Yesterday MDG sent me an email that asked me to answer some questions about the Bulldogs and the WAC as a whole. Personally I think these questions are great for a blog. I have decided that since we do not play for ten more days I am going to do blogs such as this one today. Anyhow on to the questions asked by the Texas Longhorns Blog Burnt Orange Nation.
What's a BlogPoll Roundtable? Bloggers/BlogPoll voters use these questions as an opportunity to learn more about the teams our colleagues follow most closely.
1) Handicap Fresno State's chances to win the WAC. If Fresno State is not the favorite then who is?
First off let me say I think the Bulldogs have a very good shot at winning the WAC this season. The reason for my optimism is the schedule. Fresno State in my eyes has one of the most favorable WAC schedules this season (aside Hawaii of course). Because the Bulldogs are such a young team they will need a large amount of confidence going into the game at Hawaii. Having the first six games set up the way they do only helps the Dogs. Fresno opens at home with La. Tech, a game they should win. From there they travel to play a Nevada team that is still gelling due to the loss of Jeff Rowe. Fresno will have a great chance to walk away from both Nevada and Idaho with wins. The dogs then return home to face San Jose, Boise State, and Utah State. If the Dogs walk away from that three game stretch with victories they will travel to Hawaii with a 7-2 record (6-0 in the WAC). With a 6-0 WAC record the Dogs will have every chance to knock off a Hawaii team that may not have a loss at that point either. If I were to put the Dogs chances of winning into a percentage I would say we have a 40% chance of either winning or tying for the WAC this season.
Although I do believe the Dogs can win the WAC the frontrunner has to be Hawaii. Their schedule is very favorable as they get both Fresno and Boise in Hawaii. However, they do have to travel to Nevada and they have lost to Boise all six times they have played them since Boise joined the WAC. I have seen stranger things happen in the WAC (ex. Fresno losing to Boise while being 6-0 and ranked #8 in the nation). In other words I realize Hawaii is the favorite but I would not be surprised to see them lose once in WAC play.
2) Outline the (realistic) best case and worst case scenarios for Fresno State
Some may feel I am being overly optimistic or may just refer to me as a Bulldog homer with respect to the best case scenario for the Dogs. I believe the best case scenario for Fresno State is they finish 7-1 with a share of the WAC title. I would say they finish 8-0 but their final two road games in WAC play may be their two toughest games in the WAC this season and I think they will lose one of those two games. I believe the Dogs will come away with a close loss at Hawaii and a close win over NMSU.
The worst case scenario for the Dogs in WAC play is to finish 4-4 once again. The Dogs will beat the following teams: San Jose, Utah State, Idaho, and La. Tech. The Dogs could lose to Hawaii, Boise, Nevada, and NMSU. If they do not play up to their ability we will see the Dogs finish 4-4 in WAC play and they very well could end up under .500 overall for the second straight year. I do not believe this will happen though mainly because the youth on this team will be refreshing and they believe they can win every game they step on the field to play.
3) We're only three games into the season, but teams and storylines are starting to take shape. Compare Fresno State to a character or theme from a fable or children's tale.
Fresno State has earned the reputation of a giant killer over the past ten seasons. However, I don't truly feel that is who this university is anymore. Instead I feel like we are a young team that has the confidence that they can win every game they play. I feel like the Bulldogs are going to grow as the season moves along and in the end learn more about who they truly are as a team than any one Bulldog team in the passed has learned. I think if the Bulldogs were to be compared to a cartoon character Mighty Mouse may be the best example. I mean the Dogs generally are far undersized when it comes to the football field yet they play with their hearts and they give a complete effort every time they step on the field.
4) Imagine you are the coach of the Bulldogs. Give three specific changes you would implement immediately which you think would have the biggest impact on improving the team.
If I had the power to change three things about Fresno State's game plan they would go as follows:
1) First of all Trevor Shamblee would not be returning kicks. I realize they are using him as a blocker but Devon Wylie needs to get his hands on the football. He is explosive and I would think having him in the game would be a positive and not a negative. At the same time I would have Wylie taking both the kickoff and punt returns and only put Smith in the game as a third down back.
2) I would give the running back job to Ryan Matthews. I realize he had a costly fumble last week at Oregon but he has shown that he has both the vision and speed to make the defense miss him on almost every carry.
3) Lastly I would implement a blitz package on defense that would have an extra player coming in on almost every play. In order to beat a team such as Hawaii pressure on the QB is a must and our corners and safeties have the speed to get to the QB before he throws the ball. The worst case scenario here is the QB is forced to throw the ball before he wants to resulting in a positive for the defense.
5) USC, LSU, Florida, and Oklahoma have established themselves as the frontrunners in the early going. Which other teams are you eyeballing as potential BCS party crashers?
If we are only talking about finding their way into a BCS game you truly have to consider Hawaii as one of the favorites with their weak schedule. As far as the championship game I would not rule out Wisconsin and Ohio State quite yet. The Big Ten is down this season and Wisconsin and Ohio State have just as good a shot as anyone to run the table in that conference. If they can do that and the big four lose a game they will find themselves in a perfect spot to slide into the championship game (and lose to whomever they play out of the big four).