Fresno State - 9/14/14 (7:30 p.m. PT)
Stadium: Bulldog Stadium (1,628 miles)
Head coach: Tim DeRuyter (3rd season, 20-6 overall)
2013 record: 11-2 (7-1 MWC)
Best Returning Offensive Player - WR Josh Harper
Fresno State returns one of their three 1,000 yard receivers from last season. Josh Harper totaled 1,011 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2013 and the senior will be the Bulldogs' best returning player at the skills positions. He is the only sure thing in the passing game going into 2014 as Fresno State must replace two starting receivers, the tight end, and break in a new quarterback.
Derron Smith (Kelley L Cox-US Today)
Best Returning Defensive Player – S Derron Smith
Derron Smith stepped out of NFL safety Phillip Thomas' shadow last season and was the Bulldogs' leader on defense. He returns for his senior season and has been named to multiple preseason All-American teams. Smith enters 2014 with 14 career interceptions, the most by any active player going into the season. He will need his supporting cast in the secondary to improve as pass defense was the Bulldogs' biggest weakness last year.
Biggest Starter Loss – QB Derek Carr
The Bulldogs' starting quarterback over the past three years had 12,730 yards, 113 touchdowns and a 24-15 record as a starter. The younger brother of David Carr delivered two Mountain West Championships in the last two years and brought Fresno State back on the national stage.
Last Meeting vs. Nebraska - 9/10/2011
Fresno State trailed by just two points at No. 10 Nebraska with about 12 minutes remaining, but the Cornhuskers went on to win 42-29. Quarterback Taylor Martinez led Nebraska with 219 passing yards, 166 rushing yards and three total touchdowns. Safety Derron Smith made his first career interception in this game and Josh Harper also caught a touchdown pass. This was Pat Hill's last shot at defeating a BCS program on the road as the Bulldogs finished 4-9 and he was let go. Nebraska now returns to Fresno as the biggest opponent to come to Bulldog Stadium in the Tim DeRuyter era.
How they matchup based off 2013 stats:
Scoring Offense: Nebraska 31.9 (48th) / Fresno State 43.4 (6th)
Scoring Defense: Nebraska 24.8 (49th) / Fresno State 30.3 (86th)
Passing Offense: Nebraska 196.7 (97th) / Fresno State 394.9 (1st)
Passing Defense: Nebraska 214.6 (32nd) / Fresno State 282.6 (119th)
Rushing Offense: Nebraska 215.7 (19th) / Fresno State 151.3 (80th)
Rushing Defense: Nebraska 156.2 (54th) / Fresno State 148.2 (42nd)
Total Offense: Nebraska 412.4 (59th) / Fresno State 546.2 (3rd)
Total Defense: Nebraska 370.8 (40th) / Fresno State 430.8 (96th)
Nebraska player to watch against the Bulldogs: Kenny Bell, WR
Fresno State's linebacker corps is actually pretty solid, with lots of experience. Their secondary struggled last season, mostly giving up the big play. Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck will likely pick his spot here, pounding the rock with Ameer Abdullah to protect a young quarterback on the road. But, something tells us a play-action pass or two will hurt the Bulldogs. It's our prediction Kenny Bell will get behind a defensive back once or twice.