Fresno State is coming off a disappointing 27-26 loss at Tulsa where the Bulldogs led 20-7 in the first quarter and failed to score an offensive touchdown in the final three quarters. San Diego State lost to San Jose State, 38-35, last week for the first time since 1952. The ‘Dogs enter just over a touchdown favorite…
Kickoff: Saturday, 7 p.m. Television: Comcast Sports Bay Area Radio: KMJ (AM 580), ESPN Deportes (1600 AM)
Keys to the Game
Execute on Third Down – Despite scoring on 14-of-15 red zone attempts, Fresno State has struggled mightily on offense. The Bulldogs cannot convert third downs against a good defense to save their life. San Diego State will pressure much like Oregon and Tulsa did against FS. If the ‘Dogs get in the red zone, they've proven they can score. The problem has been sustaining drives.
Get Robbie Going – The sooner Robbie Rouse makes his presence, the easier it will be for the offense to move the ball through the air. The SDSU defense is susceptible against the pass, and Derek Carr could have a field day if the Aztecs are focused on stopping Rouse.
Evans Factor – Rashad Evans is expected to make his first start in 2012 after serving a four-game NCAA suspension. The Fresno State offense has missed Evans at slot receiver let alone his explosiveness at punt returner. He should make an immediate impact in three and four-receiver sets.
Stop the Run – The most obvious and crucial factor on Saturday is stop San Diego State's ground attack. Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig (Fresno State OC 1998-2001) uses a power run game mixed with play action pass and deep vertical shots. But if the ‘Dogs stop the run, his offense will have little or no success.
Score – One way to ensure the Bulldogs will have a chance to win regardless of the offense's success is for the FS defense to keeping scoring touchdowns. The defense has scored 24 points the last two games. If the defense can score 12 points this week, it could be enough to outscore the SDSU offense.
Pressure Katz – Ryan Katz is an experienced quarterback starting at Oregon State prior to transferring to SDSU. He has proven to be an effective leader in the Aztec offense, but he is still has not proven he can win a game with his arm. If the ‘Dogs can shut down the run game, pressuring Katz into bad throws could be the catalyst into a runaway FS win.
Fresno State and San Diego State will meet for the 52nd time on Saturday and the first as Mountain West Conference members. The Battle for the Oil Can may be the last meeting in this series for some time as the Aztecs move to the Big East next season. The Bulldogs lost 35-28 last year at SDSU after amassing a 21-0 lead.
FS enters Saturday with a lot to prove.
It's homecoming. It's the first game in the MWC. It's against a rival that is departing to a "bigger" conference. It's the first conference game for head coach Tim DeRuyter and his staff. Moreover, it's comes after the gut-wrenching loss at Tulsa where the Bulldogs held two different 13-point first half leads and a nine-point lead as late as the third quarter.
SDSU wants to run the football averaging nearly 250 yards on the ground. Adam Muema had a consecutive 100-yard rushing effort in the loss to San Jose State rushing for 202 yards on 25 carries. Fresno State has been stout against the run this season for the most part, including limiting Tulsa's potent ground game last week. Unless the Aztecs have Kenjon Barner and De'Athony Thomas lining up in the backfield, Nick Toth's defense should win the battle at the line of scrimmage.
The Aztecs will have trouble moving the football and scoring points if they can't run the ball. Katz doesn't scare too many with his arm. Furthermore, Toth and DeRuyter have had great success against Ludwig offenses. The Bulldogs offense doesn't have to be spectacular on Saturday to win but if it is, the ‘Dogs will run away with an easy win in its MWC debut.