Some fans question why Fresno State head coach Pat Hill continues to schedule difficult games out of conference.
Many of those fans question why the Bulldogs had to open with California and at Nebraska after seeing the ‘Dogs lose both games. In hindsight, it is easy to question, however, one can argue the Bulldogs had a chance to win both games. The Bears and Cornhuskers were not out of Fresno State’s league, but both were better than the Bulldogs that particular day.
Digging deeper, Fresno State was playing at Nebraska because it is the first of a three-game series that will send the Cornhuskers to Fresno in 2014 and the Bulldogs back to Lincoln in 2016. It’s not a one-and-done. And after seeing Fresno State push Nebraska around for four quarters before falling 42-29, it’s evident it wasn’t a “body bag” game some picture it as.
Cal is game many expected the Bulldogs to compete in and have an opportunity to win. FS played extremely poor on both sides of the ball and lost 36-21. However, when presented an opportunity to play a 13th game at a neutral site versus an in-state Pac-12 team, there’s no way any fan could expect Hill or the athletic administration to turn it down. As well, the $900,000 payday helped the ailing athletic budget.
The home game with North Dakota was scheduled in 2009 when the Bulldogs expected to play an eight-game WAC schedule with four home and four away. The second game in a three-game series with Ole Miss gave FS six home games for the 2011 season. A road game at Colorado, as part of a three-game series, completed the non-conference slate along with Nebraska. However, conference expansion reduced Fresno State’s home conference schedule by one game, and Colorado had to push back the game with the Bulldogs to 2012.
The Bulldogs were able to secure a home game with Boise State to replace the home game with the Broncos that was suppose to be a WAC game before BSU left for the MWC. Furthermore, Fresno State was able to schedule a road game at long-time rival San Diego State to replace the road date at Colorado.
The home game with the Rebels will mark the fifth time in six years Fresno State will host a BCS team. So outside of canceling the three-game series with Nebraska and/or not scheduling Boise State there was little chance for the Bulldogs to “soften” the slate. Most Bulldog fans would prefer to see Fresno State play at Nebraska considering the Cornhuskers would play in Fresno in three years compared to playing another FCS team. Despite the Broncos dominating Fresno State the last five years, the annual contest with Boise State is easily one of the most anticipated games of the season.
Next season, the Bulldogs have a schedule the naysayers have been asking to see – one game versus a top 25 BCS power (at Oregon), one game versus a mid-level BCS team (Colorado), a game versus a quality non-BCS program (at Tulsa), and a tune up game (Weber State). Those subset fans continue to question Hill’s scheduling until Fresno State starts winning more than it loses versus top 25 ball clubs – the ‘Dogs are currently 0-13 since 2005 in games versus top 25 teams.
But those fans will probably have to wait until Hill is no longer the head coach. He has said it more than once that as long as he is the head coach, Fresno State will continue to schedule the same way.
Hill wants to play the best, which coincidently helps the athletic budget considering away games at BCS schools usually equal larger paydays. Furthermore, the Bulldogs tough non-conference slate is their calling card with recruits. Many recruits choose Fresno State for the opportunity to play the schedule Hill believes is the best way to showcase his program.
Nevertheless, looking back at the last 14 years, if certain teams do not renege on contracts to play inside Bulldog Stadium, games at Tennessee, Oklahoma, and LSU among others probably would not have been scheduled.
8/30 Portland State – FCS (then 1AA) team opened the Hill era. ‘Dogs won 35-7.
9/6 Baylor – This was a return game for the Bulldogs trip to Waco in 1993. Hill’s first game against “power” conference team—there was no BCS in 1997. ‘Dogs lost a heartbreaker 37-35. Baylor finished 2-9.
9/13 @Oklahoma State – This was the first game of a scheduled home-and-home with the Cowboys. OSU was schedule to return in 2001. It was moved to 2002 then moved to 2003 before the Cowboys bought out the contract refusing to return the game. Fresno State lost 35-0 in schools only meeting. Oklahoma State finished 8-4.
9/20 @Oregon – This was the second game with a home-and-home with the Ducks. The series originally was slated to begin in 1997 with Oregon returning to Fresno in 1998. However, Pacific dropped football before the 1996 season and both FS and UO had UOP on the ’96 schedule. FS and Oregon agreed to play in ’96 and moved up the two game series a year. The ‘Dogs rallied to force overtime but lost 43-40 in the extra period. Oregon finished 6-5.
9/12 @Colorado – This was supposed to be a home game with Oregon (see above). Hill filled with a one-and-done with the Buffalos, who were ranked No. 16 entering the game. Fresno State jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but lost 29-21 when Billy Volek was stuffed at the goal line on 4th-and-1 run in the fourth quarter. Colorado finished 8-4.
