A dangerous opponent

THE TENDENCY FOR fans, probably, will be not to give Sacramento State much thought and to look ahead to Wisconsin in Week 2. After all, the Beavs open the season against Sac State at home on Sept. 3 and oddsmakers will no doubt install Oregon State as a heavy favorite against the FCS team. But Sac State looks to be a dangerous opponent. Here's why..

First, they have potential star players on both offense and defense.

Zack Nash, a 6-3, 265-pound senior defensive end was named the Big Sky Preseason Defensive Player of the Year today.

All he did in 2010 was lead the Big Sky with 13 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss last season and a league-high six fumbles.

Sac State's quarterback, Jeff Fleming, led an offense that was firing on all cylinders in the second half of the season – the Hornets averaged 40 points per in their final six Big Sky games.

Eight starters return from that offense in 2011.

Among them are running back Bryan Hilliard and receiver Chase Deadder, the two projected yardage leaders on the ground and through the air. On any given Saturday, either can give opponents a big time headache. Sac State also gets back WR Brandyn Reed, who missed all of last season to injury.

Their defense, likely to operate out of a 4-2-5, got better as last season went along. Their open field tackling was the key reason why. They have players who operate well in space.

Situated in a recruiting rich area, some feel Sac State is a sleeping giant in the FCS. And there have been several FCS teams fitting that description in recent years that have knocked off FBS teams.

Sacramento State was picked to finish fourth in the Big Sky Conference football standings in the nine-team preseason coaches' and media polls released today. The Hornets went 6-5 last year, their best season since 2000. Is a 10-win season the next step for Sacramento State?

It would behoove the Beavs to prepare as if that's the case.

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