Linebackers - If my sources are correct (and I could be wrong) Marcus Riley will be back against Oregon. He won't be 100%, but instead closer to 90%. However, Riley is the most productive Linebacker in our unit. Riley is the reason the opponents running game last season had been non-existant until week nine against USC. However, after Riley went down Fresno's run defense fell apart. They no longer had that weakside linebacker to stop the run to the outside. Case in point: Riley went down at halftime against USC, does anyone remember how many yards Bush had after the half as compared to the first half? Do I really have to say more than that? Andrews played outstanding last week against Nevada as he seemed to be everywhere throughout the game. Fresno will need an all out effort from Andrews once again if they are to stop the Oregon run. It does not matter if Oregon uses Stewart or a backup, their running backs have speed. Goodwin will have to do a better job in this game or Fresno will be in trouble against the Ducks. Ahijah Lane has also filled in at Linebacker, but with Quaadir Brown out with an injury the Bulldogs will need Trevor Shambley to continue to play as well as he has. Overall the Bulldogs have a strong Linebacker core and if Riley indeed does play Oregon's run game will not be nearly as productive as it would without Riley in the game.
I watched the highlights from the Oregon game against Stanford yesteday to get a better idea of how good Oregon is overall and all I can say is one thing: Oregon has an amazing amount of speed on defense. Every time Stanford ran left Oregon's Linebackers were all over the Stanford running backs. The Oregon Linebackers disrupted the passing lanes, caused fumbles, and gave Stanford little to no running room the entire game. One thing I did notice is Oregon sometimes overpursues plays (kind of similar to the Bulldogs defense in 2001). Now Fresno does not run many trick plays but if they were to run any kind of halfback option it would be open because of the amazing pursuit Oregon has during games. Overall Oregon's Linebackers are going to be tough to handle.
Linebacker Advantage - Fresno State, but not by much
Secondary - Fresno's secondary looked good for the most part against Nevada. Aside one play (the first one of the game) McCauley locked up his receiver as expected. On the other side of the field Bulldog fans were given a treat as A.J. Jefferson played out of his mind. Jefferson was all over the receivers on every play and seemed to have absolutely perfect timing. Unfortunately our safety spot struggled once again. I understand that Mays is a four star recruit but he just doesn't seem to play smart at times. Nevada's second touchdown was a result of Mays trying to jump a play when there was no need to. Rowe had been scrambling to the sideline and if Mays had stayed with his receiver Rowe would have gained three yards and run out of bounds. Instead Mays tried to intercept a fake and ended up giving up a touchdown. If Fresno is going to stop Oregon they cannot gamble as Mays did. This will kill the Bulldogs as Oregon is far too good to stop every time they have the ball.
I do not not exactly know Oregon's secondary as good as Oregon fans do, but I can say they have an amazing amount of speed. Stanford had no one to throw to literally the entire game. Last year Pinegar was able to tear a hole into the Oregon defense but that was while playing from behind the entire second half. If Oregon can take the lead early on Fresno may not have the throwing success that they did last year purely because Brandstater is not as experienced as we would like him to be in a big game such as this. The corners for Oregon will challenge Brandstater to beat them with man coverage as the safeties will tend to blitz early and often. If Brandstater cannot make these plays look for Oregon's secondary to completely control the game as it will be a long night for the Bulldogs.
Secondary Adavantage - Oregon, but once again not by much