9/19 @Texas Tech – This was the first game of a schedule home-and-home. The Red Raiders were supposed to return to Fresno in 2002. But Mike Leach became the Tech’s new coach in 2000 and removed all “tough” games from the non-conference schedule. In their only meeting, Fresno State overcame an 18-7 first half deficit to take a 28-27 lead in the fourth quarter. But sure-handed running back Jamie Kimbrough fumbled inside the Bulldogs five-yard line. The Red Raiders recovered it for the go-ahead touchdown and 34-28 win. Texas Tech finished 8-4.
9/26 Nevada – The first of a three-game series with the Wolf Pack with the first and last games played in Fresno. Fresno State held a 17-14 lead before Nevada came back to upset the Bulldogs 27-24. Nevada finished 6-5.
This was the first year following the WAC breakup. The Bulldogs had only seven conference games. The Bulldogs originally scheduled three non-conference games but added one to compensate for the loss of one conference game (Colorado State) and added another as a 12th game because the Bulldogs were playing at Hawaii.
9/4 Portland State – A second game with the FCS team resulted in a 34-6 Fresno State win.
9/11 @Oregon State – It was the first of a four-game series with the Beavers, and the first meeting with OSU since 1994. The Bulldogs lost 46-23. Oregon State finished 7-5 and played in their first bowl game since the 1964 Rose Bowl.
9/18 @UCLA – It was a one-and-done game with the Bruins—the third time (1987, 1995) the Bulldogs played UCLA in the Rose Bowl. Fresno State fell 35-21. UCLA finished 4-7, one year after the Bruins were in contention for the national championship.
9/25 @Nevada – The second game of the three-game series with the Wolf Pack ended with a 49-24 Fresno State win. The Bulldogs were a one-point underdog. Nevada finished 3-8.
10/9 Colorado State – This was the first game for Fresno State against a MWC opponent following the breakup of the WAC. The Bulldogs and Rams met for game one of a five-game series. The Rams were 3-1 entering the game. Fresno State won 44-13. Colorado State finished 8-4 and won a share of the MWC.
The WAC expanded by one team, Nevada, negating Fresno State’s chance to play four non-conference games, including two at home. The Bulldogs were scheduled to begin a two-game home-and-home with Utah on 9/30/2000 in Fresno. With the return game scheduled for 2001 in Salt Lake City. However, the Bulldog and Utes agreed to not reschedule the series.
9/2 @Ohio State – The one-and-done game was suppose to be part of a two-game series with the second also played in Columbus in 2008. David Carr’s debut was marred by four interceptions in a 43-10 loss. Then-No. 16 ranked Ohio State finished 8-4.
9/9 @UCLA – This game was not part of the single-game with the Bruins in 1999. UCLA had a home-and-home scheduled with Pitt to begin in 2000 that the Panthers backed out of the contract. The Bruins were scrambling to find an opponent for a schedule that featured home games with Alabama and Michigan. Rumor had it that the Bruins were in such a quandary that they were open to a home-and-home with anyone, including Fresno State. But the Bulldog administration agreed only to a one-and-done with UCLA in 2000. Fresno State lost to the then-No. 16 Bruins 24-21 after Carr fumbled a snap driving for the go-ahead touchdown. UCLA finished 6-6.
9/23 California – Hill finally had his first home game with a BCS opponent (second if you include Baylor in 1997). It was a return game for the Bulldogs 25-24 win at Berkeley in 1995. Fresno State won 17-3. Cal finished 3-8.
The WAC lost TCU but added Boise State and Louisiana Tech to increase to 10 teams. The Bulldogs played eight conference games (missed UTEP) in 2001. When the schedule was first drafted, the Bulldogs were suppose to play seven conference games and five non-conference games (the fifth because the ‘Dogs played at Hawaii to earn a 12th game). But the final game of a three-game series with Nevada was now a WAC game. As well, the defunct two-game series with Utah eliminated another non-conference game from the docket. With 11 games scheduled, FS added Utah State to fill out the non-conference slate for the 12th game. Then a 13th “preseason” game was added.
8/26 @Colorado – The Jim Thorpe Classic was one of the few preseason games the NCAA allowed that didn’t count against the regular season 11-game schedule. For the Bulldogs, it became their 13th game. The game was considered a “neutral” site game despite it being played at Colorado’s Folsom Field. The Buffaloes were coming off a 3-8 season but received many votes in the preseason AP top 25 poll. Fresno State won 24-22 in their first nationally televised ESPN game since 1997. Colorado finished 10-3 and was ranked No. 3 in the final AP regular season poll.
