4-8. For many of us that is hard to look at. Those numbers represent what the Bulldogs accomplished in 2006. You would have to travel all the way back to 1996 to find a season that could be considered as abysmal as 2006 was for the Bulldogs (In 1996 the Dogs finished 4-7). As Fresno State fans we have become accustomed to eight win seasons and a bowl game appearance. But the question here is: Are we over shooting what this team’s goal should be in 2007? Many view the Dogs 4-8 record as an unusual occurrence, one that does not truly reflect the talent of the team during the 2006 season. I however do not agree with this assessment. Personally Fresno State was not a .500 team last year and that is why they finished at 4-8. I realize one play here or there changes the entire complexion of the season, but isn’t that how every season goes? Can’t you go back to every season and say “Well if we don’t do this, we win this game?” So I refuse to use our mistakes against both Washington and Oregon as a barometer for 2006. Instead I truly feel that team was no better than a 6-6 team at best. With that being said I truly believe expecting seven wins in 2007 is exactly what we should be doing as fans and here is why.
If you take a look at college football you will see that teams generally do not have a 4-8 season followed by a ten win season. While it does happen it is rare to say the least. Instead you will see that a team generally increases their win total modestly year by year until they become a dominant force in the college football world. To better understand this let’s take a look at a few teams who have risen to the upper ranks over the past few seasons:
1997: 4-7 Record
1998: 6-5 Record
1999: 10-3 Record
Now I realize these were the years that Boise played in the Big West but as you can see they increased their win total by two games in 1998 and then made the jump to a ten win season in 1999. As we all know from here on Boise won at least eight games for the next seven seasons and look to increase that total to eight straight seasons with at least eight wins in 2007.
2004: 4-7 Record
2005: 7-5 Record
2006: 11-2 Record
Rutgers becomes the example that Fresno State should do their best to follow. In 2005 Rutgers increased their win total from four to seven games and followed that with an eleven win season. A team once viewed as the laughingstock of college football the Scarlet Knights are now one of the top teams in the Big East, if not the nation. They are proof that anything is possible as long as you are patient as a team and willing to build upon your success year by year.
Obviously not every team is going to follow this pattern. In 2005 Hawaii finished the season 5-7 but followed that with an 11-3 record in 2006. An increase of six wins in a season is tough to accomplish but the Warriors were able to do so. However, there is a glaring difference between many of these teams that make the jump to ten wins and Fresno State: Scheduling. Fresno State often schedules one of the hardest non-conferences in the nation. Hawaii on the other hand tends to play all but one of their non-conference games at home. We have already taken a look at the way Boise State schedules and most understand that Utah made their unprecedented run in 2004 with an average schedule at best. So where does this leave Fresno State in 2007?
If the Bulldogs were to win ten games as many have predicted they would have to win three of the following games: @ A&M, @ Oregon, @Hawaii, Kansas State, or Boise State. Remember that is saying that Fresno State wins the other games I have not mentioned without any problems and when is the last time the Dogs went an entire season without losing to a team they should have beaten? A more realistic goal to set for the Bulldogs would be seven wins as the schedule does not favor them in 2007. Chances are the Dogs will slip up against a team they shouldn’t lose to. At the same time the Dogs will probably upset someone along the way as they always seem to every season. If that happens and Fresno State loses the tough road games 7-5 is a completely respectable record for this team. This will allow the Dogs to grow as a team and set them up for a very tough 2008 season that could offer more promise than one may realize. In the end it is great to have high hopes for this team in 2007. There is nothing wrong with pushing for the very best out of the Bulldogs football team, but do realize this team may not be ready to make that big jump yet. It is possible that they may win seven games and to me that is more than enough after the 2006 season this team experienced.
What are your thoughts as Bulldog fans? I want to know not only what you expect in the win loss column but also why. What leads you to believe the Dogs should finish where you have them?