Minnesota plays Fresno State on Saturday. It’s the second straight night game for the Gophers, and hopefully some TCF Bank Stadium at night will produce fireworks—of both the literal and metaphorical kind.
The outlook for Minnesota against the Bulldogs of Fresno State is not exactly rosy. But the Gophers are 2.5 point favorites at home, for what it’s worth.
So what do we know about Fresno State? Well, with just one week of college football in the books for 2018, we don’t know much. Even the Gopher Gnomes don’t know what to make of this week’s opponent.
Here’s our best attempt to cobble together information from the other side:
- The Bulldogs beat the Idaho Vandals 79-13 in the season opener. That’s a whole lot of points even if Idaho is far and away the worst team on Fresno State’s schedule. In fact, it’s the second-most points ever scored by the Bulldogs. (They had 94 against New Mexico in 1991).
- Against Idaho, Fresno State had seven (7!) rushing touchdowns, with Jordan Mims scoring three times. What’s interesting is that no single back managed to break 50 yards, but Fresno State still amassed 239 yards on the ground. This is a huge improvement over last season when Fresno State
- Quarterback Marcus McMaryion, who is on the Unitas Golden Arm Watch List, went 19/26 for 279 yards, but the Bulldogs lone score through the air came from backup Jorge Reyna who played mostly in garbage time, More importantly, neither quarterback made any mistakes that stood out.
- The Bulldogs’ offense was so efficient and productive—and the Vandals were so inept—that the defense didn’t need to do much. Still, Fresno State’s opportunistic defense picked off five passes, including one returned for a touchdown and also only allowed 3.2 yards per rush attempt. This is despite defensive coordinator Bert Watts being new to the team.
- Last year, under new head coach Jeff Tedford, Fresno State unexpectedly made the MWC championship game, winning Tedford coach of the year honors. This year, the Bulldogs are determined to show the world 2017 was no mirage. As cornerback Tank Kelly put it, “[w]e’re here to stay, this is Fresno State football.”
- In his 2018 Fresno State preview, Bill Connelly admitted to being wrong about the Bulldogs in 2017. For this season, he suggests at least 8 wins, maybe even 10 wins. Fresno State is back, y’all.
So what does Fresno State say about Minnesota?
- The two teams have never played before, but a Power 5 opponent like Minnesota represents a huge upgrade over Idaho and pretty much any other non-P5 opponent on the Bulldogs’ schedule. Tedford dismisses the divide between college football’s haves and have nots as irrelevant, however:
I never go into anything looking at a Power Five or a Group of Five or whatever the things are. I think we have enough good players here to compete with anybody that we play. I think we have the mindset to do that.
- Regardless, Fresno State has gone 0-fer in the last nine games against P5 teams and has been outscored by an average of 33.4 points in those losses. That isn’t exactly reassuring when you’re about to play the first of two non-conference games against P5 schools on the road.
- That said, the Bulldogs aren’t too scared of Minnesota. Noting that the Gophers didn’t exactly set the college football world on fire in 2017, at least one writer believes Fresno State will win big by attacking Minnesota’s inexperience at quarterback.
- The folks at Mountain West Connection don’t think much of Minnesota’s chances either.
I guess the Gophers will just have to prove all these people wrong.