Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Difference Between 9-3 and 7-5

Four games remain for the Fresno State Bulldogs. All four of these games will challenge the Bulldogs in one way or another. Each team remaining on their schedule does not provide the same type of challenge. None the less each team will force Fresno State to play a different style of football to win the game. New Mexico State and Hawaii run similar offenses so the game plan against both teams will have to be quite similar. Kansas State is a defensive team that will force the Dogs to throw and Utah State will come into Bulldog stadium with absolutely nothing to lose. In other words Fresno State had better be ready for the final four games of the season. If they aren't they very well could lose each game remaining on their schedule. While four losses is possible it is not probable. A Probable finish for Fresno State would be 7-5 with wins over NMSU and Utah State and losses to Kansas State and Hawaii. However, Fresno State has an outside shot at winning their final four games. The only way that is going to happen is if the following improvements are made over the course of these games.

1) Improved QB play - Let's not sugarcoat this aspect of Bulldog football. Tom Brandstater has not made many mistakes this season. Unfortunately he has not made many big plays either. Brandstater is about as average an QB as a team could have on it's roster. If Fresno State is going to make a run at 9-3 they are going to need Brandstater to step up and make some big throws. When the Dogs face a third and ten they will need Tom to hit a receiver in stride. When the Dogs have a third and eight they will need Tom to find the open receiver in the middle of the field. Fresno State will not be able to settle for improved field position against teams such as Hawaii. The Warriors will drive down the field in less than four minutes regardless of where the ball is at. Without an improved effort from Brandstater the Dogs will win no more than two games as I am willing to bet that both Kansas State and Hawaii will force Fresno State to throw the ball to beat them.

2) Offensive Line Cohesion - Going into the Boise game Fresno's offensive line looked to have gelled to the point where Brandstater was getting put on his back at a rate of once a game. Although Tom was only sacked three times against Boise he was hit at least ten times on top of that. In order for the Dogs to win they will need to protect their QB and allow him the time to throw. Without time Tom tends to rush his decision making process and force balls into coverages he cannot complete.

3) Lock down Corner Play - This may be one of the most important factors that allows the Bulldogs a run at 4-0 to finish the season. Damon Jenkins has had problems at the corner spot all season. He tends to give too much of a cushion and seems to allow the big first down every time the ball is thtown to his side of the field. Hawaii is going to pick on Jenkins just as Boise did. If there is a third and long for the Rainbows Jenkins will be the man they attack on the field. How well Jenkins adjusts to what is happening around him will make the difference between a punt or another third down conversion for the opponent's offense.

4) Field Goal Success - While it is true that Stitser made six field goals in a row before the Boise game the reality is that he seems to become erratic when the Dogs need him the most. Last year Stitser was nowhere to be found during the season and before he converted six attempts in a row this season he was erratic once again. Stitser's missed 47 and 39 yard field goal attempts certainly were not the only reason the Bulldogs lost to Boise, but they played a huge factor in the game. Fresno will have to capitalize on every scoring opportunity and will need Stitser to find his groove here in the last part of the season if they wish to be successful.

5) Run Defense Improvement - Boise stretched the field with their running game causing Fresno State problems with respect to bottling up the runner. If the Bulldogs can not figure out how to isolate the runner and make the tackle when the opportunity is there they will not beat anyone left on their schedule.

6) Lastly, better play calling - As I posted on the bark board, I do not oppose the plays that are called for the Bulldogs offense. I am disappointed instead with the timing that these plays are being called. If we have a 2nd or 3rd and 1 run the ball. Fresno State has always been able to get that extra yard to extend their drives and to try and throw the ball on a down such as the one mentioned above takes away the strength of Bulldog football. At the same time it would not hurt to have one of our RB's pass the ball when they line up at QB. If they were to throw it occasionally the defense would not be able to stack the line to stop the run.

