Saturday night's game against LSU would have been the showcase game for Fresno State had the Bulldogs began this season as we thought they should have. Many of us figured the worst Fresno State would be at this point was 4-2 with losses to Oregon and Hawaii. There were even some Bulldog fans (including this one) who thought it was possible for this team to start out 5-1 or 6-0. After a strong start against Nevada everyone hear knows what happened. One failure after another has led the Bulldogs to a 1-5 record and a date Saturday night with the 15th ranked team in the nation in LSU. Ten days later the Bulldogs have to travel to Boise to play the 18th ranked team in the nation in Boise State. In other words the next two games for Fresno State could not have come at a worst time. Right now Fresno State needs games against teams that can help build their confidence. While these two games could possibly provide that more than likely they will not. With the possibility of Joe Fernandez and Paul Williams not making the trip for this game the Bulldogs will be down to of their best offensive players against the leading defense in the nation. LSU gives up an average of 8 points per game on defense, yes I said 8 or 60 less than the Dogs gave up last week at home against Hawaii. LSU has a tenacious defense that will blitz often and does two things well the Bulldogs defense doesn't do: Tackle and hit with a purpose. It may seem like this game is one that Fresno State is going to have more problems with than any other game on their schedule for numerous reasons. However, the Bulldogs have plenty to play for and the truth of the matter is this game is going to be much closer than the game against Hawaii.
First and foremost LSU does not have an offense that will exploit the weak pass defense the Bulldogs have. Ok, they may be able to exploit the Dogs but not nearly as well as Hawaii did this past week. Being that LSU is in the SEC they play a style of football that is built around their strong defense. To be honest here LSU runs an offense that is very similar to the Bulldogs, aside the predictability factor of course. Jamarcus Russell is a good QB, do not be confused about this. However fickle Fresno State fans are they have absolutely nothing on LSU fans. Russell has completed nearly 70% of his passes with a 13-4 td to int ratio and has only been sacked four times up to this point in the season. However, if you were to ask LSU fans if he were a good QB they would talk about how he cannot get the job done and they should be starting someone else. Now does that sound like another group of fans we all know around here? Russell can read defenses well and has a very strong arm, not to mention that he can also run the ball if he has to. Fresno State is going to have to do something different on defense this week. LSU is physical and the Bulldogs wil not be able to finess there way through this game like they tried to against Hawaii. If an LSU player shoves a Bulldog player off the line, the Bulldog player needs to shove him back. If an LSU player gets in a Bulldog players face, the Bulldog players need to show they are not afraid to be just as aggressive and physical as the players from LSU.
Fresno State will be playing in front of a crowd of over 90,000. This will by far be the single biggest crowd they go up in front of this season. For many of the younger Bulldogs this is going to be a different experience than they have ever seen. Sean Norton has never played in front of a crowd of this magnitude nor has West, Ciccone, Moore, or Crawley. In other words our QB and receivers will be experiencing something new this weekend at LSU. How these men play during the course of the game will dictate whether Fresno State is down seven or twenty- one going into the fourth quarter. If Fresno State can develop some sort of passing game against the Tigers they will have a chance to stay with LSU in this game. This is going to be a dangerous first start for Sean Norton but he has played against great competition before. He will be able to play his game as long as he sticks with what he does best: rolls out and while hitting his receivers on the run. Against Hawaii Norton showed that he can be a very dangerous QB if he is given time to either run or throw the ball. Obviously LSU's defense is much more sound than Hawaii's is, but the Tigers will not be impossible to score on.
Fresno State is going to have to find a way to mix their offense up. Running the ball with regularity is fine as long as you do it without telegraphing it. Against LSU running the ball on first and second down and throwing on third will not work. It didn't work against Utah State and there is just no way it will work against LSU. During the practice week Fresno is going to have to work on ways to disguise what they are doing on both offense and defense. From time to time the Dogs will need to blitz and take chances. Turnovers are going to be important in this game. If the Dogs do not turn the ball over but do not force any turnovers they will not win this game. They need to take care of the ball and force LSU into turning it over, something the Dogs have not done all year long. If Fresno turns the ball over numerous times this game will turn into a blowout, something many of us do not want to see happen again.
It does not matter how you look at this game, LSU is a better team than Fresno State this season. Fresno State is not playing together as a team right now and will need to learn how to do that in order to stay with LSU during this game. The key is how they start the game. If the Dogs are in this game at halftime look for it to be a close one throughout the second half. I have seen predictions on the Barkboard of the Dogs losing 77-20 or so. I am a bit more realistic with what I think the score is going to be. I don't think the Dogs will give up 50 points in this game, not after last week. I expect a hard fought game between two teams looking to get themselves back on track. In the end I do not feel Fresno has the players to win this game this year. If this game were played two years from now maybe, but right now I just don't see it.
LSU 41 Fresno State 24