I would not be surprised to find Fresno State undefeated and hosting Boise State for a chance at a BCS bowl in the Mountain West Conference Title game. Fresno State was +171.5 yards per game in conference play last year, which was 52 yards per play better than Boise State and 156 yards per play better than San Diego State. Head coach Tim DeRuyter guided the Bulldogs to a share of the Mountain West Conference title in his inaugural season, and I expect even greater things from Fresno State in 2013. With fifteen returning starters, including one of the best collegiate quarterbacks in the nation, look for Fresno State to go undefeated this season.
Fresno State Offense:
- Quarterback Derek Carr begins his third season as a starter and is poised to be one of the most dangerous and effective gunslingers in college football in 2013. Carr threw for an incredible 4,104 yards last year (67.3%; 37-7 ratio), which earned him the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year award.
- The Bulldogs also take the field with one of the best wide receiving units in college football. Led by senior Isiah Burse and junior Josh Harper, the Bulldogs possess an elite aerial attack that rivals anything in the country. Burse garnered 436 yards last season (10.9 yards per catch), while Harper compiled 497 yards on 14.2 yards per catch.
- Fresno State will also have a very good offensive line that returns 63 career starts. The players are much more familiar with coach DeRuyter’s blocking schemes this season (2nd year), which will result in improved numbers over last season.
Fresno State Defense:
- The strength of Fresno State’s defense is its secondary that is led by returning starters Derron Smith, L.J. Jones and Sean Alston, all of whom received conference honors last year. This will clearly be one of the nation’s best secondaries, and I would not be surprised if the Bulldogs matched last year’s 20 interceptions.
- Fresno’s defensive line saw improvement last year as they reduced yards per carry from 4.8 in 2011 to 4.1 in 2012. With defensive end Andy Jennings and defensive tackle Tyeler Davison leading the way, I look for continued improvement from this group.
- The biggest question mark rests with Fresno’s linebackers as the Bulldogs lose three starters, although they are in the second year of coach DeRuyter’s defensive schemes.
While some sports bettors may point downward for Fresno State’s prospects in 2013 based upon a fortuitous +15 turnover margin last season, the Bulldogs have the players to make a serious run at an undefeated campaign in 2013. Indeed, if the Bulldogs can defeat Boise State at home on September 20, I expect coach DeRuyter’s squad to once again be hosting the Broncos in the conference title game in December.