Fresno State has the ability to make improvements in each of the above mentioned areas. The Dogs have the talent in place to make a 4-0 run a reality. In order for the final four games to be a success Fresno State will have to find a way to hold on to the ball and take it away from the opponent. We still have one interception on the season and quite honestly that is pathetic. Florida Atlantic has one player with seven interceptions this year. Fresno State has to do whatever it takes to create extra opportunities for the offense. If the Dogs cannot control the clock and improve their offense they will lose at least two of the final four games they play. A 7-5 finish is exactly what I expected from this team at the starting of the year. I would love to see this team prove me wrong. In fact I am sure that is something the entire Fresno State fan base would love and I truly hope the Dogs can turn this team into a winning product. It is going to take much more than showing up to win these games for the Dogs. All we can do as fans is hope that the coaching staff can elevate this team's willingness to win each game they play. If the Dogs can show the same intensity that we have seen in the past this should be a fun final month of the season. If they can't then once again we will struggle to finish the season and will sit at home while every other team enjoys a bowl game.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Avoiding the QuickSand Effect

Boise State came to town this past weekend and knocked the Bulldogs off for the sixth time in seven tries. While this loss was heartbreaking for Bulldog fans and players what happens after this loss is what will truly define this 2007 Fresno State football season. Yes the loss to Boise hurts in more ways than one. The Bulldogs no longer control their own destiny with respect to winning the WAC. A win over Boise would have given the Dogs a great shot at capturing the WAC title. However, what should be remembered is the season is not over. Fresno State has four games remaining and quite honestly all four are winnable games.

Fresno State will not play a better team that the Boise team they lost to Friday. Boise plays absolutely flawless football when it comes to fundamentals. You would be hard pressed to find another college football team that executes as well as the Broncos do on game day. With that being said the Bulldogs now must turn their attention to Utah State. While Utah State is not nearly the team Boise is they still have enough talent to knock the Bulldogs off. If you don't believe that statement is true just check out the results from 2006 and you will realize a loss to the Aggies is absolutely possible. In the past the Bulldogs have followed heartbreaking losses with long streaks of horrendous football. In 2004 a loss to La. Tech paved the way for a three game losing streak in which Fresno State's offense went South. In 2005 a loss to USC was followed by three more losses to teams the Bulldogs were flat out better than. In 2006 the Dogs lost a close game to Oregon which led to one of the most painful losing streaks in Bulldog history. The Dogs would lose seven games in a row, one of which would be to the Aggies of Utah State. As you can see Fresno State may be the poster boys when it comes to quicksand and how it can affect a team.

In order for 2007 to be a successful year the Bulldogs are going to have to be able to turn the page and come out fired up to play the Aggies on Saturday. I realize this may be easier said than done, but the Aggies are a key team to recover against. If the Bulldogs can regain their ground game and find some passing lanes for Brandstater this could be the type of game that propels the Dogs into a dogfight with Hawaii the following week after. What many fans may not realize is that Hawaii now holds the key to the Bulldogs WAC fate. If Fresno State can knock of the Warriors on the island and the Warriors then turn around and knock off Boise all three teams may finish 7-1 tying for the WAC. The only way this will even be a possibility is for Fresno State to come out and dominate the Aggies from the first play of the game. Fresno State has the type of offense that can control a game against Hawaii. They will have to run the ball effectively and execute long drives that keeps the Warriors offense off of the field. But none of this is even possible if the Dogs do not take care of business against the Aggies first.

Fresno State is a better team than Utah State. Fresno State has superior talent and far better players than the Aggies do. However, Fresno State will not win this game if they ponder what could have been with a victory over the Broncos. The Bulldogs need to forget what happened against Boise and move on to Utah State. If they continue to worry about the past once again the Dogs will be stuck in quicksand and that is something no Bulldog fan, player, or coach desires to see.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Not Quite There Yet

Once again Boise State has come into Fresno and beat our Bulldogs. Once again we are left to question what could have been for this Bulldog football team. Once again we will likely finish behind Boise State in the WAC standings. While Fresno State has made strides to become a competitive football team in 2007 they have not quite caught up to the level that the Boise State Broncos play at. We cannot blame this on the talent levels of the two teams. Boise State does not have better players on the field. Boise State's players are not superior to those at Fresno State. However, Boise State has players that have bought into a system that functions almost flawlessly when they play Fresno State. On Friday night the Broncos once again played a perfect game against the Bulldogs leading to a 34-21 victory. While the Broncos executed perfectly Fresno State on the other hand made countless mistakes leading to another defeat at the hands of the Broncos. Where the Bulldogs go from here will be interesting to say the least. Fresno State can still enjoy a very successful season but will have to put this loss behind them in order to do so. What will happen from here will be up to the Bulldogs and their coaching staff. Hopefully we will not see a quicksand effect as the Dogs have been known to do after a tough loss.

