After needing a fourth quarter touchdown from running back Ryan Mathews to get by Utah State 31-27 last Saturday, the Bulldogs will depart for their toughest road trip since facing Cincinnati…
will be in Moscow, ID this weekend to take on surprising 7-2 (4-1 in WAC) Idaho
, winners of six of their last seven games, including a 35-34 win over Louisiana Tech last weekend.
The Vandals bring the conferences fourth best scoring offense (31.9 ppg) and the second best passing offense (283.0 ypg), something the Bulldogs have been known to struggle with.
Unfortunately, for Idaho, they have a lot more to fear than Fresno State does. The Bulldogs boast the nation's leading rusher in Ryan Mathews (164.5 ypg) and the fifth best rushing offense in the country (259.6 ypg).
This is a game that Fresno State can and should take control of from the very start. Limit the turnovers and use Mathews along with fellow running back Robbie Rouse and it can set up the rest of the offense.
There seems to be one glaring problem for this team, offensively – quarterback Ryan Colburn mistakes. Some fans are clamoring for freshman quarterback Derek Carr, but coach Pat Hill seems reluctant to part with his starter, regardless of his struggles.
For Colburn, and possibly Hill, the time could be running out if these struggles continue.
If Colburn can step up and take some pressure off Mathews' shoulders, the Bulldogs could pull away easily. If he can't, then maybe some Bulldog fans coule get their wish.
Todd's Keys to the game:
The Fresno State defense needs to tighten up and play a lot better than they did last week. The ‘Dogs are giving up too many yards and they're staying on the field far too long. This Idaho offense is not going to go three and out too many times, so the defense needs to get pressure on the quarterback and limit the damage.
Colburn needs to make the Idaho defense pay for putting eight and nine guys in the box. If they're going to focus in on Mathews, Colburn needs to execute play action and get the ball to his receivers. Short passes aren't going to work in this game. Get Mathews his touches, then go up top, let Idaho know that they aren't afraid to go long and lengthen the field.
The Bulldogs need to get out of the gates fast. They can't have a few straight possessions and not put at least a few field goals on the board. If they can't put points on the board, don't think Idaho is going to wait for that to happen. If the Bulldogs don't get the lead early and extend it, this could be a long game.
My "X Factor" in this game is going to be Chastin West. He's been doing a great job on special teams and getting the Bulldogs good field position on his returns. He needs to continue to do that in this game and continue to put Idaho's back against the wall. If he can continue to be a threat returning kicks and punts, it could force Idaho into mistakes this team can capitalize on.
Game prediction: Fresno State 34 Idaho 27
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