Fresno State Football: First Look at the 2018 Schedule
Now that the Mountain West football schedule has been released, what does it mean for the Fresno State Bulldogs and their title hopes?
Jeff Tedford’s encore won’t come easily with a 2018 slate featuring plenty of tests.
Following last year’s trip to the Mountain West championship game, the Fresno State Bulldogs clearly entered the offseason with a target on their backs. With the release of the conference’s entire schedule this afternoon, now they’ll exactly when every foe will take their best shot.
The path to a New Year’s Day bowl game is open, and while there is no Alabama or Washington on the schedule this year, the ‘Dogs won’t be dealing with a pillow-soft South Florida-type non-conference schedule and they won’t get the benefit of surprising anyone this year. By S&P+, each of Fresno State’s three FBS opponents in September rank as average or better, and both Boise State and San Diego State, at a minimum, are reloading for January bowl runs of their own.
What stands out from a first glimpse at the 2018 slate?
1. September is better this time around, but there aren’t any slouches here.
After cashing their million-dollar paychecks from Tuscaloosa and Seattle last September, the Bulldogs went 4-1 on the road against conference opponents, winning by an average of 22.4 to 11. It’ll be crucial to continue those particular winning ways early, as Fresno State hasn’t defeated a Power 5 team on the road since their epic victory at Illinois in 2009 and they haven’t defeated a non-conference opponent of any kind on the road since 2011.
There are reasons to be optimistic, though. For one, they won’t have to contend with Josh Rosen or Logan Woodside, and Minnesota’s presumed incumbent, Demry Croft, completed just 41.5% of his passes last fall. On a per-play basis, all three defenses were middling or worse.
2. Get ready for November clashes among titans
Sam Worthington, eat your heart out: Back-to-back games at Boise State and at home against San Diego State is the single toughest one-two that any Mountain West team will face in conference play. That the trip to Boise comes on the back of a road swing to Las Vegas makes this the most difficult stretch of the team’s schedule, as it might still be tempting to overlook the Rebels despite their upset win in Fresno last season.
3. No need to worry about title game shenanigans this year.
Fresno State will host San Jose State in the season finale, one of six intradivision games which will wrap up the Mountain West’s regular season. For anyone still smarting from 2017’s BCS computer hijinks, relax, just win and hope the Bulldogs avoid unlikely history repeating itself: The Spartans have won two straight regular-season finales against their rivals.
Hardest stretch: at UNLV, at Boise State, vs. San Diego State
Easiest stretch: vs. Wyoming, at New Mexico, vs. Hawaii
Guaranteed wins: Idaho, New Mexico, San Jose State
Guaranteed losses: none
Worse than 50/50 games: none
50/50 games: Boise State, Minnesota, San Diego State, Toledo, UCLA
Better than 50/50 games: Hawaii, Nevada, UNLV, Wyoming
Preliminary projected record: 10-2