Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Post-Gazette Nails It

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette nails it:
Don't sleep on Fresno State. Its only loss this season came in Week 2 against No. 10 Oregon, 37-34. Fresno State should be able to score against the suspect USC defense. The question is: Will the Bulldogs be able to slow down the high-powered Trojans offense?
I couldn't have said it better myself. And, after the Boise game, there is at least a glimmer of hope that we can stop USC at least some of the time.

Should USC Be Fearful of Fresno State?

The notion that USC should be afraid of Fresno State is pretty silly, but the question was asked to MSNBC's college football expert Joey Johnston, and Johnston gives a pretty good answer:
Fearful? Definitely not.

Wary? Definitely.

Cognizant of avoiding complacency and not looking ahead to the cross-town rivalry meeting with UCLA? Absolutely.

This shouldn’t be a pushover game. Fresno State (8-1), almost more than any other program in recent seasons, has rallied itself into a beat-the-BCS-school upset fervor. Fresno State has won 10 of its last 17 meetings against BCS conference schools. It’s hard to forget the 2001 season, when the Bulldogs opened with victories against Colorado, Oregon State and Wisconsin (probably costing Colorado a shot at playing for the national championship).
Johnston goes on to give some pretty good insight on the game, including what Fresno State needs to do to win (offense, special teams, the Notre Dame model), and seems to suggest USC can roll over Fresno State even if overlooking us, before dropping the closest final score prediction yet:
Even if USC does look past Fresno State — an unlikely prospect since USC coach Pete Carroll has been cautioning his team for days about the mentality of this game — the Trojans still have the horses to win powerfully. Fresno State has Us vs. Them emotion, and the Other Side of the Tracks incentive. But it’s not going to be quite enough.

USC 40, Fresno State 28.
Obviously, as a passionate and lifelong fan of Fresno State, until the game is over, I'm not conceding anything about the outcome of the game. In my mind, we can win if everything comes together. But, if we lose, but by only 12 points at USC, we are going to feel pretty good about that, build on it, and earn a lot of respect. Still, for now, the only compelling argument is going in there and winning the damn game!

Even Critics Have To Admit That BCS Works?

The Sports Curmedgeon says, "Even critics have to admit that the BCS works."

No we don't. Just to say something works better than the old bowl system, as far as determining a champion, doesn't mean to say it works as good as we would like, or as best as we can envision. Especially when the solution is so, so easy:
Keep the BCS, and the major bowls, but instead of having #1 play #2, have #1 play #4, and #2 play #3. Then, the week after, host a national championship game between the winners of these games. Let the major bowls alternate for the national championship game, or not (i.e. just call it the BCS championship game). Though this is still not perfect, nothing in life is, and very few people will be paying attention if the 5th place team is crying about how they should be the champion (as opposed to the #2 or #3 team). And, if this 5th place team is undefeated from a lesser conference, perhaps it will just encourage another round of minor BCS tweaking.
Why can't we have a little early January Madness, to go with March? Put the game on Monday night, so that it caps off the NFL wild card weekend...

USC Is Vulnerable On Defense

After a few more injuries last week, one would think that wise commentators would refrain from boasting too loudly about USC's improved defense. Read after me: Cal sucks this year. Their quarterback sucks. And, even though their quarterback sucks, Cal ran for something like 160 yards against USC, in a game Cal was largely behind, and Marshawn Lynch averaged about 8 yards a carry. The national commentary on how great USC's defense is comedy at best.

Reality bites, and so may the Dogs on Saturday. Cal is no comparison to our offensive crew at this point. Pinegar is at the top of his game, so we have no concerns at quarterback. We have two hard-hitting running backs, and a crew of hard working receivers. If we game plan right, we will go right after the inexperienced and hurting linebacker crew of USC. Confuse them with lots of routes in their area, so they can't focus too much on the run. If future NFLers like Bing start creeping up too frequently to help out the linebackers, we need to be ready to pop the deep ball without hesitation.

It is not outside the realm of possibility for us to control the clock with a combination of effective running, a plethora of crossing routes in the mid-range area, a few reverses, and some deep post corners to keep them honest. The key will be sound execution, as we need to make the pass, catch the ball, and protect the quarterback effectively for the game plan to work. We have the tools and talent.