Fresno State has a relatively tough schedule to finish the season. Aside the game this weekend against Utah State the Dogs have three tough challenges left against Hawaii, Kansas State, and New Mexico State. If everything goes to plan Fresno State will beat both Utah and New Mexico and lose to Hawaii and Kansas State. Unfortunately it seems that the Dogs have figured out how to finally win the games they should but they are now losing all the games they should lose as well. Instead of upsetting one or two teams a season Fresno State no longer shows up for games against teams that are in the upper echelon of college football. In the past two seasons we have lost to Hawaii, Boise State twice, Oregon twice, LSU, and have the chance to lose to Hawaii again and Kansas State. While it is great that we are beating the teams we should the Bulldogs seem to be out game planned by every single team with any type of talent. Every season Boise State's coaching staff seems to out coach ours. They blitz when we aren't ready for it and run delays, options, and off tackles when we are looking for something else. Fresno on the other hand seems to run absolutely everything Boise is looking for. Aside one drive this past Friday the Bulldogs did absolutely nothing on offense until eight minutes remained in the fourth quarter. In order for the Dogs to become a challenge to a team such as Boise State they are going to have to improve in the following areas:

1) Third Down Defense - Boise State went 10 for 18 on third downs, a stat I think is actually a bit off (It felt like they were closer to 15 for 18). It seemed that Boise would gain two-three yards on first and second down and ten yards on third down every time. Why the Bulldogs corners do not bump will always be something I do not understand. They continually let receivers run whatever routes they please only to give up ten yards when they need to stop them at seven. Our corners do not shadow the receivers well enough and are missing tackles once the ball is caught. Our safety help seems to be fine and I won't complain about LB play at all. But our corner spot is really hurting us right now.

2) Offensive Play calling - I am not so much upset with the play calling in the sense that I don't like what plays are being called. Instead I don't think the times they are being called makes much sense. On the first drive of the game we gain nine yards on first down and then throw on second and third when we need one yard? Fresno State will always be a run first team and if they try to lead with the pass they will not win games. At the same time when it is third down and eight why are we running draws up the middle? We seem to lack confidence in the players we need to believe in to win games and at the end of the year that will haunt us in games such as the ones against Boise State. If you run the ball outside successfully in the first quarter why do you stop doing so as the game moves along? Fresno abandoned what has worked all year and in the end they truly paid for it.

3) QB Protection - Brandstater would be hit on nearly every play by a delayed blitzing LB during the course of the game. Fresno's offensive line did nothing to protect Tom and he would be forced to throw many passes early leading to his erratic play. I will not blame the offensive line completely for Tom's performance. One of these times Brandstater is going to have to hit an open receiver deep for a TD. Early on he missed a wide open Marlon Moore downfield. Brandstater cannot continue to do this if he is going to make any kind of difference here at Fresno State.

4) Play up to the level of our opponent - The Dogs played A&M evenly. Fresno State did not play Boise evenly. Fresno State looked as if they felt the Broncos were better than them and they allowed the Broncos to dictate the pace of the game. In the future the Dogs need to go out and have that killer instinct that the Broncos have. If the Dogs can start a game like they did against Boise and keep the foot on the gas pedal maybe the outcome will be differently in the future. However, if they continue to sit on a small lead and run predictable plays they will lose every game against a team with superior game day adjustment ability.

Overall the game against the Broncos was quite heartbreaking not only for the players but for the fans and the city of Fresno as well. One day we will have to figure out a way to beat the Broncos. I am not sure Pat Hill will ever be able to out coach Chris Petersen on a day where the Broncos and Bulldogs play one another. I hope I am wrong but it seems that Petersen's innovation is just too much for the Bulldogs staff to figure out. Until the Dogs can open up their game plan and figure out how to run plays the Broncos have not seen nor are they ready for the Dogs will continue to lose to this WAC Cinderella story. Hopefully the Broncos run will end sooner than later, but if we continue to play at the level we are right now we will experience many more years of playing second fiddle to the team from the Blue turf up North.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Red Seat Debacle

