college football picks Fresno State at Utah State 9-18-10

September 18, 2010


DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 18th, 8:00 p.m. (et).

FACTS & STATS: Site: Romney Stadium (25,513) — Logan, Utah. Television: None. Home Record: FSU 1-0, USU 1-0. Away Record: FSU 0-0, USU 0-1. Neutral Record: FSU 0-0, USU 0-0. Conference Record: FSU 0-0, USU 0-0. Series Record: Fresno State leads, 14-10-1.

GAME NOTES: The Fresno State Bulldogs get back to the business of football this weekend when they drop in on the Utah State Aggies in the Western Athletic Conference opener for both programs at Romney Stadium.

The Bulldogs kicked off the 2010 campaign by exacting revenge on Cincinnati in the season opener back on September 4th with a 28-14 triumph. Fresno, which snapped the Bearcats’ 18-game regular-season win streak, caught a break in the schedule after that decision and didn’t play last week, which means the Bulldogs will be in action for the next six weeks before getting another bye.

As for the Aggies, they put a real scare into Oklahoma in the opening week of season, losing by just seven points (31-24) on the road to the national powerhouse. Last week the team rebounded with a 38-17 triumph over Idaho State in the home opener, although the thrill probably wasn’t as great as it would have been had USU taken out the Sooners. Nevertheless, the Aggies are well on their way to at least matching their win total from all of last season when they finished 4-8.

The relationship between these two schools dates back to 1952 when Fresno logged a 27-21 win at home. Most recently the Bulldogs picked up a 31-27 win in their building last year, giving them three straight victories in the series and six in the last seven matchups. However, USU is not that far out of contention when it comes to the all-time series, with FSU holding to a 14-10-1 advantage.

The offense was a little rocky in the early going, but by the second quarter the Bulldogs were hitting their stride. More specifically, quarterback Ryan Colburn was hitting everything he took aim at and finished with four passing scores in the win over Cincinnati at home during the first week of the season. Colburn connected on 18-of-24 passes for 247 yards, shook off a pair of sacks and an interception as life without Ryan Mathews began for Fresno State and head coach Pat Hill. Even though the squad managed only 49 yards rushing, with Robbie Rouse accounting for 40 yards on 20 attempts, the good news for the Bulldogs was that Colburn hit four different receivers for touchdowns and that was good enough to place FSU first in the nation in pass efficiency with a rating of 208.12 after one game. Needless to say, Colburn won’t be able to keep up that accuracy and the run game can’t afford to remain 117th in the country.

Against a Cincinnati team that seemed to have its way with most opponents last season, the Bulldogs completely clamped down on the visitors and held them to just 234 yards of total offense, averaging a mere 3.2 yards per snap. The biggest reason for FSU’s success was the play of junior tackle Logan Harrell who gained national recognition with his four sacks and a forced fumble. As a whole, the Bulldogs came up with nine total sacks, which is rather amazing given that Cincy permitted just 15 all of last season. Chris Carter stepped up his play as well with three sacks and a forced fumble. Last year the front seven for the Bulldogs logged a total of only 11 sacks, so they are well on their way to setting new standards. Factor in all 12 of the team’s tackles behind the line of scrimmage and it is easy to see how they limited the Bearcats to just 15 yards rushing. In 2009, the Bulldogs ranked 68th in the nation in TFLs with 5.5 per game and were a dismal 119th in sacks with 0.85 per outing.

The running attack of the Aggies was hitting all the rights marks in the home opener against Idaho State over the weekend, generating not only 275 yards but also four touchdowns, one of them coming from quarterback Diondre Borel who was more than happy to share the wealth. Michael Smith and Derrvin Speight both carried the ball 12 times and combined for 161 yards, while Borel was credited with 28 yards on nine attempts. The signal-caller converted 21-of-26 passes for 255 yards and a score as well. Borel had his ups and downs in the season opener against seventh-ranked Oklahoma, but it is clear that he’s still one of the better quarterbacks in the WAC even if he doesn’t get the same sort of headlines as Kellen Moore of Boise State and Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick. His accuracy (61.3 percent) is certainly top-notch, even if his end production, just three touchdowns through the air, doesn’t match up with the other two league standouts.

Right out of the gate it appeared the USU defense might have some issues against the Bengals, allowing the visitors to march down the field and kick a successful field goal on the first drive. But then the Aggies got strong and forced seven punts over the next nine possessions, the other two being halted by a Utah State interception and the end of the first half. Granted, USU permitted a pair of touchdowns in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, but those stemmed from turnovers that gave Idaho State a short field both times. Last season the Utah State defense was tested time and time again and generally bent a little too much while allowing opponents to generate a lofty 34 ppg, ranking them 107th in the country. In 2009 the unit permitted opponents to post 455.1 ypg in offense and that was far too lenient as well. The biggest problem for the squad was that they had trouble getting into the backfield and managed just 4.4 TFLs per outing and that trend appears to be continuing in 2010 with just four TFLs per game.

If the Aggies give Colburn too much time in the pocket without hassling the quarterback, USU’s secondary will have a long night and could be subjected to another loss.


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