Thursday, October 05, 2006
The Death March
Fresno State travels to Utah State this weekend for a game they should have a chance to win easily. However, following that game is what I view as the toughest three game stretch in Bulldog history. This stretch is much worse than the one that covered Oregon State, Wisconsin, and Colorado in 2001. The reason is Hawaii, Boise State, and LSU will finish in the top 25 this season with Boise and LSU being in the top 15 by the time the season is all said and done. If Hawaii were to knock off the Bulldogs I do not see them losing another game this season which will put them at 11-2. Boise in my opinion is not going to lose a game and will finish 12-0 now that they have finished the tough part of the schedule (if you can call it that). LSU may lose another game but they are a powerhouse of a team in the SEC. Unlike the 2001 season where 2 out of the 3 teams the Dogs knocked off to start the season struggled for the remainder of the season, these three teams are all superior and going to finish the season strong. So let's take a look at each game and see if Fresno State has it in them to knock off any of these teams.
Hawaii - In my opinion this is the single worst matchup for Fresno State this season. Hawaii is going to run it's four and five sets of receivers forcing the Bulldogs to go man to man. The problem doesn't lay within the formations or the spread offense Hawaii runs, but instead sits wth Colt Brennan. Colt Brennan is one of the better QB's in the nation and can start for just about anyone. He is not your typical Hawaii QB who is prospering in a system that makes him look better than he truly is. Ask Boise fans how good this guy truly is and they will tell you he is one of the better QB's to come through and play against Boise State. Fresno State will have to pressure Brennan early and often just to keep this game close. The fact the game is at home is a good thing because we tend to play well against Hawaii in the Dog house. Due to the fact this is homecoming and it is our rival Hawaii we should have a decent amount of fans at the game. However, Fresno is going to have to play the game of their lives to beat Hawaii this season.
LSU - One of the best defensive teams in the nation, they shoud be undefeated but faltered against #2 Auburn earlier in the season. Playing at LSU is going to be a tough task, but because this is an SEC team the offense they run will look very similar to what the Bulldogs run. The only difference is Russell (the QB for LSU) is more efficient at running LSU's offense than Brandstater has been with the Bulldogs giving LSU a decisive advantage in this game. Fresno should be able to hang in this game if they play up to their potential but they are going to have to contain Russell and stop the LSU running game. If they can take the crowd out of the game this may be Fresn's best shot at winning a game out of the three.
Boise State - Boise runs the ball as efficiently as any team in the nation. However, after watching Ian Johnson he seems to be the strongest with respect to running over the middle. Fresno State is very good at stopping the run over the middle. If Johnson can run outside that will put the Dogs in a tough position. They tackle well inside of the tackles but once everything is run outside the game changes for the Dogs completely. McCauley has been an outstanding tackler this year and if they run his way he will stop Boise. Unfortunately most running has gone away from McCauley and we just do not have the resources to keep up on that side of the field. Because Boise's strength is the run game I feel like the Bulldogs have a much better chance to play with Boise than they do with Hawaii. Yes, the game being in Boise does not make the situation any easier but the Dogs should be able to contend in this game. I would look for the Dogs to be in this one well into the fourth quarter.
This is going to be a very hard stretch for the Dogs. If they can knock off Utah State (and they really need to) they will have a little momentum going into the Hawaii game. A win at Hawaii and the LSU game might be much more feasable. If they pull out the LSU game then anything is possible at Boise. There is much hope with this team if they can pull it all together. Unfortunately there is the possibility that the Dogs could be 2-6 after this stretch. I really hope that doesn't happen, but if it does it is because we did not get the job done and Pat Hill and the Dogs will have no one to blame but themselves. I know we will win one of those three, I just don't know which one it will be. But we will win one, count on it.