9/2 Oregon State – This was the second game of the four-game series. The then-No. 10 ranked Beavers were the preseason No. 1 by Sports Illustrated. ESPN moved the game to Sunday night for an ESPN2 national broadcast. The Bulldogs prevailed 44-24 to vault to No. 19 in the next AP Poll. Oregon State finished 5-6.
9/8 @Wisconsin – The then-No. 23 ranked Badgers were four-point favorites after beating Virginia and nearly knocking off No. 7 Oregon on the road. This was the first of a three-game series with Wisconsin. Fresno State won 32-20 in infamous fashion after overcoming a 10-point halftime deficit. Wisconsin finished 5-7.
10/13 @Colorado State – This was the second game of a five-game series. Fresno State won in overtime 25-22 after David Carr led game tying drive in regulation in the final 27 seconds. Colorado State finished 7-5 that season.
12/1 Utah State – This one-and-done game was originally scheduled for 9/15 but was moved to 12/1 after the tragedy on Sept. 11. Fresno State won 70-21. Utah State finished 4-7.
Original 2001 schedule :
9/1 Oregon State
10/6 @Colorado State
Starting in 2002, the NCAA began allowing 12-game regular season schedules in years that had 13 weeks between Labor Day weekend and Thanksgiving weekend. The Fresno State 2002 schedule was on track to be the most attractive in Fresno State history. The Bulldogs were supposed to have seven home games, including four versus non-conference teams. This schedule was originally constructed with seven conference games and five non-conference games. However, WAC expansion added one more conference game, and two BCS teams (Texas Tech and Oklahoma State) eventually backed out of return games.
8/23 @Wisconsin – For the second consecutive season, the Bulldogs scheduled a preseason game. This time the Bulldogs played in the John Thompson Classic. The “neutral” site game was played at Camp Randall Stadium. This game was separate from the three-game series that started the previous season. This gave Fresno State a 13th game. The ‘Dogs lost 23-21 as the then-No. 23 Badgers hit a game-winning field goal in the final minute. Wisconsin finished 8-6.
8/29 San Diego State – This game was supposed to start a six-game home-and-home series. However, this was the only game played after SDSU and FS agreed not to play in 2003 and negotiations to continue the series failed. Fresno State won 16-14 after Raymond Washington blocked an Aztecs field goal as time expired. San Diego State finished 4-9.
9/7 @Oregon – To compensate for the loss of two BCS games on the schedule, the ‘Dogs agreed to one-game series inside the newly expanded Autzen Stadium. Fresno State lost 24-28 to the then-No. 13 Ducks. Oregon finished 7-6.
9/21 @Oregon State – Originally, then-Fresno State athletic director Scott Johnson announced the Bulldogs would be ending the series with the Beavers with two games remaining of the original four. Johnson also announced a road game at Michigan would be played in place of the road game to Corvallis on 9/21/02. However, the contract with Wolverines was never finalized. Johnson, with egg on his face, had to renegotiate with the Beavers to continue the original four-game series. Fresno State was blown out 59-19. Oregon State finished 8-5.
10/4 Colorado State – The third game of the five-game series resulted in a third straight Fresno State win over the then-No. 25 ranked Rams. The Bulldogs won 32-30. Colorado State finished 10-4.
Original 2002 schedule:
9/31 San Diego State
9/7 Oklahoma State
9/14 Texas Tech
9/21 @Oregon State
10/5 Colorado State
With the 12-game schedule in full force, Fresno State had the opportunity to play a 13th game since the ‘Dogs were playing at Hawaii. Surprisingly, FS added road games at Tennessee and Oklahoma to fill two of three open non-conference games since San Diego State and Oklahoma State were off the schedule.
8/30 @Tennessee – Originally, the Bulldogs were supposed to open at San Diego State. As stated above, both schools agreed not to play this game. Fresno State lost to the then-No. 14 Volunteers 24-6. Tennessee finished 10-3.
9/5 Oregon State – The final game of the four-game series concluded with a 16-14 FS win. The Beavers finished 8-5.
9/13 @Oklahoma – This was supposed to be a home game with Oklahoma State, however, the Cowboys pulled out of the game after moving it from 2002. The first ever meeting against a No. 1 ranked ended with a 52-28 loss to the Sooners. Oklahoma finished 12-2 after losing the national championship game.
9/27 Portland State – FS scheduled the Vikings for the third time in the Hill era. This was the last game added to the schedule as the ‘Dogs needed another home game. Fresno State won 42-16.