by nsc

Fresno State sits at 5-2. They are 4-0 in the WAC. This past weekend they played a rivalry game that had been somewhat renewed due to the fact that San Jose State beat the Dogs this past season. The Bulldogs had not played a home game in three weeks and had only experienced one home game over the past fifty days. With all of these factors present one would think Bulldog stadium would be full for their football game against San Jose State. Unfortunately that was not the case this past weekend in Fresno. Only 35,000 fans decided to grace Bulldog stadium with their presence. As usual the Red Seats were most notably empty as they usually are. Week after week if there is one thing that is certain it is that the red seats will not be filled. But the question as to why they are not full has to enter just about every single Bulldog fans mind. How is it even possible that the single best seats in Bulldog stadium go unfilled week after week? The answer is quite simple, Fresno State has absolutely no idea what they are doing when it comes to ticket sales. A situation such as the red seats being empty is one that can be solved easily. Here is how.

Every year red seat tickets must be renewed by their respective owners. This really doesn't come down to rocket science here when I state the fix for this problem. All Fresno State has to do is make sure that season ticket holders in the red seats understand that if their seats are not filled after the first five minutes of the game they will be filled. In other words if the red seat season ticket holders do not show up the university shall reserve the right to open those seats up to other prospective fans. Of course this is not the only solution. Fresno State could start a program where those red seat holders who will not be attending the game can give up their seats. There are so many different ways to handle this problem and the truth is it is becoming quite disheartening to see those seats empty week after week. How is it possible that everyone in the valley seems to be missing this young upstart team and the drive they have to win? Why does it seem like Bulldog fans expect a national championship or bust? Is it really too much to hope for WAC title first? These players are young and quite honestly they are playing their asses off for this city and the university yet we can only put 35,000 fans in the seats? I for one am tired of hearing about how we should expand the stadium. We have no business hoping to close the end zones off if we cannot put fans in the seats. So for every person who has a valid point with respect to expansion of the stadium you mine as well save it for now. The only way this stadium will ever grow is if Bulldog fans get off their couch and come down to Bulldog stadium to watch the game.

The Boise State Blackout

At first I thought this to be a terrible idea. I mean Bulldog colors are Red, White, and a bit of Blue. Yet we decided that we are going to go with black for a game to show the nation how amazing Bulldog stadium can look on national television. After I accepted the idea and even thought of it as "a fun experience" I come to find out that half the people in the stadium this past Saturday had no idea about a blackout against Boise. I will be wearing black and so will my entire family when we see the game Friday. But when you have twenty people in your immediate surroundings who have absolutely no idea that a blackout is going to take place what does that tell you about the marketing skills of Fresno State? In order to sell an idea such as this you have to market it. A month in advance there should be adds throughout the city of Fresno speaking of the blackout against Boise. The Fresno Bee should be advertising this game daily talking about where people can buy blackout shirts if they have the desire to purchase them. I am just a bit disappointed in the university as the idea now seems like a promotional ploy to make money instead of celebrating one of the biggest games in Fresno in the past five years.

Fresno State-Boise State Opening Thoughts

First of all let me say a little bit about what I have read over the past few days on the BarkBoard and Blue Turf Board. This game will not be decided by what these two teams have done in the past. Boise's SOS and Fresno's SOS have absolutely nothing to do with the outcome of this game. Fresno's winning margin and Boise's winning margin will not help decide who is better Friday night. Fresno's offensive totals and Boise's offensive totals will not allow us to know who will win this game Friday night. Instead whoever plays better on the field Friday will be the team that comes away with a win. I get tired of reading posts stating "Boise's SOS is...." or "Fresno's SOS is better than Boise's so...." Just so everyone knows that means absolutely nothing when the ball is kicked off for the first time Friday night. Both of these teams are good solid football teams. Boise State scores a lot of points and Fresno is very good at controlling the clock with their grind it out running style. In the end the team that is able to play their style of football will win this game. Just so everyone knows I am going with the Bulldogs Friday night. I think it's Fresno's turn to make this a series and their confidence will be at an all time high with their revenge win over San Jose. Bulldog stadium will be full for the first time this season and the Bulldogs will walk away with a very tight victory. Hell my cousing from Nor-Cal will even be at the game with me, so the stars are aligning for this one Bulldog fans.

Fresno State 38
Boise State 35

Week Nine BlogPoll Ballot

NSC your .02...I got LSU No. 1 this week only because USF lost. I have a feeling Ohio State loses at Penn State this Saturday and BC could lose Thursday. An Oregon win over USC could vault the Ducks to No. 2 and possibly set up a top 5 matchup with Arizona State if the Sun Devils beat Cal. Wait...I am getting way ahead of myself.

