that the defense has registered. For a short period against Oregon (the second quarter) Fresno mixed up their defensive formations well and put pressure on Dixon, one of the main reasons the Ducks only put up three points in the quarter. If the Dogs can find a way to confuse Washington's offense they may be able to force them into making mistakes. However, if Fresno State's defensive line continues to allow the opponents offensive line to control them we may be in for another wild game.

Washington also has the same weakness as Fresno, as they give up large amounts of yards throught the air and ground. Washington allowed San Jose to throw for over 330 yards against them showing that the way to beat Washington is to run and open up the passing game through play action. Whether the Bulldogs will do that or not is yet to be seen mainly because our offensive threats have not shown theirselves aside Dwayne Wright. Washington will also need to find a way to put pressure on our quarterback. Oregon hit Brandstater countless times but only sacked him once. Brandstater showed he is tough and can take hits and keep on playing. I don't believe Washington is a better team than Oregon therefore I don't see their defensive line doing much to stop the Bulldogs. Since the Bulldogs defensive line is so suspect and although I think they might be a bit better than Washington I am going to say these two units up front are close to even. It will be the secondaries that decide how the offenses will succeed in this one.

Defensive Line Advantage - Fresno State, but very close

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

FSU-Washington WR/TE Preview

Wide Receivers - Unfortunately Fresno State has not used it's three returning wide receivers to it's advantage this year. At the starting of the season the Bulldogs returned Paul Williams, Jaron Fairman, and Joe Fernandez. However, these three returning receivers have not spelled an answer to a passing game that seems to have disappeared since the days of David Carr. Fresno State has predominantly become a running team and these receivers have all suffered due to this. All three receivers have amazing talent, with Williams having the highest ceiling of the three. Fernandez and Fairman run outstanding routes and are where they should be each time the ball is thrown. Fresno State has the edge with respect to receiving only because these three have absolutely great hands and have dropped very few passes this year. I am not 100% sure but I can only remember one dropped pass between the three and that was Fairman in the fourth quarter last week. Fresno should take advantage of a Washinton defense that has been torched by the passing game. San Jose threw for over 300 yards against Washington two weeks ago as their pass defense seems to be soft this season. Pat Hill should give Brandstater more freedom to throw in this game, but if he doesn't then the passing game will not be as advantageous as Bulldog fans might hope it to be.

Washington's passing game is almost non-existant at this time. Their leading receiver has only eight receptions and this is largely due to the fact that Stanabck is not consistant at quarterback. He has outstanding athleticism yes, but his accuracy and decision making skills are terrible at times. One pass he looks like an all american quarterback, the next pass you wonder how he made it into the college ranks in the first place. If Stanback plays with his normal inconsistancy look for Wasington to insert Carl Bonnell into the game just as they did a week ago against Oklahoma. Washington has the talent to pass the ball and Fresno's pass defense has not been anything to write home about. However, I do not see Stanback taking advantage of the Freshman corner opposite McCauley often enough to make a difference in this game. Fresno should enjoy a big advantage in the passing game overall.

Wide Receiver Advantage - Fresno State

Tight Ends - Fresno State still has not used the Tight End to their advantage. Bear Pascoe is one of the bigger Tight Ends in college football and has great hands. last week Oregon ran countless plays to their Tight End over the middle of the field continually burning the Bulldogs as no Linebacker picked up the Tight End. Fresno should try and run similar plays with Pascoe as it is becoming frustrating to watch such a talented receiver go unnoticed throughout the course of an entire game. Throwing the ball to the Tight End once a game is not the answer to improving the passing offense. Washington will either see a Fresno State team that relies heavily on the run and does not allow it's quarterback to make plays or they will see a Bulldog team that realizes they need to get the passing game going if they want to win consistantly this season. Eventually the running game is going to be shut down and when that happens the Bulldogs are going to need to fall back on the passing game which they cannot do at this time.

