“T.I.P.S.” for Colorado v. Fresno State

Colorado and Fresno State met four times in the 20th century, with the Buffs winning all four games.

Colorado and Fresno State have met twice in the 21st century, with the Bulldogs winning both games.

A fairly concise synopsis of what the Buff Nation has been dealing with recently – dominant in the past; not so much lately.

Actually, the second-to-last game played between the teams was a battle of what would become top ten teams by the end of that season. The Bulldogs defeated the Buffs in the 2001 opener, 24-22, in the first (and only) Jim Thorpe Football Association Classic. Fresno State held off a Buff team which ultimately came within decimal points of qualifying for the national championship game against Miami (though no one thought that would happen at the time. Colorado was coming off of a 3-8 season in 2000, and the loss to Fresno State was not well received. Check out what Woody Paige and Mark Kizla were saying about Gary Barnett after the loss to Fresno State … three months before Barnett was named the Big 12 Coach-of-the-Year).

In the most recent game played between Colorado and Fresno State … well, you know what happened. The numbers 35-0, 55-7, and 69-14 have been oft repeated of late, and have been seared into the memories of the Buff faithful.

So, is Saturday’s game (noon, MT, Pac-12 Networks) a “revenge” game?

Not exactly.

“I do not look at it as a revenge game or anything like that”, said CU coach Mike MacIntyre. “I think when you get into revenge all you are doing is getting mad and that’s not focusing”.

“It’s not really a subject to us, what happened to us last year,” said quarterback Connor Wood.  “It’s a new team, for us and them.  They’ve got different guys playing and obviously we remember from last year, but we’re just trying to focus on what we need to do and not worry about what happened in the past.”

Okay, so it’s not a “revenge” game, just a game between a team ranked No. 27 in the nation, and a team which hasn’t sniffed the rankings since 2005.

How do they match-up?

Here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.”:

T – Talent

The No. 5 passer in the nation. The number No. 31 quarterback in passing efficiency.

You know who I am talking about … Connor Wood.

Enjoy it while you can, Buff fans, but, at least for now, Buff quarterback Connor Wood has passed for more yards and has a higher passing efficiency rating than heralded Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.

Make no mistake, however, Derek Carr (No. 11 in passing yards, No. 46 in passing efficiency), is the real deal. All Buff fans have to take note of is Carr’s numbers from last season’s 69-14 humiliation – 17-of-22, 300 yards, five touchdowns.

We know Carr can pass. Who does Carr favor when he is throwing the ball?

Well, that’s kind of the problem. Saturday’s game will feature four wide receivers who are ranked in the top 15 nationally in catches. The Buffs’ Paul Richardson is No. 2 nationally (with 21 receptions), but the Bulldogs counter with Davante Adams (8th, with 19), Isaiah Burse (11th, 17), and Josh Harper (14th, 16). Burse had a 97-yard touchdown reception against Colorado last September, while Harper had to settle for a four-yard score.

Davante Adams? A 60-yard touchdown reception against Colorado, and a nation-leading streak of ten straight games with at least one touchdown reception.

And that’s assuming that Carr & Co. even need to take the field. The Buff Nation is well aware – as are the Buffs’ special teams – that Isaiah Burse had not one, but two punt returns for touchdowns last weekend.


Now, Fresno State is 90th in the nation in rushing, but that is misleading. The Bulldogs have only run the ball 63 times, but have been efficient when they have done so, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. (Compare Colorado … 71 rushes for 193 yards, an average of 2.72 yards per carry).

This just in … the Bulldogs are going to score on the Buffs.

Considering last year’s score and the results in the first two games of 2013, that’s pretty much a given. The issue will be containment, and making Fresno State work for their points. “We have to be able to harass the quarterback,” said Mike MacIntyre. The same things you always do, and we have to be able to tackle in open space and know your leverages.  That’s going to be one of the keys to the game is tackling those guys.  Don’t let them get in the open field enough times where we can use that speed.  So we have to get them before they get started.”

