After a heartbreaking loss to Oregon State, Fresno State’s football team will be competing against an even better Pac-12 opponent on the road as it heads to the University of Southern California (USC) this Saturday.
For the second consecutive year, the ‘Dogs are challenging a ranked opponent from Southern California. However, the stakes are much different in comparison to last season.
USC is entering the game ranked No. 7 in the nation with a completely revamped team after an offseason filled with star-studded additions.
With Fresno State now heading into its most anticipated matchup of the season, here is everything to know about the ‘Dogs taking on the Trojans.
The ‘Dogs are fresh off a tragic Pac-12 battle
Having entered their 2022 season with a pair of Pac-12 matchups, excitement built amongst all of those following Fresno State football.
With the sudden realignment of future Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences the ‘Dogs are considered prime candidates to replace USC or UCLA as those teams head to the Big-10.
However, the loss to Oregon State on Sept. 10 may be an indicator of needed improvement among the ‘Dogs.
“We lost the game. There was a lot of back and forth and our guys fought hard and battled,” said head coach Jeff Tedford. “We didn’t make stops when we needed to. We couldn’t convert in the red zone, made some field goals and missed some field goals. So we came out on the short end.”
Despite coming up short, Fresno State played a highly competitive game in which they were in the lead for a significant portion.
The ‘Dogs actually took the lead with less than a minute remaining as Jake Haener led the team down the field and capped off the drive with a 4-yard passing touchdown to Erik Brooks.
The drive gave Oregon State the ball back with 58 seconds remaining, and the ensuing drive saw a breakdown of the ‘Dogs defense that resulted in a Beaver touchdown as time expired.
The defensive breakdown in front of a sold-out stadium crowd showed thousands of Bulldogs fans that competing against Pac-12 opponents would not be an easy task.
“I saw that [Oregon State quarterback Chance Nolan] had a lot of time to throw the ball. He put the ball in a couple of nice spots, and we gave up too much space. In the end, they’re great players, and they made great plays,” Tedford said.
USC isn’t just hype
Having suffered a loss to a team considered “middle tier” in the Pac-12 according to media outlets such as Sports Illustrated, the ‘Dogs now have the task of taking down an opponent that many expect to compete for a conference title.
Despite USC finishing its 2021 season with a 4-8 record, the Trojans have become one of brightest up-and-coming programs in the entire FBS.
This past offseason, the Trojans added former Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, who won four Big-12 championships and made three college football playoff appearances during his tenure with the Sooners.
They also added big-name prospects such as former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams, former Pittsburgh wide receiver Jordan Addison and former Oklahoma receiver Mario Williams.
While the offseason additions built excitement for USC, the first two games of their 2022 season have grown it exponentially.
The Trojans opened their season with a dominant 66-14 win over Rice and followed up with a 41-28 conference victory over Stanford.
In these wins, USC has produced more than 500 offensive yards a game while also generating six turnovers on the defensive side of the ball.
These statistics are especially notable to a Fresno State defense that allowed Oregon State to accumulate nearly 400 yards of offense in their matchup.
With both teams generating considerable amounts of yardage, the ‘Dogs will most likely need to compete by consistently scoring on the offensive end.
The ‘Dogs have been in this position before
For the fans who traveled to Pasadena or watched Fresno State take on UCLA last season, this week’s matchup may seem like déjà vu.
After coming off a loss last year to an Oregon school, the ‘Dogs are once again set to square off against a ranked Pac-12 opponent from the Los Angeles area.
For many, Jake Haener’s 2021 performance dicing then-No. 13 ranked UCLA defense is still fresh in their memory.
That’s why this week’s matchup is still generating considerable attention. Despite the early-season loss there is still potential for Fresno State football and the Red Wave to leave the Coliseum with a victory.