What to look for on offense: Chemistry…the Bulldogs need to and will develop some on offense. QB Tom Brandstater endured a tough season last year. He needs to build confidence in himself and earn the respect of his teammates and fans. With that said, new offensive coordinator Jim McElwain has worked specifically with each quarterback on their technique. Brandstater should have new spring in his step and be able to get the ball to his plethora of playmakers.
Who to look for on offense: Jason Crawley…the sophomore receiver was the most consistent wideout in fall camp and he had a stellar spring. He was arguably the fourth receiver entering fall camp, but earned a starting job. Despite the injury to 2006’s leading receiver Chastin West, Crawley was quickly emerging as the No. 2 receiver, if not the No. 1. He is at his best in open space.
What to look for on defense: Rotation, rotation, rotation...with the heat index expected to hit near or over 110 degrees on the field of play Saturday, the Bulldogs will likely rotate heavily early on. The defensive line is depended on a host of freshmen to become solid contributors, especially with starting NT Jason Shirley missing the first two games of the season. The secondary may not have to rotate as much, unless the defensive backs get tired from returning interceptions from touchdowns. Bulldog fans will not have to wait until the eighth game to see an interception. Fresno State should come close to matching their 2006 season total (5) Saturday night.
Who to look for on defense: Ben Jacobs…the freshman makes his first career start vs. Sac State. He replaces inspirational, vibrate senior leader, Ahijah Lane, who is out for the season after tearing both patella tendons in an August 11 scrimmage. Jacobs lacks experience and is not the vocal leader Lane was in the huddle. However, Jacobs is an amazing talent with an uncanny football sense. He is destined to become the Bulldog’s first All-American LB since Ron Cox. High expectations? Maybe, but who was the last freshman MLB to start his first career game?
What to look for on offense: Confusion, lots of confusion…the Hornets have a new coach (Marshall Sperbeck), a new quarterback, a new tailback, and their top returning receiver played tailback last season. Sperbeck will do his best to keep the offense simple, but he will not be able to slow down a relentless Bulldog defense looking to make a statement.
Who to look for on offense: WR Ryan Coogler…he returns after missing most of last season with a hand injury. In 2005, he was second on the team in receptions (45) and receiving yards (441). He makes his first start against a young but talented Bulldog secondary. If RFr. QB Jason Smith can get the ball to Coogler, he could make some noise.
What to look for on defense: Blitzes…if Sac State watched any film on Fresno State from last season, it knows Brandstater buckles under pressure. Until he proves otherwise, teams will do everything possible to make him beat them with his arm.
Who to look for on defense: A pair of FBS All-Americans…MLB Cyrus Mulitalo and SS Brent Webber can play for almost any team in the WAC. Mulitalo is a tackling machine, totaling 120 last year. At 6-1, 245 he is not the typical, undersized lower division player. Webber was second among FBS schools in interceptions per game in 2006. Not only will he be looking for Brandstater to throw off his back foot, he is also looking to prove something to Bulldog coaches. Webber feels they should have recruited him out of Sanger High School. It is a repetitive story that continues to haunt Fresno State and Coach Hill. He just cannot recruit every kid in the Valley who wants to be a Bulldog.
Expect the Bulldogs to dominate defensively. The Bulldog offense might have some early trouble against a veteran Hornet defense, but the lack of depth will eventually wear down Sac State.
EA Sports NCAA 2008 says: Fresno State 47, Sacramento State 10
BarkBoard.com says: Fresno State 37, Sacramento State 0
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