Colorado State vs. Fresno State: Three Keys to a Bulldogs Win
The Bulldogs host Colorado State in their second straight home game to open 2020. Here’s how Fresno State can beat the Rams.
Can the Bulldogs win this rematch?
WEEK 9: Colorado State Rams (0-0) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs (0-1)
WHEN: Thursday, October 29 — 7:00 PM PT/8:00 PM MT
WHERE: Bulldog Stadium; Fresno, California
TV: CBS Sports Network
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes CBSSN, by following this link.
You can also find the audio broadcast on TuneIn.
RADIO: The Fresno State broadcast can be found around the Central Valley on 940 AM, while the Colorado State broadcast can be found on the affiliates of the CSU Sports Network, including 102.9 FM (KARS) in and around Fort Collins.
For satellite radio users, the game will also be available on SiriusXM channel 972.
SERIES RECORD: Colorado State leads the series 10-5. In the last meeting on October 26, 2019, the Rams defeated the Bulldogs, 41-31, in Fresno.
LAST WEEK: Fresno State lost at home to Hawaii, 34-19. Colorado State’s home opener against New Mexico was canceled.
ODDS (as of 10/28, via Vegas Insider): Colorado State -1.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Colorado State by 3.6 (58% win probability)
FEI PROJECTION: to be determined
In one of the first quirks of the 2020 Mountain West football schedule, the Fresno State Bulldogs will host the Colorado State Rams at the corner of Cedar and Barstow for the second straight season.
Things didn’t really go according to plan for either team last Saturday. For Kalen DeBoer’s Bulldogs, the young defense couldn’t make enough stops to cover for an offense that looked plenty capable of moving the ball but remained error-prone. Colorado State, meanwhile, had to wait an extra week to even get their campaign started after the state of New Mexico, owing to its ongoing battle in containing COVID-19, kept its Lobos from traveling to Fort Collins.
The expectations remain high on both sides, but here’s how the ‘Dogs can earn their first win of the fall against Colorado State.
Three Keys to a Fresno State Victory
1. Stop the run game.
Looking back at the 2019 season, the Rams run game can really be broken down into two categories: With Marvin Kinsey Jr. and without him. His performance from week to week was volatile but there’s no doubt about how his 5.81 yards per carry affected the rest of the offense.
As it happened, Colorado State got by for at least one week after Kinsey was suspended… but that came against Fresno State. Marcus McElroy had what would be the best game of career against the Bulldogs, running for 117 yards and two scores on just 18 carries, but was otherwise fairly pedestrian. He averaged 4.47 YPC in four November games while working in tandem with then-freshman Jaylen Thomas.
McElroy returns as the starting running back and, given the historical tendencies of new Colorado State head coach Steve Addazio, it stands to reason he could play an important role, not necessarily an outsized one, in making the new-look Rams go. That means the Fresno State defensive line, which had just two non-sack tackles for loss against Hawaii last Saturday, has to do a better job of keeping the opponent in check.
2. Eliminate the mental errors (especially on offense).
Unnecessary penalties, which included three false start penalties and a fourth-quarter delay of game, tended to put Fresno State behind the eight-ball last weekend. Cleaning up that element of the team’s execution could go a long way toward putting the Bulldogs in the driver’s seat because that same kind of issue has tended to plague Colorado State under previous coaching regimes.
In four of the last five years, the Rams have finished in the bottom three among Mountain West teams by penalty yards per game, but they had the upper hand in last year’s win against the Bulldogs since they got flagged for five penalties for 53 yards while Fresno State had nine for 71 yards. Flipping that script even a little bit is an obvious area of improvement.
3. Contain Dante Wright.
Warren Jackson might be gone, but the sophomore Rams wide receiver made a strong opening case last fall as the new pass-catching sensation in Fort Collins. The win over Fresno State, ironically enough, was his quietest performance of 2019 as he tallied just five catches for 23 yards, but that owed more to the fact that Jackson was, well, unstoppable that day.
Wright, who had 57 catches for 805 yards last fall but led the Rams with 1,159 all-purpose yards, should be in line for a much larger role now that Jackson has moved on to prepare for next year’s NFL Draft. New offensive Joey Lynch has a strong recent track record of finding ways to get the ball to his best players — the best analogue from his time at Ball State is probably Justin Hall — so while it seems less likely that one player will get the lion’s share of targets and touches in this offense, Wright is the best bet to do so.
It’s reasonable to expect that this should be a close game no matter who wins, but I believe it will come down to two things: Who can create more big plays in the passing game and who can better take care of the football. While Colorado State will soldier on without its best playmaker, there are still plenty of worthwhile options through which O’Brien and/or Centeio can spread the ball around. Between that and a Fresno State defense that looked awfully shaky last week, the Rams should be able to pull this one out.
Colorado State 33, Fresno State 27