Fresno State vs. San Jose State: Three Keys to a Bulldogs Win
The Valley Trophy is on the line in the season finale between the Bulldogs and Spartans. Here’s our preview of how Fresno State can win.
The Bulldogs look to play with pride in this rivalry game.
WEEK 14: Fresno State Bulldogs (4-7, 2-5 Mountain West) vs. San Jose State Spartans (4-7, 1-6 MW)
WHEN: Saturday, November 30 — 7:30 PM PT/8:30 PM MT
WHERE: CEFCU Stadium; San Jose, California (21,520)
RADIO: The Fresno State broadcast can be found on 940 AM, while the San Jose State broadcast can be found on 990 AM (KKSF).
SERIES RECORD: Fresno State leads the series 42-37-3. In the last meeting on November 24, 2018, the Bulldogs defeated the Spartans, 31-13, in Fresno.
LAST WEEK: Fresno State lost at home to Nevada, 35-28, while San Jose State lost on the road at UNLV, 38-35.
ODDS (via OddsShark): Fresno State -2.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Fresno State by 4.8 (61% win probability)
FEI PROJECTION: Fresno State by 2.5
It’s been a few years since the Fresno State Bulldogs had to simply play out the string on a tough season, but Saturday brings an opportunity to go out on a particularly high note since the Valley Trophy is at stake against the San Jose State Spartans.
Here’s how the Bulldogs can maintain the upper hand against rival San Jose State.
Three Keys to a Fresno State Victory
1. Don’t get beat deep (at least not too often).
One problem that has crept up time and again in conference play is that teams have had success in picking up chunks of yards through the air against the Bulldogs defense. After giving up just four plays of 30 or more yards in non-conference action, Fresno State has allowed 12 in seven conference games.
This could be a serious issue against a passing game that, behind Josh Love, has 19 such plays against Mountain West opponents and can boast a trio of receivers — Tre Walker, Bailey Gaither, and Isaiah Hamilton — who average 14.6 yards per catch or better. The Spartans won’t hesitate to throw, so the Bulldogs need to be prepared.
2. Be the more disciplined team.
Another issue that has flown under the radar is that Fresno State has tended be a little more prone to penalties than past teams in recent history, averaging seven penalties per game in Mountain West play for the first time since 2012. Being the less mistake-prone squad could be important, though, against a team that has had no trouble moving the football and shooting itself in the foot in equal measure.
Over the last three weeks, the Spartans have averaged 519 yards of total offense but tallied seven, seven, and twelve penalties for an average of 72 penalty yards per game. Failing to “match” that, as it were, could prove to be a significant advantage for Fresno State.
3. Put the ball in Ronnie Rivers’s hands.
Hopefully, offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb will remember to give the junior running back more than one carry in the fourth quarter this time around because the Spartans have been pushed quite often by the run. Boise State, Hawaii, and UNLV all averaged at least five yards per carry against the SJSU defense over the last three weeks, and it should seem apparent that controlling the pace and keeping the powerful Spartans offense on the sideline is a winning path.
It’s hard to have a lot of faith in the Bulldogs at this point because the defense never turned things around like many expected. In a game where the secondary is likely to be tested, the fact they haven’t had a good game since mid-October should be terrifying. While the offense should be able to create some opportunities of its own, this one probably won’t be much different than the other frustrating close falls recently.
San Jose State 35, Fresno State 28