1LSU 2
2Ohio State--
3Boston College 3
4Oregon 6
5South Florida 4
6Arizona State 1
7Oklahoma 1
8West Virginia 3
9Missouri 3
10Florida 4
11Kentucky 6
12Kansas 3
13Southern Cal 5
14Virginia Tech 5
15South Carolina 11
16Auburn 3
17Michigan 6
18Virginia 8
19California 10
20Georgia 2
21Alabama 5
22Rutgers 4
23Penn State 2
25Hawaii 1

Dropped Out: Tennessee (#16), Texas Tech (#17), Cincinnati (#20), Kansas State (#21).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

NSC's Difference Makers

by nsc

As most of you already know Fresno State will be taking on San Jose State in a game that has the feel of a rivalry game for the first time in countless years. Fresno State comes into the game with three impressive victories over La. Tech, Nevada, and Idaho (the last two being on the road). San Jose State comes into this game winning three out of their past four games with their only loss coming at the hands of #17 Hawaii in overtime. Both teams are filled with players who are able to make a difference at any juncture of the game. Fresno State may be playing the game at home but they cannot forget about the talent that San Jose puts on the field. Here are the players that I feel can make the biggest difference during the course of the football game on Saturday:



Tom Brandstater - If you take a look at TB's numbers they will not wow you. TB has completed 60% of his passes with a 2 to 1 td to int ratio. TB has not thrown for the most yards in the nation as he currently sits at 1100 yards passing but those yards have been efficient. Last season teams were able to stack the line with nine forcing the Bulldogs to throw. This year if teams load up on the defensive line TB is able to make them pay as his throws have been far more accurate than they were in 2006. At the same time Brandstater has only been sacked eight times in six games. For a makeshift offensive line such as Fresno State's only allowing eight sacks to this point in the season is impressive but has a lot to do with TB's decision making ability. If San Jose decides to force the Dogs to throw the ball TB is capable of making the difference in this game. San Jose fans will be surprised at how far TB has come in the past season. This Bulldog team is not one dimensional and will use the pass to open up the run if they have to.

Adam Tafralis - Unfortunately for San Jose State their running attack has been non-existent this season. With that being said Adam Tafralis has stepped up his game the past four weeks. Tafralis has thrown for over three hundred yards four weeks in a row and looks to continue his hot streak against Fresno State. Tafralis showed that he could throw the deep ball accurately against the Bulldogs in 2006. Fresno State will have to prepare for a QB who seems to be gaining confidence with every game that passes. Over the past two seasons Tafralis has led the Spartans to a 12-8 record and has exceeded most expectations. In this game Tafralis will have the opportunity to make a difference just as Brandstater will. If Adam makes few mistakes and gets the hot hand this could turn into a high scoring affair between the two hated rivals.

Running Backs

Lonyae Miller & Ryan Matthews - Fresno State's two headed attack features a true freshman and a true Sophomore that have lead the way to dominating performances on the ground the past two weeks. Matthews has rushed for five TD's in the past two weeks while totaling near 240 yards rushing during that period. Lonyae Miller has totaled over 100 yards each game the past two weeks and looks to continue that trend against a Spartans defense that allows 170 yards on the ground per game. If Fresno State is able to control the clock with the ground game San Jose State will be in for a very long day. The past two weeks Fresno State has controlled the clock and virtually ended both games by halftime. Fresno State will look to do the same thing to the Spartans as they try to take them out of their game allowing the Dogs a big lead going into the half.

Wide Receivers

Kevin Jurovich & David Richmond - These two receivers have been Tafralis' favorite target early in the season. Jurovich has caught 44 passes and already has 638 yards receiving with five td's to go along with those gaudy stats. Richmond also has performed quite well as He has nearly 500 yards receiving with three td's to this point in the season. The Fresno State secondary is going to be tested early and often by the Spartans. If the Dogs defensive secondary can find a way to shut down these receivers they will have a shot to run away in this game. However, stopping the Spartans passing attack is going to be much easier said than done.