So, the real question is whether the Buffs can keep up with the Bulldogs on the scoreboard.

Fresno State, unfortunately, has a very good defense. The 52-51 overtime shootout with Rutgers notwithstanding, the Bulldogs, under defensive-minded head coach Tim DeRuyter, have good defensive players. Last season, Fresno State was 2nd in the nation in pass defense.

Let’s try that one again … second in the nation in pass defense.

And yet … Fresno State’s defense, through two games of the 2013 season, are 102nd in pass defense, and 107th in scoring defense.

An anomaly … or a new trend?

We’ll find out Saturday.

I – Intangibles

Make no mistake. Beating Colorado is a big deal for Fresno State.

In the Fresno State media release, there is a heading, “Messing with the ‘Big Boys’ “. Fresno State has 14 wins over BCS teams since 2003, a total second only to Navy amongst non-BCS teams (and Navy has several more opportunities each season for such victories than does Fresno State, which gets two, sometimes three – with a bowl game – opportunities a season to knock off a “Big Boy”.

Since 2003, Fresno State has beaten Cincinnati, Illinois (twice), Oregon State, Rutgers (twice), Kansas State (twice), Georgia Tech, UCLA (twice), Virginia, Washington, and Colorado. How do I know this? It’s all catalogued in the Fresno State press release.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. It’s still a big game for the Bulldogs.

Will altitude help? Dave Plati points out in the CU press release that Fresno is at 296 feet of elevation.

Thing is, Fresno State regularly plays in the state of Colorado, with games against Air Force and Colorado State. The Bulldogs also have a history with Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah schools.

So, unlike Central Arkansas, which came to Boulder a day early to “acclimate”, don’t look for the Bulldogs to be impressed with Folsom Field’s 5,345 feet of elevation.

One intangible which does favor the Bulldogs is their No. 27 national ranking. There are a number of games this weekend between teams in or around the Top 25. From the Pac-12 alone, No. UCLA faces No. 23 Nebraska, while No. 26 Arizona State looks for respect against No. 20 Wisconsin.

Fresno State players can do the math. Several teams right above them are going to lose.

A victory this weekend, even over a team like Colorado, will mean a 3-0 record, and likely a national ranking come Sunday.

Fresno State hasn’t been ranked nationally since 2008.

That, my friends, is incentive.

P – Preparation / Schedule

For a change, this category gives Colorado one significant advantage … and potentially a second, game-changing advantage.

The first is the time of the game. As much as CU fans are grousing about having yet another noon kickoff, bear in mind the Bulldogs are heading east from the Pacific time zone. The Saturday kickoff will actually be at 11:00 a.m. for Fresno State.

Not much, but any help in avoiding the Bulldogs get off to a quick start is welcome.

A significant, but not insurmountable, obstacle for the Bulldogs.

What could be a potential game-changer, though, is what the schedule offers the two teams next week.

Colorado, of course, has a bye, so there is no reason for the Buffs to have their attention focused on any game other than that with Fresno State.

The Bulldogs, though, have a game next Friday … and it’s only their biggest game of the season.

Next Friday, Fresno State will return home to face Boise State, in a nationally televised game. In the Mountain West Conference preseason media poll, Boise State was chosen to finish first in the Mountain West Mountain Division (by 40 of 41 voters), while Fresno State was chosen to finish first in the Mountain West West Division (by 39 of the 41 voters).

These two teams are the odds-on favorite to meet in the Mountain West Conference championship game. The winner of the game on September 20th, though, will have a leg up on the national spotlight, and have the best chance to be playing for a BCS berth on December 7th, when, in all likelihood, the teams meet for a re-match.

It would be impossible for the Fresno State players not to be looking ahead to the nationally televised game next Friday night … it’s only human nature.

The Bulldog players would be forgiven if they look at Colorado as a mere warm-up game. And, based upon last year’s results, who could blame them?

