Fresno State Football: First Look at the 2020 Schedule
The ‘Dogs enter a new era with a very manageable schedule this fall.
Coming off a down year, things should be a little easier.
2019 didn’t go quite the way that the Fresno State Bulldogs intended, but new head coach Kalen DeBoer will enter his first year in charge with what looks like a decent chance to put last fall’s disappointments far behind.
September 5 — vs. Idaho State
September 12 — at Colorado (SP+: 91 | FPI: 56)
September 26 — vs. Air Force (SP+: 65 | FPI: 76)
October 3 — at Colorado State (SP+: 79 | FPI: 96)
October 10 — at Texas A&M (SP+: 10 | FPI: 8)
October 17 — vs. New Mexico State (SP+: 128 | FPI: 126)
October 24 — at Nevada (SP+: 110 | FPI: 98)
October 31 — vs. Hawaii (SP+: 99 | FPI: 119)
November 7 — at UNLV (SP+: 121 | FPI: 117)
November 14 — at Utah State (SP+: 100 | FPI: 95)
November 21 — vs. San Diego State (SP+: 74 | FPI: 88)
November 28 — vs. San Jose State (SP+: 108 | FPI: 108)
What are the biggest initial takeaways?
1. On paper, at least, it’s a lot less demanding off the bat.
Late-game errors cost the Bulldogs a pair of September upsets against USC and Minnesota last fall, but getting off to a strong start in 2020 looks a lot more manageable. A pair of trips to the Centennial State won’t be walks in the park, but the Buffaloes and Rams have first-year head coaches of their own in Karl Dorrell and Steve Addazio.
Hosting Air Force, meanwhile, remains as tough a draw as ever, even if the Falcons aren’t likely to be as strong as they were, but a 3-1 start isn’t crazy to dream upon.
2. We’ll know if the ‘Dogs are back as contenders or not by Halloween.
One of the most noteworthy narratives you’ll hear across the Mountain West all summer is that the conference, at least in terms of returning production, is reloading pretty much everywhere. There are still early betting favorites in both divisions, San Diego State and Boise State, but the path is there for Fresno State to head into mid-November undefeated in conference play.
For my money, though, it all hinges on the road date against the Wolf Pack, who benefited from close-game luck last season but did go bowling when the Bulldogs did not and will go through the off-season with an edge in the aforementioned returning production. Fresno State can’t be a dark horse if they begin 0-2 in Mountain West action.
3. One way or another, earning back rivalry trophies and securing bowl eligibility will probably be intertwined late.
Even if the Bulldogs don’t get all the way back to their 2017-18 heights, there’s a decent chance that besting their bitterest rivals could make the difference between big success and mild disappointment in year one under DeBoer.
Fans will certainly hope that Fresno State are in a better position than they were with two weeks to go in 2019, when the ‘Dogs fell flat against Nevada and SJSU, but with only four opponents in the 100s by SP+ by late November, it could very well play out that way again. Securing the Old Oil Can and the Valley Trophy are always a priority, but an added degree of urgency could make things interesting down the stretch.
Hardest stretch: vs. Air Force, at Colorado State, at Texas A&M
Easiest stretch: vs. New Mexico State, at Nevada, vs. Hawaii
Guaranteed wins: Idaho State, New Mexico State, at UNLV
Guaranteed losses: Texas A&M
Worse than 50/50 games: Air Force, at Colorado State, San Diego State
50/50 games: at Colorado, at Nevada, at Utah State, San Jose State
Better than 50/50 games: Hawaii
Preliminary projected record: 6-6