Recently, I spent three days in Boise, Idaho to watch our Fresno State Bulldogs take on the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech. I had high hopes for Fresno State coming into the Humanitarian bowl if for no other reason than the fact that the Bulldogs were able to turn around their fortunes on the football field when compared to what happened during 2006. Since the Bulldogs defeated Georgia Tech I have read that Fresno State will be the team to watch out for in 2008. I have read that if there is a mid-major primed to make a run at the BCS in 2008 it's the Bulldogs. While I tend to agree with this sentiment I want to cover a few thoughts that fans of Fresno State should stear clear of during what should be a very eventful offseason for Fresno State. I realize that Pat Hill is currently en route to signing one of his best recruiting classes in Bulldog history, but staying grounded is what we as Bulldog fans need to do from now until August 31st and the following reasons are why I think we need to be cautious as to what we dream of.
1) Refrain from all BCS talk: Yes it's great to believe that Fresno State is a team on the cusp of the BCS. Yes it's great to believe that our beloved Dogs will one day rise above the rest and find a way to run the table regardless of how tough their schedule is. However, I warn all Bulldog fans to stay away from BCS talk. Fresno State is going to be a good team in 2008, I have no doubts about that. However, we do play a very grueling schedule and after the Hawaii debacle it is going to be even tougher to qualify for a BCS game as a mid-major. No, they won't change the formula or the way a mid-major has to qualify but the voters will be much more apprehensive when voting for a mid-major. With that being said Fresno State does have a schedule that can reap rewards if they play smart. To me smart is attempting to go 1-0 for twelve straight weeks. It does not matter what happens in week 5 if you don't win in week 1. I advise all of you as fans to begin the season believing that a 1-0 start at the Rose Bowl is exactly what this team needs. We do not need to look ahead to Boise or Wisconsin. We need to play UCLA first and that is where the journey begins.
2) Understand Fresno State must improve on defense: Yes the Bulldogs went 9-4 this past season. But the Dogs defense gave up more yards than the offense gained. We continually had problems as we once again had a season with five or less int's. Fresno State is going to have to find a way to improve their defensive numbers in order to become a top flight team. Yes our offense will be loaded and we will score plenty of points, but will that matter if we lose 48-45? Without an improved defense the Dogs will lose the same games they did this past year, and believe me when I say this is going to be hard to do seeing that our best Linebacker in Bulldog history no longer with us (Marcus Riley). If we do not have anyone step up the defense could be in for another long season.
3) Do not put too much stock into true Freshman: I know Ebahn Feathers will be debuting for the Bulldogs next fall but remember he is a Freshman. Yes it is possible for a Freshman to make an impact such as Ryan Matthews did in 2007 but it does not happen often. If you realize that these young players have plenty to learn then you will be pleasantly surprised at how good they do when given the chance to play. You won't see these players on the field nearly as much as the upperclassmen and rightfully so, but we will need contributions from every player on the team if we hope to have an oustanding 2008 season.
4) Last but not least please let Tom be Tom: My last request and to me most important is to let Brandstater be himself in 2008. I think fans came along ways in 2007 with respect to accepting Tommy B. as our QB. But I still read plenty of messages and threads that say Tom is not as accurate as Carr or as talented as Carr. In the end all I want is for Tom to be himself. I think he is going to be great in 2008 and I think he has done just fine with the team he has. I believe his Junior year was very impressive and when I watch him play I see the skills that tell me one day he will play past Fresno State. I just hope everyone else in Bulldog land will accept him for who he is. Tom does not need to be Carr, Tom needs to be Tom. If Brandstater is the best he can possibly be week in and week out the Bulldogs will win a majority of their games in 2008.
2008 can be a special season for Fresno State. We have the talent, we have the coaching, and we have the determination as a team to make 2008 unforgettable. But we as fans need to hold back and keep all of this talk about winning every game under raps until the twelth game of the season. If the Dogs are 11-0 then I have no problems talking about where they may end up. Remember we were upset with Pat Hill for dreaming of the BCS a few years ago when we could not win the WAC. That is exactly what we need to stay away from as fans. Enjoy the offseason. We will have plenty of news about practices, players, and the direction of this team. Just enjoy it because right now isn't it great to be a Bulldog fan?