Colorado State vs. Fresno State: Three Keys to a Bulldogs Win
The Bulldogs celebrate homecoming with a date against the Rams. Here’s our game preview of how Fresno State can score another victory.
How can the ‘Dogs bolster their standing?
WEEK 9: Colorado State Rams (2-5, 1-2 Mountain West) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs (3-3, 1-1 MW)
WHEN: Saturday, October 26 — 4:30 PM PT/5:30 PM MT
WHERE: Bulldog Stadium; Fresno, California (40,737)
RADIO: The Fresno State broadcast can be found around the Central Valley on ESPN 940 AM, while the Colorado State broadcast can be found on 102.9 FM (KARS). It can also be found on satellite radio via SiriusXM, on channel 942.
SERIES RECORD: Colorado State leads the series 9-5. In the last meeting on November 5, 2016, the Rams defeated the Bulldogs, 37-0, in Fort Collins.
LAST WEEK: Fresno State beat UNLV at home, 56-27. Colorado State was on bye in Week 8 after beating New Mexico on the road the week before.
ODDS (via OddsShark): Fresno State -14.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Fresno State by 14.7 (80% win probability)
FEI PROJECTION: Fresno State by 21.4
It’s homecoming weekend at Fresno State and, finally, it appears that the Bulldogs may be rounding into form. They host a Colorado State team that, despite some glaring weaknesses, have been a tough out more often than not.
Moving the ball has not been a problem for CSU in 2019 — only Hawaii has been better on a per-play basis — but key injuries and killer mistakes have kept the Rams from a serious rebound in the win column thus far. Can Fresno State survive against the most talented set of skill position players they’ve seen in conference play to date?
Here’s what the Bulldogs can do to secure a win against the Rams.
Three Keys to a Fresno State Victory
1. Contain Warren Jackson.
It’d be asking a lot of the Bulldogs secondary to stop the 6-foot-6 playmaker entirely, as he’s rounded into form as an all-conference caliber pass catcher. After missing the Rams’ first two games of Mountain West play with injury, he came back to catch nine passes for 214 yards and two scores against New Mexico.
Among FBS players who have played in at least five games this season, Jackson is one of just four receivers to average eight catches per game, meaning that Bert Watts’s unit can expect to see the ball going his way early and often. Limiting yards after catch and strong red zone defense figure to play pivotal roles when those opportunities arise.
2. Don’t let the Rams off easy in creating turnovers.
Last week’s win over UNLV was the first time Fresno State created five turnovers against an FBS opponent since a blowout win over Idaho in 2013. At a glance, that positive development looks even more so against a Rams offense with 18 giveaways of its own to date, including the loss of 12 of 17 fumbles. That can’t be explained entirely away by luck.
The potential irony, however, is that the Rams will be without one of the primary culprits of this season-long problem for the foreseeable future. Marvin Kinsey, the conference’s leading rusher, is suspended indefinitely and he’d fumbled seven times during his time as the offense’s lead back. Additionally, quarterback Patrick O’Brien has an interception rate of just 1.2%, so this may (for once) be easier said than done.
3. Get the ball in Jalen Cropper’s hands.
One of the bright spots of Colorado State’s season has been the breakout campaign of true freshman Dante Wright, who leads the conference with 12 plays of 20 or more yards from scrimmage, while Bulldogs fans have been left clamoring for more of their own explosive young talent.
Though Cropper has just 18 touches to his name so far in 2019, he’s one of just 11 Mountain West players with two or more plays of 50-plus yards. Identifying the right times to get him the ball could be advantageous against a Rams defense that, while they have improved to just 4.71 yards per play allowed in Mountain West action, has coughed up 16 rushing plays of 20-plus yards in the 2019 season.
The Rams haven’t been able to put together a complete sixty minutes all season long and, now that the team’s strength is missing perhaps its most valuable contributor, it seems like even more of a longshot that they’ll do so against a Bulldogs squad that, at least for one week, looked like it was finally coming into form.
Fresno State 38, Colorado State 27