Fresno State vs. Oregon: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Bulldogs will hit the road for the first time this fall to face the Ducks. Here’s how to tune in and what to watch for.
A daunting task.
WEEK 1: Fresno State Bulldogs (1-0) vs. Oregon Ducks (0-0)
WHEN: Saturday, September 4 — 7:00 PM PT/8:00 PM MT
WHERE: Autzen Stadium; Eugene, OR
TV: Pac-12 Network.
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes the Pac-12 Network, 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 Oregon broadcast can be found in Eugene on 95.3 FM (KUJZ) and elsewhere across the state on the Oregon Sports Network.
SERIES RECORD: Oregon leads the all-time series, 7-2. In the last meeting on September 8, 2012, the Ducks defeated the Bulldogs, 42-25, in Eugene.
ODDS (as of 8/31, via Vegas Insider): Oregon -20.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Oregon by 22.0
FEI PROJECTION: Oregon by 12.9
The Fresno State Bulldogs will face their toughest test of the 2021 football season when they head north to square off with the Oregon Ducks. Mario Cristobal’s team are the defending Pac-12 champions and begin the year as that conference’s top-ranked team in the Associated Press Top 25, meaning that the Ducks will be motivated not to look ahead to their titanic clash with Ohio State next week, to take of the business right in front of them.
Coming off of a dominant win over UConn, though, the Bulldogs won’t roll over. Here’s how the Bulldogs can stun the Ducks with a road upset.
Three Keys to a Fresno State Victory
1. Don’t let Kayvon Thibodeaux have his way.
Cristobal has made a point in recruiting to stack his defense with blue chip talents, but no one on that side of the ball can change the tenor of game quite like Thibodeaux. New defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter will find ways to deploy his budding superstar and, whether he’d admit it or not, seek a measure of revenge against his former employers.
If he lines up on Jake Haener’s blind side, this will make offensive tackle Dontae Bull one of the game’s most important individuals. It may be that offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb won’t take chances matching Bull up with Thibodeaux one-on-one more than is absolutely necessary, offering chip help from tight ends and the like, and with Ronnie Rivers capable of making the screen game viable, they have options for neutralizing any aggressiveness up front. Whatever form it takes from drive to drive, keeping Thibodeaux from killing momentum should be a top priority.
2. Rattle Anthony Brown.
The Fresno State defense had a stellar performance in terms of creating havoc against UConn, racking up ten tackles for loss and four sacks, but doing that against the Huskies and maintaining that against Oregon are two very different tasks. Where UConn often looked discombobulated last Saturday, Oregon did a competent job last year of protecting Brown and Tyler Shough with a 5.5% sack rate allowed.
Brown has always been more good than great when healthy, though, so while he’ll have more talent at his disposal with the Ducks than he ever did at Boston College, the Bulldogs will want to create opportunities to force him into mistakes. For his career, Brown has a 2.8% interception rate, so generating pressure is the most likely path toward winning the turnover battle, which is as close to a must as it can be for Fresno State.
3. Don’t get conservative against a talented Ducks secondary.
Oregon’s two-deep is headlined by a defensive backfield that is both extremely young and extremely talented. Sophomore cornerback Mykael Wright is already an all-Pac 12-caliber defender and sophomore safety Verone McKinley III has five interceptions in 17 career starts, but the other two projected starters are stepping into more prominent roles.
One thing that Fresno State may want to try and test, if they don’t want to go right after anyone deep, is how much they can soften up the pass defense with their tight ends. Last week against UConn, Juan Rodriguez didn’t have any targets but Raymond Pauwels Jr. caught all three of his for 20 yards and a touchdown. Noah Sewell can handle himself in coverage, but veteran linebackers Bennett Williams and Dru Mathis could make for more manageable one-on-one matchups that Rodriguez and Pauwels can win at critical junctures.
I have a lot of confidence that Fresno State will be plenty good this year, but I am also plenty confident that they won’t see a defense any other time this year which could be as good as Oregon’s. If the Bulldogs fall behind and are forced to put a lot on Jake Haener’s right arm to keep up, they could probably hang around for a little while but it’d be a dicey proposition to ask them to win a shootout.
The most likely scenario is that Fresno State makes headway here and there but isn’t able to take full advantage of the opportunities they create. That could be frustrating, but I doubt that’ll happen too much more often later in the season.
Oregon 42, Fresno State 24