That might be just enough of an edge for the 2013 Buffs, brimming with a little confidence of their own, to stay with the Bulldogs long enough Saturday to create a little doubt in the minds of the Fresno State players.

Just maybe …

S – Statistics

It’s hard to ignore.

It’s ugly. It’s even worse than I thought it would be

… the telltale ASY stat.

ASY – Average Starting Yardline – tracks where teams start their drives after kickoffs, as well as that of their opponents.

Colorado’s ASY? The 23-yard line. That of the opponent? The 38-yard line.

A discrepancy of 15 yards.

But it gets even worse. When the ASY is considered for those kicks which are returned, the CU ASY is the 18-yard line; the opponents the 40.

So, as it is right now, assuming the Buffs could kick off past the opponent’s 40-yard line, they would actually be better off kicking the ball out of bounds and having the ball placed at the 40 right from the start – so I’m guessing special teams was a priority this week in practice.

One piece of good news … while Colorado is ranked 119th in the nation in Kick Return Yardage Defense, Fresno State is ranked 116th. So there.

Who knew that the loss of kicker Justin Castor, out for the season with a hip injury, would make such a difference?

Other stats of note:

– Fresno State’s third down conversion rate is the same for the offense and the defense, 27.4%. While that is a good mark for the defense (27th nationally), it’s not such a good mark for the offense (104th).

– Good news? Colorado is tied for the nation’s lead in red zone offense, at 100%. The bad news? CU is only 4-for-4, with three field goals and one lone touchdown, an 18-yard pass from Connor Wood to D.D. Goodson against Colorado State. The Buffs have yet to have a goal-to-go opportunity … and have no rushing touchdowns.

– Colorado snapped a nine game drought in interceptions last weekend against Central Arkansas. Conversely, Fresno State saw a streak of 12-straight games with an interception come to an end when they failed to pick off a pass against Cal Poly.

– And one to keep in your back pocket. Fresno State is 10-0 under Tim DeRuyter when scoring over 30 points in a game. In fact, when the Bulldogs do score over 30, the games haven’t been close, with an average margin of victory of 24 points.

That said, Colorado kept both of its first two opponents of the 2013 season under 30 points …

Anyone up for three straight?


7 Replies to “Fresno State – Preview”

  1. Stuart,

    I think the biggest concern we should have this weekend is how much worse the flooding might get. The ground is saturated after 15 inches of rain in 72 hours and another 2-4 might fall before kickoff. That is more moisture or precipitation than we normally get in a year!

    I know you are out of state. Check out my latest blogpost to find out more.


  2. I am not looking at this game as a revenge game. However I do want to see a lot of improvement on Saturday. I am not even expecting a win. How ever I am expecting the Buff’s to show up this time. First things first, Coach Mac make sure the team gets in behind Ralphie so they can follow him onto the field.


  3. Clearly the Buffs are taking a big step up in quality of opposition this week. Based upon that fact and based upon the beatdown Fresno State administered to them last year, I think the tempering of expectations is reasonable.

    That being said, as a Buff alum and a Rutgers fan/Jersey guy I watched a good deal of RU’s opener two Thursday nights ago vs. Fresno. Gary Nova, the RU quarterback, in front of whose name the words “much-maligned” were affixed the 2nd half of the 2012 season, had a jaw-dropping game vs. Fresno. RU has a very good wide receiver corps and Nova and his receivers (principally Coleman, Carroo and Pratt) shredded Fresno’s secondary. I think the Buffs – if Wood remains upright more often than not – have a puncher’s chance with Richardson and his running mates.

  4. I talked to a guy from the Fresno area today (Stationed at Lemoore Naval Air Statio). The Bulldogs are the local team so they covered non-stop up there. He claims that the local media and fans are sweating this game pretty good. That kind of caught me off guard.

  5. Thinking about keeping track of all those stats makes my head hurt
    but you know what?
    No one who actualy knows something about football (well…any sport for that matter) doesn’t care what mark kizla says

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