UConn vs. Fresno State: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Fresno State Bulldogs will open up their 2021 college football season by hosting UConn. Here’s how to tune in and what to watch for.
The Bulldogs will look for a fast start to the season.
WEEK 0: UConn Huskies vs. Fresno State Bulldogs
WHEN: Saturday, August 28 — 11:00 AM PT/12:00 PM MT/2:00 PM ET
WHERE: Bulldog Stadium; Fresno, CA
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 Fresno State All-Access.
RADIO: The Fresno State broadcast can be found on in and around Fresno on Fox Sports 1340 AM, as well as on the affiliates of the Bulldog Radio Network around the San Joaquin Valley. The Huskies broadcast can be found in and around Hartford on the UConn Sports Network, 97.9 FM.
SERIES RECORD: This is the first meeting between UConn and Fresno State.
ODDS (as of 8/23, via Vegas Insider): Fresno State -27.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Fresno State 43.1, UConn 18.9
FEI PROJECTION: Fresno State by 18.7
When you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, you become fearless.
When you have a community to fight for, you become determined.
— Fresno State Football (@FresnoStateFB) August 2, 2021
When the Fresno State Bulldogs kick off their 100th college football season against the UConn Huskies on Saturday morning, that’s how long it will have been since the Red Wave has been on hand to cheer for the home team.
For the visitors, it will have been nearly that long — 638 days, to be exact — since they have had a chance to even play a game. After sitting out the 2020 season, UConn enters this fall as one of the game’s biggest unknowns, rebuilding but without an immediate sense of just how much work is left to be done.
It also should be noted that UConn was tabbed as national champions by the New York Times last year.
Here’s how the Bulldogs can start 2021 with a win against the Huskies.
Three Keys to a Fresno State Victory
1. Prove that 2020’s havoc production was no fluke.
If the Bulldogs had any surprises in 2020 that might be due for a bit of regression, it’s just how much the pass rush will produce. They made it a team effort to collect a 11.2% sack rate and UConn, when it last played, was merely mediocre in keeping quarterbacks Jack Zergiotis and Steven Krajewski on their feet. The Huskies allowed a 7.3% sack rate back in 2019, which ranked 88th nationally, and bring back just two starters from the long layoff: Senior tackle Ryan Van Demark and sophomore guard Christian Haynes.
The inexperience here might be especially good news for Kevin Atkins, Leonard Payne, and whomever else sees extensive time on the interior. Prove that you can harry whoever wins the Huskies’ quarterback battle and it puts the rest of the conference on notice.
2. Bottle up Kevin Mensah.
Did you know that the Huskies had a 1,000-yard rusher back in 2018 and 2019? Mensah, a junior from Worcester, Massachusetts, actually finished in the top ten among AAC running backs by total rushing yards in both years and has 19 career touchdowns, though his 4.5 career yards per carry suggests more “steady” in his game than “spectacular”.
More so than Zergiotis (57.7% completion rate, 6.9 yards per attempt, nine TDs, 11 INTs in 2019) or Krajewski and leading returning receiver Cameron Ross (60 catches, 723 yards, four TDs), Mensah is likely to be the engine that offensive coordinator Frank Guifre leans on to unlock the rest of the attack. Keep him in check and it could end up being a long afternoon for UConn.
3. Pick on a young Huskies secondary.
Put simply, UConn was not good on defense in 2019, allowing 5.89 yards per carry on the ground (without adjusting for sacks), a 158.19 opponents’ passer rating that turned everyone into the rough equivalent of Dillon Gabriel, and a whopping 3.5 points per defensive drive which ranked 128th among FBS teams. Up front, though, the prognosis for improvement is slightly rosier with massive defensive tackle Travis Jones (3.5 sacks, six TFLs), defensive end Kevon Jones (three sacks, 4.5 TFLs), and linebacker Omar Fortt (70 tackles, 2.5 TFLs) all back in the mix as entrenched starters.
In the defensive backfield, however, the current UConn depth chart suggests numerous questions that should encourage Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener to go for an early knockout blow or two through the air. The starting lineup could include two sophomores and a freshman with just five career starts between them, all of which come from sophomore cornerback Myles Bell, a recipe for big plays if the Bulldogs can hit the ground running.
Both teams will certainly feel good about being back on the field with some degree of normalcy behind the game, but it seems clear that UConn’s current dearth of talent on defense will keep them from mounting a serious challenge for sixty minutes. For Fresno State, this looks destined to be a lot more lopsided than any final score would indicate.
Fresno State 49, UConn 20