10/4 @Colorado State – The fourth game in the five-game series ended with a 34-10 Bulldog loss. Colorado State finished 7-6.
Original 2003 schedule*:
9/30 @San Diego State
9/6 Oregon State
9/13 Oklahoma State
10/4 @Colorado State
*fifth non-conference wasn’t named yet
The 2004 season was the final year the NCAA mandated an 11-game schedule. Starting in 2005, the NCAA allowed 12-game schedules regardless of the number of weeks between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. The original 11-game schedule had three non-conference games, but two had to be changed. San Diego State was off the schedule, and Colorado State decided to move its game at FS to a later date to play USC instead.
9/5 @Washington – This was the first game of a two-game series with both games in Seattle. The Huskies were coming off a 6-6 season, the ‘Dogs ran away with a 35-16 win. Washington finished 1-10.
9/11 @Kansas State – This was the first game of a three-game series with two being played in Manhattan. It replaced a home game with San Diego State. The then-No. 13 Wildcats were defending Big XII champions. Fresno State won 45-21. Kansas State finished 4-7.
9/18 Portland State – Fresno State had to scramble to find a home game to give the Bulldogs at least five games inside Bulldog Stadium. The final game between two schools was closer than the rest as then-No. 18 ranked FS won 27-17. After this, Portland State made it public it had no desire to schedule future games in Fresno. It was early signs that the Bulldogs would find it harder to find home games in the future if teams continued to renege on their contracts to play in Fresno.
2004 original schedule:
9/11 San Diego State
9/18 Colorado State
The non-conference schedule only had one of four games set prior to the end of the 2004 season since the San Diego State continued to be absent from the schedule. Kansas was also suppose to begin a home-and-home with the Bulldogs but moved it to 2007. Fresno State had a three-game series scheduled with Oregon to begin in Eugene in 2005. The Bulldogs added a two-game series with a MAC team, a home game with a FCS school, and a one-and-done with the defending national champions,.
9/10 Weber State – This was the last game added to the schedule to give the Bulldogs six home games. Then-No. 24 ranked Fresno State won 55-17.
9/17 @Oregon – This was the first of a three game series with two being played in Eugene. Fresno State lost 37-34 after leading 17-0 in the first half. Unranked at the time, Oregon finished 10-2 and ranked No. 10.
9/27 Toledo – This was the first game of a home-and-home set up by ESPN for a Tuesday night ESPN2 nationally televised matchup. Fresno State won 44-14. Toledo finished 9-3.
11/19 @USC – The much-anticipated game lived up to Hill’s expectations that his program could compete with the best. The then-No. 1 ranked Trojans entered as the defending national champions and with a 32-game winning streak. Then-No. 16 ranked Fresno State lost 50-42. USC finished 12-1 and No. 2 in the nation.
On paper, the original 2006 schedule was set up for success with three non-conference home games. But Fresno State replaced a home game with San Diego State with a road trip to a SEC school.
9/9 Oregon – The Ducks returned to Fresno for the first time since 1996 as part of a three-game series. The Bulldogs lost 31-24 to then No.20 ranked UO. Oregon finished 7-6.
9/16 @Washington – The final game in the two-game series ended with the Bulldogs dropping a one-point game. Fresno State missed an XP that proved to be the difference in a 21-20 loss. Washington finished 5-7.
9/30 Colorado State – This game concluded the five-game series after the Rams moved it from 2004. The Bulldogs lost 35-23. Colorado State finished 4-8.
10/21 @LSU – The failed six-game SDSU series continued to force the ‘Dogs to find alternative opponents. With Hill’s mantra to play the best possible schedule against anyone, anywhere, anytime, a first time matchup was set up with LSU. Granted the huge paydays offered by BCS programs offset many shortfalls in the athletic budget. However, this was arguably the first time where too much was too much. The ‘Dogs stumbled into this game 1-5 while LSU was ranked No. 14. The Bulldogs lost 38-6. LSU finished 11-2 and ranked No. 4 after beating Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.
This schedule changed constantly. Originally, the SDSU series was to conclude in San Diego and the Bulldogs were to begin a home-and-home with Kansas that was moved from 2005. But the Jayhawks backed out of the series completely prior to the season. The Bulldogs filled the void with a home-and-home with Cincinnati that was moved just weeks after being announced in January 2007.
9/1 Sacramento State – The matchup against the FCS school filled the final void in the schedule created by the non-existent five games of the original six-game contract with San Diego State. Fresno State won 24-3. It was apparent that going forward if the Bulldogs wanted to play more than five home games, at least one would have to be a FCS program.