Bear Pascoe, Clifton Smith, Jason Crawley & Seyi Ajirotutu - Bear Pascoe is TB's favorite receiver. Pascoe does a great job of fighting off defenders to get to the ball and rarely does the ball get through his hands. Clifton Smith is a shifty back that can be used out of the backfield when the Dogs want to clear the field and give him some room to run. The past two weeks Clifton has made life much easier for TB by opening up the underneath passing game and allowing TB to dump the ball off when in trouble. Jason Crawley has done a good job of filling in for the injured Marlon Moore. While Crawley may not be the fastest of the Bulldogs he is physical and has great hands. If Fresno State needs a reception look for Crawley to step up and make the big catch. Seyi has done a phenomenal job of catching the deep routes this season. While Seyi does not have the wheels to outrun anyone he seems to run great routes and find himself open more often than not. If TB can find Seyi downfield the running game may open up allowing the Bulldogs to control the tempo on offense.


Corners and Secondary

A.J. Jefferson, Marvin Haynes, Damien Owens, & Moses Harris - The Bulldogs secondary has done a phenominal job on the field this season. The first team defense may not have an interception but they have limited what other teams can do. The Bulldogs do not give up the big play in the passing game often and are very physical. The Dogs hit very hard and will make every receiver pay if they come over the middle to make that all important third down reception. Fresno State will try to force San Jose to do what they don't want to and that is run the ball. If the Bulldogs can shut down Tafralis and the Spartans passing game the Dogs will be in great shape to walk away with a win.

Dwight Lowery & Christopher Owens - Lowery is one of the best corners in the WAC. He seems to have a nose for where the football is going and will more often than not walk away from a game with an int. He has 12 int's in 20 games for the Spartans so odds are better to stay away from this talented CB. Owens has done a good job on the other side of the field and actually has one more int that Lowery this season (Lowery has 3 Owens has 4). Fresno State will have to be careful when going to the air because these two men can turn the game around with one play.


Ben Jacobs & Marcus Riley - These are the two single most important men on the Bulldogs defense. Jacobs makes the calls and Riley seems to find himself near the ball every single play. Fresno State uses their LB's to control the running game and have done a very impressive job of shutting down other team's this season in all facets of the game. Look for both Riley and Jacobs to make some noise against San Jose as they are both capable of dominating this game on defense.

Matt Castelo - The Spartans took the field with only one LB on defense last week against Hawaii. Castelo would total 12 tackles in the game as he showed that he can be counted on in the middle of the field. Castelo will play a big role along with Owens and Lowery in stopping the Bulldogs running game. The Spartans will need Castelo to step up and play big in the middle to prevent the Bulldogs from running when they want to. If Castelo can find a way to neutralize the Bulldogs running game San Jose will have a much better chance of winning this game.

Special Teams

A.J. Jefferson and Clifton Smith - Fresno State is explosive both on kickoff and punt returns. A.J. Jefferson leads the nation in kick return average as he take the ball for 33 yards every time he touches it. Clifton Smith showed against Nevada that his shifting is back in gear and he will be hard to bring down if given enough room to roam the field. San Jose may be smart just to kick the ball out of bounds every time because these two can change the course of the game with one kick.

Overall this should be a hard fought game. I am sure I left some players out that can make a difference in the outcome of this game but the blog was running a bit long. Saturday is only two days away and from what I hear our tailgate will have some Spartan fans with us. Here's to a very well played game between two teams that will give their all out there on the football field. Go Dogs.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Revenge Factor

by nsc

Saturday Fresno State begins a journey against four teams that defeated them in 2006. While the Bulldogs seem to have successfully forgotten about what happened in 2006 there is no way to forget about the teams that beat them during that unfortunate season. This Saturday San Jose State will represent the first team from the WAC that knocked the Bulldogs off in 2006 . Fresno State and San Jose State do not get along well. Aside the two coaches (who seem to have more respect for one another than most coaches do) you would be hard pressed to find players from either team that have anything nice to say about one another. San Jose State fans have nicknamed Fresno State various names such as Tractor U while Fresno State fans generally refer to San Jose State as "San Loser State". Over the past fifteen years Fresno State has owned this series as they have lost one time in that span. However, 2006 would be the one season that the Spartans were able to regain some of the glory from the Bulldogs. However you view the Bulldogs and Spartans one thing is certain about this series: These two teams do not like one another and this Saturday it will become obvious in Bulldogs Stadium.

