Saturday’s game against San Diego State will show how serious of a contender Fresno State is in the Mountain West.
Fresno State looks to be ahead of schedule in its rebuild at 4-2, already equaling the total number of wins from the past two seasons combined.
Now is the perfect time for the Bulldogs to strike against San Diego State, who just got beat up at home against Boise State. The Bulldogs are coming off their second shutout of the season – a 38-0 beatdown of New Mexico.
Is this a team that will win six or seven games and end up in the middle of the pack in the Mountain West? Or is this a team that can compete for the conference championship?
What’s changed from last season? Well, everything.
The defense is giving up just 20 points per game, tied for 30th nationally, and only 10.3 points in Mountain West games.
The defense ranks even better in total yards allowed per game – 21st in the country, and the run defense ranks 14th.
The offensive line is looking like it did under former head coach Pat Hill, opening up holes for running backs Ronnie Rivers, Josh Hokit and Jordan Mims. The line not only held its own against the top talent of Alabama, but physically outplayed the Crimson Tide’s four- and five-star athletes on the defensive line.
Quarterback Marcus McMaryion took over the starting job at the start of Mountain West play and hasn’t looked back.
The only thing that hasn’t changed from last year is that wide receiver KeeSean Johnson continues to play like he’s former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson.
After Saturday, the remaining games in order are UNLV, BYU, Hawaii, Wyoming and Boise State.
If the Bulldogs beat San Diego State, running the table is not out of the question.
Fresno State should beat UNLV, BYU and Hawaii, who have a combined 6-14 record. The most challenging games will be at Wyoming and at home against Boise State. The Cowboys and Broncos are both 4-2.
San Diego State’s remaining schedule is fairly easy, so if Fresno State loses Saturday and wins out, the Aztecs would have the edge in the West division on the tiebreaker.
No matter what happens the rest of the season, Fresno State should be in excellent position to compete for the Mountain West next year and even make national headlines.
McMaryion is carving up defenses, and another year of development under new head coach Jeff Tedford can only make him better. The nonconference schedule will provide winnable but good looking games against Minnesota and UCLA.
But for now, Fresno State has the chance to make some noise in the Mountain West starting Saturday. Even if the Bulldogs lose, they’ll continue to make progress in returning the program to a championship level.