Tuesday, August 5, 2008

CFB Preseason Rankings - #21

With the College Football season now less than 30 days away from getting started, GDB's resident expert Young Swole will begin unleashing his preseason top 25. Today we look at the Fresno State Bulldogs.

2008 seems to be shaping up as the year of the Bulldog. The University of Georgia has received the #1 ranking in the coaches poll and Fresno State has the talent to go on a Hawaii-like run and get to a BCS game. Fresno has had some talented teams in the past, but this one may have the most potential of any team Pat Hill has ever coached.

Offense: Fresno has pretty much everyone back from a dynamic offense. While offensive coordinator Jim McElwain moved on to to Alabama, don't look for this offense to miss a beat. Quarterback Tom Brandstater returns, as does 4 out of 5 starting offensive linemen and all the running backs who saw time last year. Pat Hill believes in running the ball to be effective, and this year's Fresno edition should be no different. This will help Fresno control the clock as well as open up play-action opportunities to tight end Bear Pascoe and a speedy group of receivers.

Defense: Fresno's defense isn't exactly The Steel Curtain, but it will be aided by the return of many starters. Almost all the secondary returns the youthful defensive line should improve with more experience. The key to Fresno's defensive effort will be getting more big plays out of the unit. One thing is for sure, Fresno is going to have to give up a lot less than 27 points per game as they did last year if they want to make a BCS game. The D should be improved, but it still looks like the offense has the upper hand.

Coaching: Pat Hill gets major props for being one of the ballsiest coaches in the nation. He schedules his teams to go up against some of the biggest programs in the nation. No one will forget how little Fresno almost knocked off USC a few years ago despite the greatest game Reggie Bush ever played, and it seems like every year the Bulldogs knock off a big conference school that they aren't supposed to. Hill has an explosive team this time around and the attitude he instills in his team should guarantee his team will never back down from a challenge, and will have a chance to win even in their games with the big boys.

Predicted Schedule and Outcomes:
@ Rutgers - L
Wisconsin - W
@ Toledo - W
@ UCLA - W
Hawaii - W
Idaho - W
@ Utah State - W
@ Louisiana Tech - L
Nevada - W
New Mexico State - W
@ San Jose State - W
@ Boise State - L

Whenever you have 7 games on the road, your going to have a tough schedule. But Fresno's is made even harder when you consider they have to go cross-country three separate times. The biggest game on the schedule is when Wisconsin rolls into town. This game is going to mean a ton to the team and its the type of game that Pat Hill thrives on. Look for a big upset in this game, though it wouldn't really be too shocking. Unfortunately, Fresno has a penchant for losing WAC games that they really aren't supposed to. I could definitely see them dropping a game to Louisiana Tech or San Jose State as the toll of the early schedule begins to hit home. And while the season will start with dreams of a BCS game, its hard to see Fresno going up to Boise and winning on the blue turf with the WAC title on the line. Still, when you beat Wisconsin at home and go 9-3 on the season, it has to be considered a solid campaign by one of the best teams out side of the big 6 power conferences.

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