Fresno State Bulldogs

Fresno State sits at 2-2. How do they navigate the Mountain West?

The Bulldogs wrapped up their nonconference schedule with a 30-17 win over New Mexico State and evened up their record to 2-2.

Now in their second bye week, the ‘Dogs can focus all their attention on the Mountain West, starting with Air Force on Oct. 12.

Here’s a look at what lies ahead on Fresno State’s Mountain West schedule:

Air Force

The Falcons have started strong with a 3-1 record, including wins against Colorado and San Jose State. The lone loss came against a very good Boise State team.

It’s not an easy first game in Mountain West action for the Bulldogs. It’s no surprise that Air Force once again has one of the best rushing attacks in the nation with the triple-option offense. But the Falcons’ pass offense is abysmal, ranking as one of the worst in the country.

This will be the first time the Bulldogs will face Air Force under head coach Jeff Tedford.

UNLV

Fresno State’s return to home comes on a Friday night against a Rebels team currently in rough shape with a 1-3 record.

UNLV’s only win came against FCS school Southern Utah. With games against Boise State and Vanderbilt coming up, don’t be surprised to see the Rebels limp into Bulldog Stadium at 1-5.

We’ll see how long head coach Tony Sanchez lasts.

There’s one more reason to expect a Fresno State victory: revenge for 2017. The ‘Dogs played their worst game of the Tedford era, leading to one of only two losses at Bulldog Stadium with Tedford at the helm. It’s hard to imagine the Bulldogs beating themselves again – that’s the only conceivable way UNLV picks up another win.

Colorado State

The Rams join UNLV in the cellar of the Mountain West, sitting at 1-4. But at least they came close against Toledo and Utah State, so it shouldn’t be a walk in the park.

Starting quarterback Collin Hill tore his ACL in his left knee for the third time in his career. Backup Patrick O’Brien has done a fine job filling in – including a 400-yard performance against Toledo – but he’s struggled with accuracy. He completed under 50 percent of his passes against Utah State last week.

Defensively, the Rams rank near the bottom nationally giving up nearly 240 rushing yards per game. Expect Fresno State running backs Ronnie Rivers and Josh Hokit to lead the way.

Hawaii

The Bulldogs’ trip to the islands will start a three-game stretch that is shaping up to be the toughest part of the schedule.

Hawaii’s impressed so far with four wins and one loss. The Warriors opened with three-straight Pac-12 opponents – Arizona, Oregon State and Washington, beating the first two. And they just demolished Nevada 54-3.

Head coach Nick Rolovich has built a contender on the islands. With their performance so far, the Warriors are one of the favorites to win the West. Quarterback Cole McDonald is in the driver’s seat for the Mountain West offensive player of the year. He’s already thrown 17 touchdowns, nine more than the second-leading passer in the conference.

Utah State

The Aggies are 3-1 and have already made a statement in the conference with a close win against San Diego State. The lone loss was by three points to Wake Forest.

Utah State finished 11-2 last season, and it looks like the Aggies are just as good this time around.

Quarterback Jordan Love has continued his run of good form from last year. He’s second in the conference with 301 passing yards per game and is completing nearly 65 percent of his passes.

San Diego State

It’s all defense for the Aztecs, which isn’t surprising considering Rocky Long is still the head coach. They rank 16th nationally in total defense, and come in at No. 2 in rushing yards allowed per game.

After opening the season with a far too close 6-0 win against Weber State, San Diego State improved the following week to beat UCLA 23-14.

They’ve had a balanced offensive attack and should be favored in every game up to their matchups with Fresno State and Hawaii, which should determine the division.

Nevada

The Wolfpack is 3-2, but the losses have been bad – a 77-6 loss to Oregon and the aforementioned 54-3 loss to Hawaii. Nevada had an exhilarating comeback win to start the season against Purdue, but hasn’t done anything impressive since.

The other two wins came against Weber State and UTEP, weaker competition than what the Mountain West has to offer.

Head coach Jay Norvell is 0-2 against the Bulldogs, and it doesn’t look like he’ll pick up that first win this year.

San Jose State

The Bulldogs end their season with a rivalry game against a San Jose State team that’s certainly looked interesting so far.

The Spartans shocked the country a few weeks ago with a 31-24 win against Arkansas. But they lost by a wide margin to Tulsa and Air Force.

Which San Jose State team will we see against the Bulldogs, the one that beat an SEC team, or the one that went 1-11 last year and 2-11 the year before?

Mountain West Championship

Will the Bulldogs win the West Division for the third-consecutive year and make it to the championship? That will likely come down to the Hawaii and San Diego State games.

And if they do prevail, Boise State (4-0) should be waiting to host another championship game. The Broncos are ranked No. 16 in the country and are in the early lead to make it to a New Year’s Six bowl.

Freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier burst onto the scene in Week 1 against Florida State with his 400 yard performance, and the defense ranks second in the conference.

They have to face Hawaii and BYU in consecutive weeks though, so their early-season success might not last. If Boise State doesn’t win the Mountain Division, Utah State’s the next logical choice.

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.