Tom Dienhart at the Sporting News Predicts...

USC over Fresno State: I'm having flashbacks to the 1992 Freedom Bowl, when the Bulldogs dumped the Trojans. And USC subsequently dumped Larry Smith. That, my friends, was the beginning of the end for the Men of Troy, who went to just one Rose Bowl over the next 10 seasons. Will Fresno State provide another catalyst for a USC demise? Nah. Just thought I'd give you a little fun history lesson. The Trojans have too much at stake -- and too much of everything else -- to let Pat Hill clunk them over the head with a wrench.
Of course, predicting a straight-up (no points) victory by USC over Fresno State is about the safest statement one can make as a commentator. Where's the guts? I want to see some points...

The Harmon Forecast at CBS Sportsline Predicts...37-24!

Now, this prediction, USC wins 37-24, proclaims that USC will not beat Fresno State by 2 touchdowns in their own stadium, in arguably their greatest season! Ballsy. We all know there's a chance for victory, and a better chance for a good showing (as well as a chance to get creamed), but these are not necessarily good chances, or betting chances, and for a national commentator to make such a prediction is interesting.

I'm guessing at this point that the spread is going to even out somewhere between 2 and 3 touchdowns, and this would constitute the best, or betting, chances. For me, I have one hard and fast rule: never bet on my own team. The only point I could see in that is to bet against them, since if they lose, I have a consolation prize. But I just don't see myself ever doing that...

Tony Mejia at CBS Sportsline Predicts...37-17

Tony Mejia does a weekly prediction of winners and scores, and seems to be pretty good at it judging from his 73.5% accuracy this season (and 75% accuracy last season), but one does wonder if he's just padding his stats by including so many gimme games.

Regardless, his prediction for Saturday's game: USC 37, Fresno State 17.

June Jones Weighs In...

June Jones, head coach of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, weighs in on the game, having lost to both teams this season:

"Fresno State doesn't have anything to lose, and they've got a little bit of an attitude themselves, and I think they'll play them well," Jones said. "Whether they can beat them or not, who knows, but I think they'll give them a game."

Monday, November 14, 2005

Pete Carroll On The Dogs

San Diego Tribune:

"On both sides of the ball, they have a real nice system," Carroll said Sunday. "They are real similar to us in what they do offensively and defensively, the way they spread the ball out, they have two big running backs, good receivers they get the ball down field to. Pat's NFL background shows up in the things they're doing, so there are some similarities, really."
There is much more to this article, and I recommend you check it out.

Fresno State BCS At-Large Spot?

Not sure what this guy is smoking, but Don Markus of the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida opines:
BCS or bust: // Fresno State could help its cause for the second at-large spot - the first going to Notre Dame as long as the Irish win out - if the Bulldogs even stay close to USC on Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum. If that doesn't happen, any number of traditional powers could wind up as the BCS wild card, with the favorites being Penn State or Ohio State.
Knowing how college football works, and the big conferences, and the BCS, I'm not sure how we would be picked ahead of Penn State, let alone Ohio State, if we lose to USC, no matter how competitively, for the second BCS at-large spot, but if we pull out a win, then it would be a definite possibility, if not guaranteed. Oregon needs to win out too.

Pete Carroll on Fresno State

USA Today:
"Fresno's a fantastic-looking team," he says. "They may be the best team we play all year."

No. 1 USC Not There Yet

Wendell Barnhouse at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is one of the first to report on the upcoming game:
"We can beat anybody in the nation, that's just how it is," center Kyle Young told The Fresno Bee after the Boise State game.

That confidence has been instilled by Fresno State coach Pat Hill. In his eight seasons, the Bulldogs' nonconference scheduling philosophy has been "anyone, anytime, anywhere."

In the 1992 Freedom Bowl, Fresno State upset a ranked USC team. That made most Pacific-10 teams -- the Trojans in particular -- leery of scheduling the upstarts from the San Joaquin Valley.

Under Hill, the Bulldogs have played at least two teams from BCS conferences every year. During Hill's tenure, Fresno State is 4-7 in games against Pac-10 teams. This year's only loss was at Oregon, 37-34, in Week 2.

"This is the best team they've ever had," Trojans coach Pete Carroll said.