9/8 @Texas A&M – The first ever matchup replaced a road game at Cincinnati – part of a home-and-home – that was moved to 2009. The ‘Dogs lost to the then-No. 24 ranked Aggies 47-45 in 3OT. Texas A&M finished 7-6.
9/15 @Oregon – This was the final game of a three-game series, and the first matchup between the schools that resulted in margin of victory of more than seven points. Fresno State lost to the then-No. 19 ranked Ducks 52-21. Oregon was ranked as high as No. 2 before QB Dennis Dixon was lost for the season and finished 9-4.
11/24 Kansas State – The second game of the three-game series deserves some major recognition to the Wildcats athletic administration. As KSU was just one of four Big XII programs to honor their contract with Fresno State and play inside Bulldog Stadium. The Bulldogs won 45-29. Kansas State finished 5-7.
Ohio State was originally scheduled as the season opener, but the administration that scheduled the 2000 game in the Horseshoe didn’t secure the contract for 2008. As we stated KSU deserved respect for playing in Fresno, but the Wildcats still decided to buy out the third game – Fresno State’s second to be played at Manhattan – in 2008. It essentially became a home-and-home series for the Bulldogs but left them in a bind to find an alternative opponent. The Bulldogs didn’t play any FCS teams but only had five home games.
9/1 @Rutgers – Fresno State had to shift the schedule around to make this work as the Bulldogs were originally scheduled to open the season at UCLA on Aug. 30. ESPN put together this matchup on Labor Day to replace the Bulldogs road game at Kansas State. It is part of a home-and-home with Rutgers scheduled to open the 2013 season in Fresno. Then-No. 25 ranked Fresno State beat the Scarlett Knights 24-7. Rutgers finished 8-5.
9/13 Wisconsin – This was the second game of the three-game series with the then-No. 10 ranked Badgers. Then-No. 21 ranked Fresno State lost 13-10. Wisconsin finished 7-6.
9/20 @Toledo – This was the return game for the 2005 matchup between the two schools in Fresno. The Bulldogs still stayed in the rankings at No. 25 following the loss to the Badgers and remained there after beating the Rockets 55-54 in OT. Toledo finished 3-9.
9/27 @UCLA – This game was just the second ABC regional telecast for Fresno State since 1998. Then-No. 25 ranked Fresno State beat the Bruins 36-31. UCLA finished 4-8.
Kansas was scheduled to play in Fresno this season. Again, the Bulldogs had to fill a void left by a team that reneged on its contract to play inside Bulldog Stadium. However, Fresno State was able to sign a home-and-home with a Big 10 opponent. Nevertheless, the ‘Dogs had to find a non-conference game to give them five home games.
9/5 UC Davis – Game versus FCS opponent gives Fresno State fifth home game. Bulldogs win 51-0. Games like this were becoming more expensive for the Bulldogs to afford as BCS teams offered FCS schools more money. Road games at BCS schools were guaranteed paychecks for Fresno State, and the Bulldogs helped its struggling athletic budget.
9/12 @Wisconsin – The final game of the three-game series ends with a 34-31 loss in overtime. Wisconsin finished 10-3 and ranked No. 16.
9/26 @Cincinnati – The home-and-home with the then-No. 14 ranked Bearcats commenced, and it essentially replaced the series with Kansas that the Jayhawks didn’t honor. Fresno State loses 28-20. Cincinnati finished 12-1 and ranked No. 8.
12/5 @Illinois – The home-and-home with the Big 10 foes begins with a thrilling 53-52 Fresno State win in overtime. Illinois finished 3-9.
After 13 years, Hill finally begins to see the fruits of his labor. BCS teams begin honoring their contracts regularly, and most important, no one is backing out of them. For the first time since 1994, Fresno State has seven home games.
9/4 Cincinnati – One can wonder if Brian Kelley remained at Cincinnati as their head coach if the Bearcats would have played this game. They came in ranked 26th in the AP Poll (highest receiving vote getter outside the top 25). Fresno State won 28-14 in the return game of the home-and-home series. Cincinnati finished 4-8.
9/25 @Ole Miss – This was the first of a three-game series with the SEC opponent. The Rebels ran all over Fresno State in a 55-38 win. Ole Miss finished 4-8.
10/2 Cal Poly – A two-game series was signed with the Mustangs that renewed rivalry that hadn’t been played since 1985. Fresno State won 38-17. Cal Poly returns to Bulldog Stadium in 2013.
12/3 Illinois – The Fighting Illini made the return trip Fresno with a 6-5 record. Fresno State prevailed 25-23. Illinois finished 7-6. It was the seventh win for the Bulldogs in its last 10 games versus BCS programs.
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