Pat Hill has made it clear that his motto is, “any team, any place, anytime—just bring it!” He also said after his 51-0 loss to Boise State that it was the worst beating he has ever taken and that it was the greatest team he has ever faced (including the ’05 USC squad).
More importantly, it was another five loss season and the third consecutive loss in a bowl game. Hill’s Bulldogs looked uninterested, as if they could care less about the program. And to tell you the truth, this program does not look headed for greatness anytime soon.
Will They Ever Return To Glory?
Fresno has a tough non-conference slate of games against Cal, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Boise State, Nevada, Hawaii and San Diego State.
Those seven should all make bowl games outside of perhaps Ole Miss. They will be ‘dogs in every single one of those games, and after getting crushed by the Northern Illinois Huskies, it makes you think if Fresno State (don’t ever call them FSU) can get over the hump again.
Getting over the hump to me would mean winning their first ever WAC title! Also, it would be nice to see them crack the top 25 and challenge for a BCS at-large bid like so many so called “experts” predicted. The only problem is that they have only recorded one 10-plus win season. (Note: Fresno has not finished ahead of second in the WAC since ‘99.)
The running game has taken several steps back towards where it once was. Ryan Matthews carried this offense a few years ago, and if you want to go way back, that NFL bust QB by the name of David Carr once carried this program as well.
David was a stud in college and a flat out winner, as his younger brother Derek will now be taking over the starting gig. Ryan Colburn was the starter a year ago, netting 23 TD’s and 2,817 yards.
Give Mr. R The Rock
Running back Robbie Rouse went bonkers in a few games, as he had a total of 1,129 yards with eight TD’s. The OL only has two back with Bryce Harris and Leslie Cooper. Harris made Second Team All-WAC and will be the team leader offensively alongside Rouse, who enters his junior campaign.
The receiving core is fairly weak overall despite returning seven of their top nine pass catchers from a year ago.
Jalen Sanders is not a big target at 5’9”, 170 pounds, but his solid speed and quickness make him just good enough to get open against WAC corners.
The talent has not just suddenly dropped in Fresno, mainly because it has been dropping for years. Also, the talent will continue to dip if the Bulldogs do not start to steam roll opponents in the watered down, mediocre WAC.
More QB Struggles?
The offense was just 70th a season ago, averaging a pedestrian 370 yards per game, which is abysmal for Pat Hill standards.
The QB play could be better, and with a brand new starter, it may be asking for too much. The running game should improve a little bit from last year at 150 yards per game (65th).
How much improvement will be made will be determined on how Carr develops under center.
The defense has five back, and their DT Logan Harrell will be the main anchor up front. They lose their stud LB Ben Jacobs, who notched 87 tackles a year ago, but they do have their No. 2 tackler back in Travis Brown, who had 79 tackles.
The front seven was bullied up front by the Huskies in their bowl game, and this will continue to happen in those seven games I listed above.
The run defense was just 66th against the run, allowing 158 yards per game, and their pass defense was not much better.
Ranking 44th and allowing 208 yards per game is not a typical Fresno year, and a lot has to do with the inability to stop the run. They have been forced to load up the box with eight to nine men, which often puts the corners on islands by themselves.
Junior free safety Phillip Thomas is the only respectable player in that back four, though cornerback Jermaine Thomas is far from a scrub.
The schedule sets this team up for favorable in conference play if they can find a way to upset Hawaii or Nevada on the road.
They could be in a heap of trouble and miss a bowl game if they do not come out victorious against the big boys. Those five tough non-conference games against Boise State, Nebraska, California, San Diego State and Ole Miss will give us an idea if the talent truly has dropped for Pat Hill’s Bulldogs.
Predicted Finish: 6-7, 5-2
Predicted Bowl: None
Predicted order of finish in WAC: 3rd