If there's a team that can be BCS busters, a team that can wreck perfection this season, it's Fresno State.
If this any sign of the reporting to come, there is going to be a lot of interest nationwide in this game. We're on the map.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


A big game from Pinegar will be key. In order to free up space for Mathis and Sumlin, we will need to keep both the safeties and linebackers honest. Ultimately, our target and USC's vulnerability lies with USC's linebackers, where they have been plagued with injuries and are very inexperienced. We take advantage of these linebackers, with an effective play action passing game, while also taking every opportunity to go deep if their top-notch safeties creep up, and we can put up 35-40+ on USC.


Will Fresno State be able to pressure Leinart into a few mistakes? This is going to be key in stealing a victory...

The Big Game

The Big Game is here - the biggest game in Fresno State football history. Up next, arguably one of the great college football teams of all-time over the past few years - the USC Trojans, with Heisman winner Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, and Lendale White, among so many other solid talents, a 31-game winning streak over 3 seasons, and the defending national champions going on two years.

For Fresno State, everything has gone according to plan. We are #16 in the nation, our highest ranking ever achieved at this point of a season (previously, we've been ranked high in the preseason, had some big wins and then blew it, dropping out of the rankings, or we slip in at the end of the season with a big bowl win). The only blip on our season has been the Fresno State collapse at Oregon early in the season, but in many ways that may have been for better rather than worse, in keeping the team focused and humble, and not having the pressure of being undefeated. Oregon has gone on to lose only one game all season, and that only to USC, and they are highly ranked in the BCS, so this has not turned out to be a bad loss in terms of national recognition or ranking.

This past week, we took care of the most pressing business before USC, and actually the most pressing business we had to accomplish this year, which was beating Boise State. Boise has beat and embarassed us for 4 years, including defeating us when we were undefeated and BCS-dreaming with David Carr at quarterback 4 years ago. Ever since, we've been getting handled by Boise State, and looking on the outside in as far as the national picture. No more. Nothing was more important than beating them this year, and we did it.

We not only beat Boise State, we whipped them. Our defense looked really solid, and has boosted my assessment of our prospects against USC. Before the Boise State game, I had serious doubts about our defensive capability to stop USC from putting up 50+ points on us. After seeing us basically shutout Boise State (for 55+ minutes), I have more hope for our prospects, but only in the sense of holding them to 35-40 possibly. If we can do that, hold them to 35-40, we have a chance to win, since USC's defense isn't quite as powerful as it's been in past years, they are hurting at linebacker, and if we play our best game, or a perfect game, we can put up 35-40 on USC.

The keys will be to stop Reggie Bush and Lendale White, which is not an easy task. In fact, White may be the bigger threat, as we have a lot of speed, but Lendale is a load very hard to bring down, definitely NFL caliber, and has great vision in terms of holes and cut execution. As for Bush, always dangerous, nothing more needs to be said, and stopping these two will be our biggest challenge (I would love it if Pete plays Bush more than White, as he tends to do sometimes for Bush's Heisman campaign). Crazy as it may sound, our best chance for victory is to make Leinart, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner who should be starting in the NFL right now, beat us through the air, and hope for some breaks defensively in terms of turnovers (not likely to happen if USC is dominating on the ground, as neither Bush or White is a fumbler).

Meanwhile, our offense looks to be peaking right now. Running on USC will be harder than against any other team we've played, and we're going to need to be able to threaten them through the air throughout the game to stretch the field for Mathis and Sumlin. They're defensive secondary is a strength, and safety Bing is pro-caliber and 2006 1st rounder. We'll need to keep the safeties back, worried about the deep ball, while actually picking them apart more through the mid-range passing game. USC is inexperienced at linebacker right now due to injury, so if we can challenge and keep them guessing with effective pass routes in their area, we will then be more successful running the ball, since they will not be able to overplay the linebackers or safeties. If they do overplay, we'll have to punish them for it, and that's what I mean by playing our best or perfect game, in that we do not waste these opportunities with bad passes, drops, or failed pass protection/blitz pickups.

This blog will live this week, and maybe next if we want to talk about the game, and reflect on it, either in celebration or damage assessment. I'll be posting some analysis, as I've seen every USC game this year and have some ideas about how to approach them, and I always like to speculate on what Fresno ought to do. Feel free to comment and add your own analysis, including challenging my own.