Fresno St Bulldogs
2010 Record: 8-5
2010 Bowl Result: Lost Humanitarian Bowl 40-17 to Northern Illinois
2010 Against the Spread: 5-7-1
2010 over/under: 7-6
Returning Starters: 9 (4 offense, 5 defense)
Throughout August we are releasing pre-season previews for all the major college teams. Our College Football Handicappers are doing plenty of research to make sure we release winners every week during the upcoming season.
Last season Fresno St was a difficult team to predict. They were 8-5 on the season with wins over middling BCS conference teams Cincinnati and Illinois, both at home in Fresno. They lost at Mississippi 55-38, and their other three losses in the regular season were to Hawaii, Nevada, and Boise St who all tied for the WAC title. The season ended in the Humanitarian Bowl with the Bulldogs getting crushed 40-17 by Northern Illinois. This season Coach Pat Hill and the Bulldogs return only 9 starters. They are still picked to finish second in the wide-open WAC with the departure of Boise St to the Mountain West.
Here is a look at Fresno St’s offense, defense, special teams, and schedule.
Fresno St’s offense was ranked at or near the middle of the country in all statistical categories. The Bulldogs averaged 374 total yards a game, including 220 passing yards, and 154 rushing yards a game. They scored 29 points a game. The unit returns only four starters from a year ago.
Sophomore Derek Carr, brother of former Bulldogs’ quarterback David, takes over as the quarterback for Ryan Colburn. Carr sat out last year after throwing a handful of passes in 2009. He doesn’t have a very strong arm, but he is a much better runner than his brother. Derek has been praised for his playmaking skills. Barring injury, he will be Fresno’s quarterback for the next 3 years. Redshirt freshman Greg Watson and JUCO transfer Kelly O’Brien are the back-ups in case something happens to Carr.
Junior Robbie Rouse showed flashes of being one of the best running backs in the country last season, despite battling an ankle injury early and a rib injury late in the season. During one four game stretch, he rushed for 769 yards and 7 touchdowns. He ended up with 205 carries, 1,129 yards, and 8 touchdowns. If he can stay healthy he is a very dangerous weapon. Rouse also had 15 catches for 131 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Juniors Michael Harris and A.J. Ellis also return and both battled injuries last year as well. Ellis had 76 carries, 281 yards, and 3 touchdowns. He also had 13 catches and two touchdowns. Harris had 27 carries, 101 yards, and 2 touchdowns last year. He has been very impressive in fall camp and will likely be the #2 back behind Rouse. UCLA transfer Milton Knox will also be in the mix. Knox rushed for over 2,200 yards and 39 touchdowns in his senior year of high school. He had a few carries for UCLA in 2009. Colburn was second on the team in carries with 95, so expect those carries to go to Carr.
Though Fresno loses top receiver Jamel Hamler, the rest of the top receivers return. Junior Rashad Evans had 39 catches, 424 yards, and 4 touchdowns last year. He will be the #1 receiver this year. Sophomore Jalen Saunders had 30 catches, 462 yards, and 3 touchdowns. He also had 19 carries for 166 yards and returned kicks for the Bulldogs. He had 1,465 all purpose yards last season. Sophomore A.J. Johnson had 20 catches, 241 yards, and a score last year. Senior J.J. Stallworth and redshirt freshman Josh Harper will also get some targets. Senior Devon Wylie missed most of last year with a foot injury but returns for one more year. Isaiah Burse will get some targets and some carries as well. He had 13 catches, 190 yards, and 2 touchdowns last year along with 16 carries, 71 yards and a touchdown. Senior Ryan Skidmore and sophomore Ryan Boschma are the tight ends but mostly be used for blocking rather than catching passes.
The offensive line struggled in pass protection last year giving up 36 sacks. That explains Colburn having 95 carries for 75 yards. He had to run for his life most of the time. Senior left tackle Bryce Harris is the only returning starter but he struggled with pass protection. Junior left guard Matt Hunt could be a star and will help bolster the pass protection.
Like the offense, the defense wasn’t awful but wasn’t great either. The Bulldogs gave up 370.8 total yards a game, including 208.8 passing yards, and 162.1 rushing yards a game. They allowed 30 points a game. Fresno returns 5 starters from that unit.
The defense needs to force more turnovers as they only forced 13 last season. Junior DT Logan Harrell and safety Phillip Thomas are the defensive leaders. The Bulldogs will have very quick linebackers, along with an athletic secondary. The line should be able to get pressure. This unit improved a lot last year and could be even better this year.
Senior Kevin Goessling is one of the nation’s top kickers. He made 21 out of 26 field goals and 42 out of 44 extra points last season. All 5 misses were from 40 or more.
Andrew Shapiro returns as the punter. He only averages 37 yards a punt, but he had 21 kicks inside the 20 and forced 27 fair catches. He also only had one touchback. Saunders and Burse will return kicks. Both averaged over 23 yards a return last year. Saunders and Evans will return punts for Fresno St.
Fresno opens up with California in a neutral site game in San Francisco before they travel to Nebraska. The Bulldogs then open up the home schedule with North Dakota, before traveling to Idaho. They then have a three game home stand against Ole Miss, Boise St, and Utah St. Fresno then travels to Reno for a showdown with Nevada that will help determine the conference title. Fresno returns home to host Louisiana Tech. They finish with 3 of the last 4 on the road. The Bulldogs travel to New Mexico St and Hawaii in another key conference game, before hosting San Jose St and finishing up against future conference foe San Diego St on the road. The schedule is challenging but Fresno should win 8 or 9 games and contend for the conference title. It doesn’t help that the Bulldogs have to travel to both Nevada and Hawaii, their two main rivals for the WAC title.
Fresno was 5-7-1 against the spread last year including 3-4-1 at home and 2-3 on the road. The over/under was 7-6, including 3-5 at home and 4-1 on the road.
Game to play Fresno St
The Bulldogs open up the season with a game in San Francisco against California. The Golden Bears are 10 point favorites. However, this is the kind of game where Fresno usually keeps it close or maybe even pulls the upset. I like the Bulldogs to cover against Cal.
Game to play against Fresno St
Last season Fresno hosted Hawaii and lost 49-27. The Bulldogs travel to the Islands for the rematch. I like Hawaii to win big in that game as well. The two schools will move to the Mountain West next year along with Nevada.
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