The Spartans-Bulldogs series seemed to have lost some of it's luster due to the Bulldogs dominating the series for the past fifteen years. But if you were to take a look at the message boards between these two teams you would see there has been very little love lost between the two teams' fan bases. Fresno State fans do not like San Jose State fans. San Jose State fans don't typically like Bulldog fans. In other words the rivalry between the two teams may have taken some time off but it is beginning to heat up once again. Regardless of what you might feel may play a role in the game between the Spartans and Bulldogs on Saturday one factor cannot be ignored: Revenge. Fresno State feels as if they owe San Jose State a beating after they lost to them last year in San Jose. TB played what he called "His worst game as a Bulldog" this past season and wants nothing more than to atone for the mistakes he made in 2006. Brandstater has handled himself well this season and seems to be gaining confidence with each game that passes by. At the same time you have to remember that Fresno State has not been home since their win over La. Tech. Fresno fans cannot wait to see the Bulldogs play after their 2-0 road trip. The Bulldogs sit at the top of the WAC with a 3-0 record and look to make the move back to the top of the conference this season. The next step is to knock off San Jose, something the Dogs seem to want more than anything in the world right now.

The Spartans must realize that they are coming into Bulldog stadium under tough conditions. San Jose may have had one extra day to prepare for the Dogs but their devastating loss to Hawaii may have some affect on team. At the same time maybe the Spartans look at this game against the Bulldogs as a chance to rebound from their tough loss to Hawaii. Although most WAC fans despise June Jones and the Rainbows you would be hard pressed to find a Spartan fan who hasn't named Fresno State enemy #1. If the fans feel this strongly about the Bulldogs then the players surely match that intensity to beat their hated rival. The Spartans look to be a passing team as they throw the ball for over 250 yards per game but only rush for 60 per game. Fresno State's secondary has been impressive this season as they have held opponents to an average of 185 yards passing per game. Tafralis and the Spartans will test the Bulldogs early and often in this game. While Tafralis possesses gaudy stats with respect to passing yards he has thrown nine int's this season. Fresno State is yet to pick off a pass and are hoping San Jose State is the fix for this problem. In the end the Bulldogs are going to have to find a way to pressure Tafralis into making mistakes. If Tafralis is able to relax in the pocket he will have a field day against Fresno State which can only mean bad things when it comes to the final score.

Overall both teams have plenty to play for. The Spartans have now lost a game in the WAC and if they hope to contend for the title they can ill afford to lose a second game. Fresno State is atop the WAC standings now and realize they cannot afford to lose a game either. Because Fresno State lost this game last year I believe they have the advantage if for no other reason than the revenge factor. Fresno State will come down the ramp on Saturday to a sold out homecoming crowd who is once again excited for Bulldog football. J-Mac has invigorated this team and it's fan base with his creativeness and has found a way to open up the offense again as the Bulldogs have scored 49 and 37 points the past two games. If Fresno State can play with the intensity they have shown in the past three games they will control the clock and win this game by two touchdowns. However, if the Dogs make mistakes and turn the ball over more than they take it away they will be in for a fight to the end. Fresno State has everything going for them with respect to momentum. They have won three straight games and seem to be gelling as a team. The players have confidence, the fans have confidence, and the coaching staff has confidence in the Bulldogs. Look for this game to mirror many of the Bulldog-Spartan games before the 2006 season. Fresno State will control the clock and win this game going away in front of a sold out crowd in Bulldog Stadium.

Fresno State 38
San Jose State 17

Monday, October 15, 2007

NSC's .02 on WACky Weekend

by nsc

In all of my years as a college football fan I am not sure I can say I have ever seen a weekend develop the way this past one did for the Western Athletic Conference. Aside the Fresno State-Idaho game the other three games played all went down to the wire with two of them needing overtime to decide a winner. On Friday Hawaii stormed back after being down 14 with four minutes left to defeat San Jose State 42-35 in overtime. While Hawaii is suspect on defense they continue to win and at the end of the day that is all you can do to keep yourself in the WAC race. Saturday La. Tech defeated NMSU 22-21 at home as La. Tech scored the winning touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. Those two games alone would have made for a wonderful WAC weekend but in the end they did not compare to what we were given Sunday night in Boise, Idaho. Boise State and Nevada played a four overtime classic with the Broncos coming away with a 69-67 victory when Tim Brady was able to corral Colin Kaepernick on a two point conversion attempt. You have to give Nevada and their Freshman QB some credit as Boise more often than not destroys WAC teams on their home field. It is not often to have a visiting WAC school take the lead on Boise State with less than four minutes to play and that is exactly what happened last night. However, Boise came away with the win and as I stated earlier in the end all that matters in wins and losses.