Washington's leading receiver at Tight End has a total of three catches through two games. The Huskies have also had problems getting the ball to their receivers and Tight Ends. I would venture to say this is a game that may pass by quite fast due to the fact both teams will try to control the clock with the running game. Fresno may be more inclined to try and throw the ball than Washington will, but both teams have very good running games and passing games that suffer from lack of experience and lack of imagination on the Offensive Coordinator's part. With respect to the Tight End situation neither team truly has an advantage because neither team adequately uses their Tight Ends as they should. If this game turns into a run fest for both teams look for it to be very close in the end. If the Bulldogs can find a way to get their Tight Ends and Receivers involved the Bulldogs will have a chance to pull away in the second half. Whether they do or not will be up to gameplan and execution. Brandstater needed to make plays last week to keep us in the game against Oregon and this week he will need to make plays to keep us ahead of Washington. If Brandstater cannot make the plays against Washington look for a game that wll be much closer than any Bulldog wants to see.

Tight End Advantage - Even Due to Lack of Use of Tight Ends

Note - Due to the off week between Washington and Colorado State I am going to be taking suggestions for blogs next week. If anyone has anything they would like me to write about let me know via the Blogboard email. I won't be doing the Colorado State preview until the week of the game so all suggestions are definitely welcome. I am here to provide you Bulldog fans with a preview of everything that we will see in each game. If there are other ideas you might want to discuss let me know because it is about each and every one of us Bulldog fans coming together to root for the same team every Saturday.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Who in the **** is Red, and Who in the **** Gave Him a Mic?

NSC has been contributing to this blog and given his great insight to the games, and I hate to break up his flow of UW-FS previews, but I need to rant on that fat guy with the mic at Saturday's game name Red.

Oregon plays in Fresno for the first time in 10 years. It is the first time in five years a ranked BCS team plays in Fresno. It is the first time one of ABC/ESPN's top play-by-play crews -- Dan Fouts, Tim Brandt and Jack Arute -- call a game in Fresno. And FS decides to have some guy named Red run wild with a mic.

If I was a Duck fan, I would have been embarrassed for Bulldog fans, thinking they have to deal with Red for every home game. Well, it was Red's first appearance at Bulldog Stadium, I believe, he might have been at some other games, but wasn't as annoying as he was Saturday night.

It just makes me think the athletic department is trying too hard to develop some freakin traditions. Let Red go, and try something else, please.

FSU-Washington QB/RB Preview

Quarterbacks - For the first time this season the QB edge may go to Tom Brandstater. Although Brandstater's completion percentage may be low up to this point in the season he has only started two games, one of those against PAC-10 powerhouse Oregon. Brandstater may have only gone 16-33 last weekend but his scrambling ability and mental tougness kept Fresno State close. It is hard to say that a quarterback has come a long way in such a short time, but Brandstater has shown that he can lead the Bulldogs and has the intangibles to make the smart plays at QB. he does not throw the ball into coverage often nor does he force passes he shouldn't. Look for Brandstater to have more freedom to throw in this game as Washington does not have a strong pass defense and will have a hard time shutting down the passing offense of the Bulldogs. Isaiah Stanback started last week against Oklahoma and had the Huskies in the game deep into the third quarter. Whether he starts this week or not is unknown as he was replaced midway through the third quarter by Carl Bonnell. However, it doesn't matter who steps in for the Huskies, their passing game is not their strength. They are better suited to run the ball giving the quarterback edge to Fresno State.

Quarterback Advantage - Fresno State

Running Backs - Fresno State will have the advantage in the running game due to their massive front line. Oregon has one of the better defensive lines that Fresno State will face, yet Dwayne Wright was still able to rush for over 150 yards. The Bulldogs overall rushed for over 200 yards for the second straight game and there is no reason to think that is going to stop. Oregon knew Fresno State loves to run the ball and stack nine men the box time and time again only to see Dwayne Wright run right through them. Washington will not be able to stop the run game, they will have to focus on limiting the Bulldogs to 4 yards a carry in order to have a chance in this game. Although Washington is a much improved team from two years ago when the Bulldogs last played them I still don't seem them stopping Fresno's running game. As long as Fresno has Roshon Vercher blocking for Dwayne Wright there is very little any other team will be able to do to stop the Bulldogs running game as Vercher is one of the better fullbacks in the nation. Rarely does Vercher miss blocks and for the most part he will take out the leading defensive player on every run play.

Washington counters with Louis Rankin and a valley product - Kenny James at running back. The running game is Washington's strong point as they were also able to gain over 200 yards rushing this past week against #15 Oklahoma. Fresno State's defensive line did a decent job of holding Oregon's running game down but is still susceptable to giving up the big run play from time to time. If Fresno cannot fill the running lanes they are going to spend a long day allowing long run after long run to the speedy Washington running backs (this will depend on the availability of Marcus Riley who could return this week). Fresno has to be careful of having a letdown after last weekend's contest with Oregon. However, because they are playing another PAC-10 school I don't foresee a letdown in the cards. Fresno's defense will improve from last week and do a decent job against the Washington running game.

Running Back Advantage - Fresno State

Schedule for the week:

9/12 Wide Receiver/Tight End Preview

9/13 O-Line/D-Line Preview

9/14 Secondary/Linebacker Preview

9/15 Special Teams Preview/Prediction

9/16 Gameday

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Disappointment Again

It seems that every year Fresno State cannot get over the hump that is known as the Oregon Ducks. Last night time and time again Fresno State had a chance to take a game from the Ducks. Unfortunately as fate would have it the Bulldogs were not going to end up the victors on this beautiful night of football.

Most people are going to look back on this game as the game that our special teams lost. However, I do not percieve this game that way at all. Fresno State had many chances to stop Oregon on defense far before the special teams even came into play. Countless times third and long turned into a first down as Oregon smartly threw to Jenkins and Simmons side continuously. From time to time Oregon tried to go to MCauley's side only to fail. Last night Marcus McCauley played one of the better games in his Fresno State career. If McCauley weren't knocking down passes he would be drilling Oregon Ducks play after play and this all happened after he endured a helmet to helmet hit from a Duck in the first quarter. McCauley's absence was noticeable as Oregon drove down the field easily without him in the game and scored a touchdown.

One thing that should come from this game is the promise of Tom Brandstater. Brandstater played with poise and toughness that we haven't seen in a Fresno State quarterback since the days of Trent Dilfer. Brandstater was punished play after play by the blitzing Oregon defense, but would get up and take Fresno State down field giving them a chance to win. I know most people in Fresno are going to take this loss hard because the Bulldogs had a chance to win, but do realize we are a young team. Our skilled positions are young (with most of them being sophomores or younger) and full of promise. Lonyae Miller filled in admirably for Dwayne Wright at running back. Although both Jenkins and Simmons were continually picked on at the corner opposite McCauley, they are gaining valuable experience while out there. Brandstater is a sophomore, and we have four freshman receivers with Chastin West already making an impact.

Overall I was very pleased with the Bulldogs effort last night. Most believe that the season is now lost but I feel that is far from true. Although the road is tough Fresno can rebound next week against a much improved Washington team. Look for Fresno to come out firing on all cylinders next week after a loss like this. I will say it now, the Bulldogs will begin a four game winning streak next weekend at Washington leading into our game at LSU. The fan support last night was unreal. Keep up the great fan support and hopefully down the line the Bulldogs will repay the fans for the great support they are giving them this season.

Other WAC Games

1) San Jose State 35 Stanford 34 - In an upset San Jose State came back to beat the Cardinal after trailing 34-14. Give the Spartans credit. They are much improved and will give many teams in the WAC much more of a game than they are ready for.

2) Arizona State 52 Nevada 21

3) Washington State 56 Idaho 10

4) Arkansas 20 Utah State 0

5) New Mexico 34 New Mexico State 28