Fresno State's Ground Game
Two weeks ago the nation was once again introduced to Sophomore Ryan Mathews. Mathews led the Dogs on the ground with 163 yards rushing and three touchdowns. In the first half against Rutgers it looked as if Mathews was having a tough time finding the holes his offensive line was opening for him. Fortunately for Fresno State the second half provided the Ryan Mathews that Bulldog fans have become accustomed to seeing. Mathew's strengths rely on vision and quickness. Regardless of who the Bulldogs are playing Ryan Mathews will find a way to rack up yards. However, if Mathews struggles look for Fresno State to turn to either Lonyae Miller or Anthony Harding.
Lonyae Miller is capable of leading the team on the ground if given the chance to do so. While Miller did not get the same amount of carries against Rutgers that Mathews did he was still able to average 5 yards every time he touched the ball. Anthony Harding is the best blocker of the group and provides Tom Brandstater a receiver out of the backfield if needed be. These three running backs have made life for Brandstater and the Bulldogs offense much easier since the middle of 2007. Look for the Bulldogs offense to once again gain a good amount of yards on the ground. It has been a long while since the Bulldogs ground attack has been slowed and there is no reason to expect that to change come Saturday.
Wisconsin's Ground game
Wisconsin's running game travels through one player first and foremost: P.J. Hill. Since 2006 Hill has rushed for over 3000 yards while averaging over 5.2 yards per carry and 15 TD's per season. In other words Fresno State will have to find a way to stop this amazing talent in the backfield. Hill is not the tallest of players but is as strong as they come. Last week Marshall was able to neutralize Hill somewhat due to the fact that Wisconsin fell behind 14-0 to begin the game. Fresno State will have to look to do the very same thing if they want to force the Badgers to throw the ball. The fact is the Bulldogs could stack eight men in the box and Hill will still find a way to gain yards. Hill on the other hand is not the only running back the Badgers can turn to. Wisconsin already has three running backs with over 100 yards rushing this season and all three have averaged over five yards per carry. John Clay and Zach Brown have done an outstanding job of backing up Hill and if they are called on Saturday night will do everything in their power to lead the Badgers to a victory over Fresno.
Fresno State's Tight Ends and Receivers
Fresno State comes into this game with four receivers who have the ability to be the difference in the game Saturday night. In week one Seyi Ajirotutu was the receiver who stepped up with three catches for 116 yards. Although Marlon Moore only caught one pass that does not take away from the fact that he has the ability to come through in the clutch. In 2007 Moore was the Bulldogs leading receiver and will be looking to make a difference Saturday night. While Wisconsin will have to concentrate on these two receivers they cannot forget about Devon Wylie or he will make the Badgers pay as well. Wylie is the closest thing to Wesley Welker in the college game today and more often than not is completely left alone on the football field. If the Badgers put too much of their concentration on Moore and Ajirotutu Brandstater will use Wylie as his outlet valve. These three receivers provide Brandstater a strong receiving group to throw the ball to.
Most teams would love to have three receivers with the talent that Ajirotutu, Moore, and Wylie bring to the table. However, the Bulldogs have the luxury of throwing the ball to another receiver who has already made a name for himself in Fresno: Bear Pascoe. Bear stands at 6-5 and is every bit as talented as any receiver on the Fresno State roster. If Brandstater cannot find any of his three receivers he will look to Pascoe who generally draws man to man coverage. If all else fails the Fresno State offense will look to Isaac Kinter out of the backfield. Kinter has proven that he has great hands and can bail this offense out in a time of need. Fresno State will look to lead with the run as they always do. But if the running game does not come together in the first half do not be surprised to see Brandstater and his receivers connect more often than they did against Rutgers.
Wisconsin's Tight Ends and Receivers
Wisconsin will counter its running game with a passing game that after week one was questionable at best. Allan Evridge only threw the ball ten times in a win over Akron leading many Badger fans to wonder if he had the arm to get the job done. That is of course until week two where Evridge threw for over three hundred yards helping to turn a close game with Marshall into a route. Wisconsin does not necessarily have a game breaking type receiver. However, the Badgers do have plenty of receivers who know how to reel the ball in throughout the course of the game. Wisconsin's leading receiver yardage wise is Lance Kendricks with 102 yards to this point in the season. Not far behind is Garrett Graham the tight end who has six catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Wisconsin has a third receiver Kyle Jefferson who has 93 yards receiving up to this point in the season. Wisconsin is the type of team that also likes to lead with the run. The Badgers have a massive front line that is capable of opening holes on nearly every play. But to think of Wisconsin as a team who cannot pass would be a mistake. If the Bulldogs underestimate Evridge they may be forced to experience the same fate that Marshall did this past week. There is absolutely nothing wrong with forcing the Badgers into passing. On the other side of the coin the Bulldogs will have to defend the pass much better than Marshall if they want to win in front of the home crowd.
Fresno State has the stronger set of receivers if only because they tend to pass more than the Badgers do. Wisconsin has the stronger running back if only because Wisconsin's offensive line is so big that there is very little you can do aside concede the fact that the Badgers will gain their yards on the ground. The winner of this game will be able to establish their running game and force the other team to play catch up right from the start. While BB.C refrains from making any predictions as to who will win the game we will say that this will be a hard fought game with the winner controlling the tempo late in the game.
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