Fresno State vs. Hawaii: Three Keys To A Bulldogs Win
The Bulldogs and Warriors will battle in a West division elimination game. Here’s how to find the Facebook livestream and what to watch for.
Two contenders have it all on the line.
WEEK 10: Fresno State Bulldogs (3-4, 1-2 Mountain West) vs. Hawaii Warriors (5-3, 2-2 MW)
WHEN: Saturday, November 2 — 9:00 PM PT/6:00 PM HT
WHERE: Aloha Stadium; Honolulu, Hawaii (50,000)
TV: For viewers in Hawaii, the game can be found on Spectrum Pay-Per-View. In the Central Valley, the game will be broadcast on KAIL.
RADIO: The Fresno State broadcast can be found on 940 AM, while the Hawaii broadcast can be found on ESPN Honolulu at 1420 AM and 92.7 FM.
SERIES RECORD: Fresno State leads the series 28-22-1. In the last meeting on October 27, 2018, the Bulldogs defeated the Warriors, 50-20, in Fresno.
LAST WEEK: Fresno State suffered a 41-31 defeat at home against Colorado State, while Hawaii beat New Mexico on the road, 45-31.
ODDS (via OddsShark): Hawaii -2.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Fresno State by 2.0 (55% win probability)
FEI PROJECTION: Hawaii by 1.1
Three Keys to a Fresno State Victory
1. Don’t get beat by Cole McDonald early.
The Warriors quarterback has done most of his damage hooking up with his receivers on first and second downs, which makes creating more obvious passing situations a critical turning point. This might sound strange against an offense that’s always willing to throw, but on third downs of seven or more yards, McDonald is just 16-of-29 with six first down conversions, a 20% rate. By contrast, all 13 of his completions on third-and-six-or-fewer have gone for first downs.
That’s mitigated somewhat by Hawaii’s aggressiveness on fourth downs, where McDonald is 7-of-10 with seven first down throws, so it might just be a matter of hanging on and trusting the defensive line can get enough pressure to get off the field.
2. Build on last week’s ground game successes.
If you remove Hawaii’s blowout win from Nevada from their season totals, the 6.16 yards per carry they have allowed would rank 128th nationally. As it is, their current 5.73 YPC figure ranks… 127th. For a Fresno State offense coming off of its best rushing performance of the year, this is a potentially massive mismatch.
Hawaii and Fresno State have almost the exact same Opportunity Rate on defense and offense, respectively, with the Warriors’ 50.9% rate ranking 106th in the FBS and the Bulldogs’ 50.8% coming in at 34th nationally. Getting four, five or six yards on the ground with any consistency, even if the most explosive plays come and go, would keep the powerful Hawaii offense on the sidelines and would enable the ‘Dogs to chip away with Ronnie Rivers and Josh Hokit, whose combined 4.8 YPC are trending in the right direction.
3. Limit the Hawaii ground game.
This year’s iteration of the run-and-shoot isn’t nearly as imbalanced as last year because the Hawaii running game, believe it or not, has taken a massive step forward. On the season, they have averaged 5.02 YPC and been even better than that in Mountain West play with 5.89 YPC (which trails, coincidentally enough, only Fresno State).
They’ve also been at least a top-40 unit nationally by many advanced measures like offensive Opportunity Rate, Power Success Rate, and Line Yards Per Carry. The Bulldogs shouldn’t be under any illusion about Hawaii being anything other than a “pass first, second, and probably third” attack, having thrown the ball 67% of the time in the last three games, but there will be pressure on the defensive front to slow the Warriors if they spread the defense and run between the tackles, as they did last week against New Mexico.
The Bulldogs haven’t looked right on defense all season long, which makes this a prime opportunity for Hawaii to once again rack up yards and points. Unfortunately, Fresno State hasn’t shown they can consistently keep up with powerful offenses, either, so while both sides look like they’ll be able to land some haymakers, don’t be shocked if the Warriors jump ahead early and keep the Bulldogs at bay all night.
Hawaii 45, Fresno State 35