Fresno State Football: First Look at the 2019 Schedule
The Fresno State Bulldogs, defending Mountain West football champions, will reload against a schedule that is plenty challenging.
Defending the title won’t be easy.
The Fresno State Bulldogs will enter 2019 with a big target squarely upon them. After claiming the conference crown last fall, Jeff Tedford’s third year at the helm arrives with new challenges, like replacing so many contributors on both offense and defense, but at this point it’d be foolish to underestimate the ‘Dogs despite a schedule that still features a few tests.
While expecting contention for a New Year’s Six bowl spot might be setting the bar a little too high this time around, Fresno State should remain in a position where they are plenty competitive against even the toughest opponents on the slate. Per Bill Connelly’s S&P+ preseason rankings, the schedule features three top-40 foes, two of which will greet the Bulldogs right out of the gate.
What stands out from a first glimpse at the 2019 slate?
1. 0-2 isn’t an impossible scenario to imagine.
USC might have underperformed last year, but the Trojans return a wealth of talent and brough in Graham Harrell as the new offensive coordinator. Harrell spent the last few years building quality offenses at North Texas, so his ability to coach up J.T. Daniels after last year’s crash course will be a difficult task with which the ‘Dogs will contend in Week 1.
Minnesota, meanwhile, might have stolen a win from Fresno State last year, but they could very much be in the mix for the Big Ten West title this fall because they bring nearly everyone back.
Thankfully, even if things take a while to come together and the Bulldogs stumble in the first two weeks, things ease up considerably after that: New Mexico State fell flat after a couple years of progress last year, while Sacramento State went winless in the Big Sky.
2. Run defense could be key to a strong start in conference play.
The conference opener against Air Force on October 12 could be an underrated matchup since, historically, the Bulldogs have had trouble with the Falcons. And while UNLV was no match for Fresno State last fall, the Rebels’ run-heavy offense at full strength could push the rebuilt front seven.
3. Early November will make or break the season.
Boise State may not be on the schedule this fall, but that doesn’t mean conference opponents can’t trip up the ‘Dogs.
Amazingly, Fresno State hasn’t lost on the road against Hawaii since 2007, but the Warriors’ high-octane run-and-shoot offense could be less erratic in its second year despite losing number one receiver John Ursua. That trip to the islands on November 2 kicks off a three-game stretch where the Bulldogs could play their way into or out of the division crown, as they then host Utah State and then travel to San Diego State for a date against the Aztecs.
Hardest stretch: at Hawaii, vs. Utah State, at San Diego State
Easiest stretch: Sacramento State, at New Mexico State, at Air Force
Guaranteed wins: at New Mexico State, Sacramento State, San Jose State
Guaranteed losses: none
Worse than 50/50 games: USC, Utah State
50/50 games: Air Force, Hawaii, Minnesota, San Diego State
Better than 50/50 games: Colorado State, Nevada, UNLV
Preliminary projected record: 8-4