Year 1 A.D. (After Derek Carr) was rocky for the Bulldogs, whose pass-happy offense demands a competent QB. With no clear starter lined up for 2015 and Ole Miss and Utah on their noncon slate, reaching .500 looks like a tall order.
How the Bulldogs beat you: Fresno State’s rush (really!) netted 182.4 ypg in ’14, 30 yards more than in each of its first two years under coach Tim DeRuyter. Senior Marteze Waller is the RB behind the turnaround, with 11 TDs and breakaway ability (9 plays of 35-plus yards). “We’re going to lean on him a bit more,” DeRuyter says. And coming from a team that once lived by the aerial attack, that’s saying a lot.
How you beat the Bulldogs: The trademark air-it-out O went into hibernation in ’14 with Brian Burrell (18 INTs). Soph Zack Greenlee and frosh Kilton Anderson and Chason Virgil will battle to replace him, but with 41 career pass attempts combined, there’s no quick fix to third-and-long woes (25.9 percent conversion rate with 6-plus yards to go).
How the Bulldogs beat you: Thirddown pressure was one of the few things Fresno State excelled at last year (14 sacks, No. 22 in the FBS), and after nursing two bad shoulders in ’14, senior LB Ejiro Ederaine should return to 2013 form (team-high 10 sacks). The Bulldogs gave up 456.0 ypg (No. 108), but as long as they keep pressing, DeRuyter isn’t concerned: “In today’s game, people will move the ball on you.”
How you beat the Bulldogs: Senior DB Charles Washington and soph DB Malcolm Washington are the only returning starters in a vulnerable secondary. “We’ve given up big plays, especially at corner, not making offenses earn it,” DeRuyter says of the pass D’s deep game, which gave up the FBS’s eighth-most 20-plus-yard plays in ’14 (54).