Fresno State vs. Hawaii: Keys to a Bulldogs Win, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The red-hot Bulldogs head to the islands to face Hawaii. Here’s how to watch the game and what to watch for against the Warriors.
After surviving one trap game, is there another waiting on the islands?
WEEK 5: #18 Fresno State Bulldogs (4-1, 1-0 Mountain West) vs. Hawaii Warriors (2-3, 0-1 Mountain West)
WHEN: Saturday, October 2 — 8:00 PM PT/9:00 PM MT/5:00 PM HT
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.
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 Hawaii broadcast can be found on ESPN Honolulu, 1420 AM and 92.7 FM.
SERIES RECORD: Fresno State leads the all-time series, 29-23-1. In the last meeting on October 24, 2020, the Warriors defeated the Bulldogs, 34-19, in Fresno.
LAST WEEK: Fresno State defeated UNLV at home, 38-30, while Hawaii beat New Mexico State on the road, 41-21.
ODDS (as of 9/29, via Vegas Insider): Fresno State -10.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Fresno State by 8.9
FEI PROJECTION: Fresno State by 7.8
The Fresno State Bulldogs opened Mountain West play with a hard-fought victory over UNLV last Friday night, but it doesn’t get any easier from here as the team travels across the Pacific to face the Hawaii Warriors.
Todd Graham’s second year at the helm hasn’t unfolded as fans hoped, but after absorbing a pair of big losses to UCLA and Oregon State in non-conference play, the Warriors defense has rebounded to its 2020 form in the last couple weeks and the offense is finding more ways to attack opponents. It may not be as easy to avoid a letdown this time around after rallying last week.
Here’s how the ‘Dogs can maintain their winning ways against Hawaii.
Three Keys to a Fresno State Victory
1. Tread carefully against a talented secondary.
Jake Haener probably doesn’t need a reminder of just how good Hawaii’s defensive backfield can be — his performance against the Warriors to open the belated 2020 season, in which he threw three interceptions, is still the worst of his Bulldogs career — but Victor Santa Cruz’s unit seems to be back on track after a shaky few weeks of conference play. In the past two weeks against San Jose State and New Mexico State, Hawaii has allowed just 5.3 yards per attempt and a 52% completion rate.
Fresno State’s situation is obviously a little rosier, but the Warriors have also done a decent job of getting their hands on the football, too, with 23 passes defended and four interceptions in five games. Cortez Davis has seven himself and may draw the lion’s share of the work stopping Jalen Cropper, so how well the secondary playmakers in the offense fare against the likes of Cameron Lockridge and Hugh Nelson could do a lot to determine the outcome.
2. Keep Hawaii in check on the ground.
One obvious thing that has propelled Hawaii in their two wins so far this season is its multi-faceted running game. Dae Dae Hunter had his best game of the year against Portland State (16 carries, 128 yards, one touchdown) and fared well at New Mexico State (eight carries, 45 yards) while Dedrick Parson had a breakthrough of his own against the Aggies (11 carries, 89 yards, one touchdown) and Chevan Cordeiro, for once, didn’t need to try and do it all.
After bending a lot against Charles Williams early last week, Fresno State will need more of the kind of performance it had in the second half, when they allowed him just one explosive play and only five yards on six other carries. That’s a lot closer to what UCLA and Oregon State accomplished to put those games out of reach early and it’s doable for this active Bulldogs front.
3. Maximize red zone opportunities.
Despite scoring 36.8 points per game in four games against FBS competition so far, you could make a case the Bulldogs have yet to find their fifth gear on offense. That’s because Fresno State has scored only 2.66 points per drive, which ranks 38th nationally (for the sake of comparison, Wyoming and Air Force have fared better by PPD). It’s not the standing you’d expect and one culprit for it is, despite having six more red zone opportunities than any other Mountain West team to date, the ‘Dogs have scored a touchdown just 64% of the time.
By comparison, Hawaii has managed fewer trips overall inside the 20-yard line but has fared better on an average basis, scoring a touchdown on 13 of 19 chances (68.4%). If Fresno State wants to avoid another scare, ensuring they don’t leave any points on the table will be important.
The Bulldogs won’t take the Warriors lightly after last year’s flop and last week’s close call, which is a wise tack considering that Hawaii’s defense has rounded into form and, despite his flaws, Chevan Cordeiro has created just as many explosive passing plays (25) through five games as Jake Haener.
Things could look eerily similar to last Friday if Fresno State isn’t prepared, but Hawaii is also more mistake prone than the Bulldogs, with a Mountain West-worst 11 giveaways so far this season, and that seems likely to make the difference one way or another.
Fresno State 37, Hawaii 28