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Fresno State Preview 2006
Fresno State Bulldogs
Posted Aug 9, 2006

Choke. Gag. Collapse. Any negative word you want to attach to the final few games of the Fresno State season can apply.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

For all the bluster and all the big talk about playing anyone, anywhere, any time, Fresno State hasn't won the WAC championship since 1999, and it has never won it outright.

Oh sure, the program has played well against the biggest of the big boys highlighted by a huge scare thrown into USC last season, but much of the national reputation has been built on beating mediocre BCS conference teams (2004 Washington, 2004 Kansas State, and 2001 Wisconsin), or coming close against great teams (2005 Oregon and USC) without coming away with wins.

Of course Fresno State wants to play anyone, anywhere; it's a no-risk proposition. If the Bulldogs lose to a big-time team, no one thinks much about it. But a win, or a close loss, and head coach Pat Hill tells anyone who'll listen, and many who won't, how his team deserves respect, and then the national attention follows.

Head coach: Pat Hill
10th year: 72-43
Returning Lettermen: 49
Lettermen Lost: 16
Ten Best FSU Players
1. C Kyle Young, Sr.
2. LB Dwayne Andrews, Sr.
3. WR Paul Williams, Sr.
4. CB Marcus McCauley, Jr.
5. RB Dwayne Wright, Jr.
6. OG Cole Popovich, Soph.
7. DT Louis Leonard, Sr.
8. SS Josh Sherley, Sr.
9. FB Roshon Vercher, Sr.
10. WR Joe Fernandez, Sr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/1 Nevada
9/9 Oregon
9/16 at Washington
9/30 Colorado State
10/7 at Utah State
10/14 Hawaii
10/21 at LSU
11/1 at Boise State
11/11 New Mexico State
11/18 Idaho
11/24 at Louisiana Tech
12/2 at San Jose State

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record: 8-5

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/10 Weber State W 55-17
9/17 at Oregon L 37-34
9/27 Toledo W 44-14
9/8 at New Mexico St W 37-7
10/15 Utah State W 53-21
10/22 at Idaho W 40-10
10/29 at Hawaii W 27-13
11/5 San Jose St W 45-7
11/10 Boise State W 27-7
11/19 at USC L 50-42
11/26 at Nevada L 38-31
12/2 Louisiana Tech L 40-28
12/31 Liberty Bowl
Tulsa L 31-24

While all that's great since a program like Fresno State needs all the promotion it can get, there hasn't been enough substance behind the hype. Does all the focus and all the attention on playing the big name teams take away from the concentration on winning the WAC title? After all, how can you get up for playing Nevada when you've come within an eyelash of beating the number one team in the nation? 

The bigger question becomes whether or not Hill can get his team up for every game. A long college football season requires a team to be steady and to know when to turn on the emotion and when to focus on the potential landmines. Of course Hill and his staff can coach, and the USC and Oregon games proved that this is a talented enough program to play with anyone, so how do you possibly explain a home loss to Louisiana Tech with the WAC title on the line and a bowl loss to a good, but not great, Tulsa team? How do you explain an 0-3 start to the 2004 WAC season?

This year's team is good enough to win the WAC title even though Boise State is loaded and Nevada, Hawaii and Louisiana Tech are good. If a steady quarterback emerges from the three-way race between Tom Brandstater, Sean Norton and Ryan Colburn, the passing game will be explosive. The running game will be great with Dwayne Wright returning from a knee injury to work behind a big and talented line. The receiving corps is solid, the defense will be among the best in the WAC, and the special teams are easily the best in the conference.

If, and it's a huge, screaming if, Fresno State can beat Oregon and pull off a shocker at LSU, the potential is there with the new BCS format to be in the hunt for a big money game even at 11-1. While that might sound like crazy talk, that's the positive potential of taking on a nasty schedule. Of course, the BCS isn't going to happen without winning the WAC.

The Schedule: The plus: Oregon, Nevada, and Hawaii all have to come to Fresno. The minus: back-to-back road games at LSU and Boise State. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, even losses to the Tigers and Broncos won't mean a big slide with home games against New Mexico State and Idaho to follow. The opening two games against Nevada and Oregon will set the tone for the year, while the third game, at an improved Washington, will be big to see how strong the team will be on the road.

Best Offensive Player: Senior C Kyle Young. He's big, he's talented, and he'll soon be really rich. The 330-pound senior can play center or guard at the next level, and will be in the hunt for the Rimington Award and All-America honors this season as the leader of a strong line.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Dwayne Andrews. Don't go handing over the WAC Defensive Player of the Year honors to Boise State linebacker Korey Hall quite yet. Andrews is due for a huge season as the quarterback of the WAC's best defense. A few more splashy stats will put him in the mix for several post-season awards.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Tom Brandstater. Sophomore Sean Norton and freshman Ryan Colburn will each get their chances at the starting gig, but Brandstater will likely be the day one starter against Nevada. The big sophomore has a live arm and should make some big, big plays with a veteran receiving corps to work with. The key will be consistency needing to keep the chains moving and not give away too many interceptions.

The season will be a success if ... Fresno State wins the WAC title. It has to be the goal. Playing well against Oregon and LSU would be icing on the cake compared to finally getting over the hump and becoming the outright best team in the league.

Key game: Nov. 1 at Boise State. The Bulldogs finally got over the hex the Broncos held over them, and then proceeded to lose the final four games of the year. Fresno State hasn't beaten Boise State in Boise since 1984, and it can't win the WAC title without coming away with a win this year.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Sacks: Fresno State 34 for 217 yards - Opponents 14 for 92 yards
- Penalties: Fresno State 105 for 944 yards - Opponents 69 for 623 yards
- Punt return average: Fresno State 18.6 yards per return - Opponents 5.7 yards per return

The Last Time Fresno State…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Liberty Bowl vs. Tulsa)
…missed a bowl game…1998
…pitched a shutout…2004 (SMU)
…was shutout…1998 (San Diego State)
…scored 50 points…2005 (Utah State)
…went undefeated…1985
…won a conference title…1999 (share, WAC
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2005 (Paul Pinegar)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Wendell Mathis)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2001 (Rodney Wright)
…had a first-round draft choice…2005 (G Logan Mankins)

Related Stories
Fresno State Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 9, 2006
Fresno State Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by  Aug 9, 2006
Fresno State Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by  Aug 9, 2006

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