Oregon had an easy win last week against a 10-3 conference champion. Not too shabby, eh? This week comes Fresno State University. Fresno State is around a 34.5-point underdog coming in to the game Saturday. A few years ago this matchup would have been something special. Before 2007 the Fresno State game was one to watch for, because crazy stuff always happened. Could Fresno State pull the upset? What do they need to do to cover? Read on and go forth!
Fresno State will win if:
Oregon fails to convert third downs. In 2006 when Oregon relied on Paul Martinez to score a touchdown off a fake field goal with less than 5 minutes left, Fresno State held Oregon to less than 50% 3rd down efficiency. A key for Fresno State as they too try to run the hurry up, is to get the ball way from Oregon.
Force turnovers. Fresno state has to force turnovers. Building on getting as many possessions as possible, the Bulldogs have to force turnovers and get the Oregon offense off the field. In an ideal world, for Fresno State, these turnovers will happen in Oregon's territory, you know, because Oregon's defense is really good.
They lull Oregon in to a false sense of security. When Oregon went up 50-10 the third and fourth team defenders saw the field and Oregon went deep on the depth chart on offense. Fresno State could try to get those units on in the first quarter. This would give them 45 minutes of game time with their starters to try and get all the points back. It is so crazy it just might work.
They don't kick to De'Anthony Thomas. When Josh Huff and De'Anthony Thomas lined up deep on kickoff return it was a true "pick your poison" scenario. Arkansas State opted to kick to neither and just perpetually pooched the ball to Pharaoh Brown. Yeah, it was boring as hell and deprived every fan in the stadium of what they wanted to see, but it was effective.
Oregon will win if:
They show up. Oregon is much better on both sides of the ball than Fresno State. Blowing a game against a team that is a 34.5-point underdog would be colossal. Not as colossal as when Stanford beat USC in 2007 when the Cardinal were 41.5-point underdogs.
Oregon's backups don't blow it in the second half. Did you see them play defense? The walk-ons and true freshmen couldn't stop anything in the second half against a team that went 10-3 and won their conference. On a more serious note, I'm not worried about players third and fourth on the depth chart when they aren't really playing with anyone from the 1's and 2's. It would be a lot nicer to see outside contain present on running plays. But then on the flip side the defense may not have anything to improve on film.
Stop explosive plays. Last year the Fresno State Bulldogs was the 9th best offense in terms of explosive plays according to Football Outsiders FEI rating. Oregon was rated fourth. Fresno State is also running a no huddle hurry up and is trying to match Oregon's speed. With no huddle hurry-up offenses there is a snowball effect once defenses get caught on their heels.
Create their own explosive plays. Fresno State was ranked 114th in limiting explosive plays on defense. 114th! Get the ball to De'Anthony, or Barner, or Mariota. You know what, just get the ball to somebody in space.