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I hate playing Fresno State. Its not that I have a problem playing mid-major teams. I actually like how we are willing to give mid-majors home games, its something that a lot of other programs our size don't do, and it shows respect for those programs. But Fresno specifically is a bad team to play simply because there is no upside to such a game. Fresno is always a tough team at the beginning of the season. Pat Hill gets his team amped to play the big programs, they feel disrespected and play with a chip on their shoulder, and knock off teams that should beat them. That doesn't bother me, fear of losing is a bad reason not to schedule a team. But what sucks about Fresno is that they don't seem to care about playing their conference schedule, always lay an egg, and their final record is something that doesn't impress anybody. Therefore, even though you played Fresno in a dogfight and beat a team that was really good at the time you played them, you don't get rewarded for that game because it doesn't have the effect on the computer rankings that it should. Our contract with them ends after this season, and I motion that we don't schedule Fresno again until they can be a consistent team. They don't necessarily have to be a great team, just a team that plays with the same passion throughout the season that way, win or lose, you get the credit you deserve for playing them. Because the status quo is that you play a good early season team in a dogfight, and gain very little for it in the long run.
Now, the early betting line has Oregon +16 in this game. I don't know that that's going to happen. In the past five meetings between these two teams (all Duck victories), the largest MOV was seven points. Four times, the final tally was within four points. Fresno always gives Oregon their best and I have to believe that with Pat Hill knowing that this could be his final chance to get that elusive win over the Ducks. This will not be an easy game. But it is one that the Ducks should win as long as they don't overlook the Bulldogs.
While the Bulldogs went into freefall after the Oregon game last year, there is reason to believe that they will be better this year. Quarterback Tom Brandstater, who was wildly inconsistent last year, has looked very good through two games this season. Granted, one game was against 1-AA Sacramento State, but he was actually much better against Texas A&M, completing 67% of his passes for 260 yards, three TDs, and a pick. But how much can we really tell from two games? His biggest problem seems to be that he tries to make things happen instead of managing the game. This led last year to a lot of throws in double coverage. And he's going to have to be good for FSU to have a chance on Saturday, because we know what Oregon's secondary has done turnover-wise.
At running back, bruising Dwayne Wright is now in the NFL (thank God), and there are a few different backs that we could see in their place. Freshman Ryan Matthews has looked very good thus far, Lonyae Miller and Anthony Harding much less so. Hopefully, Fresno's problems in the running game will lead to more passing, which Oregon's defense is better suited to handle. In the receiving game, TE Bear Pascoe is the biggest threat. The junior is big at 6'5" and has great hands. He is second on the team with 10 receptions, and has all four FSU receiving touchdowns this year. If Oregon leaves him open, FSU will go to him all day. The rest of the receiving corps, to be frank, is fairly uninspiring. Chastin West was their best receiver last year, but he hurt his knee and is out for the year. Marlon Moore is the most dangerous of the remaining receivers, and leads the team with 11 receptions.
Defensively, Fresno runs a 4-3. They have a solid senior laden defensive line, but lack any real pass rush. Two of their linebackers were lost to graduation, and their secondary was terrible last year. They have talent, for sure, but the defensive talent on this team has yet to live up to their potential.
We'll have more on the Bulldogs in the coming days. I hope to have a Q&A with some Fresno folks up on Thursday, and my preview up on Friday.