Thursday, September 14, 2006

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.

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