While this weekend was exciting it pushed me to begin thinking about which team in the WAC has shown the least amount of weaknesses up to this point. Now remember that when I consider the amount of weakness a team has shown I am only considering their first team defense and offense because generally those are the players who will be in for the majority of each game. Although Hawaii is undefeated there is no way to view them as a strong favorite to run the table. Now that we have seen that Nevada can play with just about anyone in the WAC that game at home against Hawaii is going to be much harder to come away with a victory than first thought. At the same time Hawaii still has Fresno State, Boise State, and Washington on their schedule (although all three are at home). Hawaii has shown that their first team defense is not going to stop anyone. If a team can put pressure on Brennan they will force him to throw early and make mistakes. If Brennan continues to throw multiple interceptions each week it will eventually catch up with him and Hawaii will see a loss for the first time this season. Boise State until last night looked unstoppable. However, it has become obvious that they have containment problems on the outside with respect to the running game. As Fresno State fans we know all about teams that can't stop the outside run (Fresno State couldn't for a good three years in a row until this season). Boise State's games against Fresno State and Hawaii now look far tougher than before as they have to travel for both games. Boise will enter a hostile environment this time around in Fresno as the Bulldogs look to be back on track for the first time in over two seasons.

Fresno State has shown that they can dominate a game and coast to victory. Over the course of their first three games in the WAC the Bulldogs first team defense has given up a total of forty points (6 to La. Tech, 20 to Nevada, 14 to Idaho). If the Dogs first team defense stays in for the course of the game we may see another La. Tech effort as the Bulldogs completely shut down Champion and his offense. Although I realize this is hard to believe the fact is that Fresno State has shown just as few weaknesses as anyone in the WAC up to this point. You can make the argument that we haven't played anyone compared to the other top tier teams in the WAC but we knocked off Nevada rather easily while Boise struggled against them. Hawaii struggled to beat La. Tech a team Fresno defensively controlled their entire game with La. Tech. With San Jose State and Boise State coming to town in the next two weeks the Dogs will see what they are made of. San Jose comes off a defeat where they played maybe their best game of the season. San Jose put a scare in Hawaii and did all they could to knock the Rainbows off on a soggy field in the Silicon valley. Now the Spartans will travel to the Central Valley and try to knock the Bulldogs off for a second straight week. Whether this will happen or not depends on if the Dogs can control the running game once again. For the first three WAC games the Dogs ticket to wins has been their strength in the running game and look for this game to follow suit. However, Fresno State's one glaring weakness has been their offensive continuity. One drive they march down the field with relative ease while the next drive they cannot gain a yard. If the Dogs can find a rhythym on offense it is going to be hard for any team in the WAC to beat them regardless of where the game is played.

As I stated earlier the WAC has been a fun conference to say the least this season. While the overall team talent looks to be down the field of play seems to be much more even than any year in the past. Any one of three teams look like they could walk away with the WAC championship. The deciding factor will be how well these teams protect home field and if those same teams can steal a game from one another on the road. Fresno State has to travel to Hawaii, but remember this Bulldog team has never lost to Hawaii on the island. In fact this Bulldog team is 1-0 against Hawaii on the island (with respect to those who remain from the 2005 team). The WAC is shaping up to give us an exciting finish and for the first time in quite a while Fresno State looks to have just as good a shot at the title as anyone.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

BlogPoll Ballot Week 8

I didn't vote last week, but here is this week's ballot. Any sugestions for changes?

1South Florida 25
2Ohio State 24
3LSU 23
4South Carolina 22
5Kentucky 21
6Boston College 20
7Arizona State 19
8Oklahoma 18
9California 17
10Oregon 16
11West Virginia 15
12Missouri 14
13Auburn 13
14Florida 12
15Kansas 11
16Tennessee 10
17Texas Tech 9
18Southern Cal 8
19Virginia Tech 7
20Cincinnati 6
21Kansas State 5
22Georgia 4
23Michigan 3
24Texas 2
25Penn State 1

Dropped Out: