Fresno State Breakdown
July 31, 2018
By Brian Edwards
Editor's note: Brian Edwards has another win total here with Fresno State to go 'over,' joining his other plays on South Carolina and Stanford to go 'over' its season win totals. Make sure to get signed up for Brian's season pack now!
Jeff Tedford finished ninth in last season’s voting for National Coach of the Year by the Associated Press. Truth be told, the job he did at Fresno State was as good any other work done at any school in the country.
Tedford transferred from Cerritos College to Fresno State as a player in 1981. After a pair of seasons as the starting QB, he held the school’s record for career passing yards (4,872) and touchdown passes (35).
Tedford returned to his alma mater last year after the Bulldogs went 3-9 in 2015 and 1-11 in 2016. All the new head coach did was guide a nine-win turnaround when Fresno State went 10-4 straight up and cashed tickets at a lucrative 10-2-2 against-the-spread clip. Tedford’s team won the Mountain West Conference’s West Division by going 7-1 in league play.
Fresno State lost merely 14 lettermen and returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense. Let’s also remember that two of the Bulldogs’ four losses came in back-to-back games at top-ranked Alabama and at sixth-ranked Washington in Weeks 2 and 3. They covered the spread as huge underdogs in both instances.
After beating Boise State 28-17 as a seven-point home underdog in its regular-season finale, Fresno State had to travel to the smurf turf to face the Broncos again the next week in the MWC Championship Game. Tedford’s team dropped a 17-14 decision to BSU, but it took the cash as a nine-point road underdog.
Fresno State finished the year on the right note by capturing a 33-27 win over Houston as a two-point underdog at the Hawai’i Bowl. The Bulldogs went 6-0 ATS with three outright wins as ‘dogs last season.
Marcus McMaryion started seven games at quarterback for Gary Andersen at Oregon State during the 2015 and ’16 campaigns. When Andersen quit on the Beavers, McMaryion decided to transfer. He took over the starting job in Week 4 and never let go of it.
McMaryion went 9-2 in his 11 starts, throwing for 2,726 yards with a 14/5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He completed 62.1 percent of his throws and had a QB Rating of 137.7. He also showed mobility by rushing for 302 yards and four TDs with a 5.3 yards-per-carry average.
McMaryion loses second-leading wide receiver Da’Mari Scott (57 catches for 566 yards and one TD), but eight players who had 11 receptions or more are back. Senior WR KeeSean Johnson was a first-team All-MWC selection last season when he hauled in 77 receptions for 1,013 yards and eight TDs. Phil Steele’s preseason magazine ranks Johnson No. 72 among the nation’s best WRs eligible for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Senior WR Jamire Jordan has 33 career starts to his credit. Steele has him as a preseason second-team All-MWC pick after making 27 catches for 562 yards and three TDs in ’17. Junior TE Jared Rice is also a preseason second-team All-MWC selection in Steele’s mag. Rice had 22 receptions for 388 yards and two TDs last year. The wideout group also adds WR Michiah Quick, a former four-star recruit for Oklahoma who started four games for the Sooners over three years before electing to leave as a grad transfer.
Fresno State brings back its top three RBs, including last season’s leading rusher. That would be sophomore Jordan Mims, who ran for 627 yards and six TDs with a 4.2 YPC average as a freshman. Junior Josh Hokit produced 583 rushing yards and seven TDs with a 4.6 YPC average, while sophomore Ronnie Rivers ran for 480 yards and five TDs with a 4.8 YPC average. This trio of RBs in joined by Romello Harris, a transfer from Washington St. who sat out last season.
Steele’s Unit Rankings for the MWC has the Bulldogs ranked No. 2 at the QB position, No. 6 at RB, No. 1 at WR and No. 6 on the offensive line. As for the defense, it’s ranked No. 8 on the defensive line, No. 2 at the LB position and No. 3 in the secondary. They’re tabbed eighth on special teams and fourth in team chemistry.
Tedford’s defensive coordinator from last year, Orlondo Steinauer, went back to coach in the CFL where he was prior to coming to Fresno. His replacement is Bert Watts, who was the LBs coach here in ’17 and was the DC at UC Davis from 2013-16 after serving as a Denver Broncos assistant in ’12.
Watts inherits a defense that returns its top seven tacklers from a unit that allowed only 17.9 points per game. Junior Jeffrey Allison garnered first-team All-MWC honors by recording 126 tackles, the third-most in the league. Allison also contributed 3.5 tackles for loss, three passes broken up, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Five other Fresno State defensive players made Steele’s preseason All-MWC squads. LB George Helmuth and DB Jaron Bryant are second-team picks, DB Juju Hughes and Mike Bell are third-team selections and LB James Bailey is a fourth-teamer. Punter Blake Cusick is a fourth-team All-MWC selection as well.
Helmuth, a senior, had 89 tackles, four sacks, four TFL’s, five QB hurries, one PBU and one forced fumble last year. Bryant produced 67 tackles, seven PBU, four interceptions, two pick-sixes, 2.5 TFL’s and one forced fumble.
Fresno State’s season win total is eight flat (-110 either way) at both The Westgate SuperBook and the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas. 5Dimes.eu has Tedford’s bunch with the second-shortest odds (+595, risk $100 to win $595) to win the MWC Championship Game behind only Boise State, the -173 ‘chalk.’ The Bulldogs are 2,000/1 longshots to win the College Football Playoff at the offshore website.
5Dimes.eu has Fresno State listed as a 12.5-point road underdog in its Friday night trip to Bronco Stadium to face BSU on Nov. 9. Not only will the Bulldogs be playing on the road on a short week, they’ll also be in a back-to-back road spot and on the road for the third time in four weeks. 5Dimes.eu has Fresno State installed as a two-point home favorite vs. San Diego State on Nov. 17 in a game that’ll almost certainly decide the MWC’s West Division.
Fresno State will most likely be favored in nine of its 12 regular-season games. In addition to the road assignment in Boise, the Bulldogs will probably be underdogs in consecutive road tilts at Minnesota and at UCLA in Weeks 2 and 3. However, it won’t be a shocker if they win either of these contests. Both Power Five schools are off losing seasons and will be breaking in new starting QBs.
There’s another tough non-conference game on the slate at home vs. Toledo on Sept. 29. Fresno State will have the benefit of two weeks to prepare for the Rockets, who throttled the 1-11 Bulldogs by a 52-17 count at The Glass Bowl in 2016.
Toledo is one of the MAC’s top programs and has one of the country’s top group of WRs, but it must replace the school’s all-time leading passer in Logan Woodside (10,514 yards). The Rockets, who finished 11-3 last season, will have a new starting QB who will be making his first career road start at Fresno State.
There are three additional spots that could present danger for Tedford’s squad. Fresno State play at Nevada on Oct. 6 and hosts Wyoming on Oct. 13. The Bulldogs will be favored in both instances, but those aren’t layups. A Nov. 3 trip to Sam Boyd Stadium to play at UNLV is a vintage look-ahead situation, and Tony Sanchez will have his best team since getting hired by the Rebels. They have the league’s best RB in Lexington Thomas and one of the conference’s top signal callers in Armani Rogers.
Nevertheless, I think Fresno State will prevail against the Wolf Pack, Cowboys and Rebels. Again, the Bulldogs can certainly pull an upset out of their three toughest road games at Minnesota, at UCLA and at BSU, and I think they win their other nine games.
Prediction: I like to have a 1.5-game cushion between my prediction for a team and its season win total. I’m only calling for Fresno State to go 9-3, but I’ll still suggest a 1.5-unit play on the Bulldogs to go ‘over’ eight victories.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- Steele has Fresno State at No. 24 in the nation in his Experience Rankings.
-- Steele has Fresno State at No. 57 in the country in his Preseason Power Rankings. He predicts the Bulldogs to finish the year at No. 41 in the nation. They’ll face Colorado in the Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium, according to Steele’s Bowl Projections.
-- After limping to a 2-10 spread record as a road underdog in 2015 and ’16, Fresno State went 4-0 ATS as a road underdog last season.
-- Steele has the Bulldogs’ schedule ranked as the eighth-toughest among MWC teams and No. 98 out of 130 FBS schools.
-- In Steele’s National Unit Rankings, Fresno State is No. 55 at the QB position, No. 26 at WR, No. 32 at LB and No. 47 in the secondary.
-- Fresno State finished 2017 at +1,013 in total yards against its 14 opponents and was plus eight in turnover margin.
-- Fresno State had lost six straight bowl games before knocking off Houston in Honolulu last year. The Bulldogs hadn’t won a postseason game since defeating Ga. Tech at the 2007 Humanitarian Bowl on the smurf turf in Boise.
-- In 2019, Fresno State plays at USC and Minnesota comes to Bulldog Stadium. The Bulldogs play at Colorado and at Texas A&M in 2020 and then in ’21, they play at Oregon and at UCLA. They’re at USC again in ’22 and ’25 and get to host Oregon State in ’22 before travelling to Corvallis in ’24.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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