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Q&A: An Insider's look at Fresno State

Sports Editor

Published: Thursday, December 5, 2013

Updated: Thursday, December 5, 2013 00:12

The Utah Statesman interviewed Ricardo Cano, sports editor of The Collegian at Fresno State, on Wednesday for an insider’s look at the Lobos.

The Utah Statesman: Fresno State dropped its first game of the season last week and saw BCS hopes dashed. What effects has the loss had on the team in terms of morale and goals moving forward?

The Collegian at Fresno State: I don’t think it has affected the program much. Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said the team was disappointed after the loss, and senior left tackle Austin Wentworth said he was surprised with the outcome — that’s what happens when you put up 52 and still lose — but a BCS bowl bid was not the main goal for team this year, DeRuyter said.

The big picture was — and remains — repeating as Mountain West champions. The fan base really seemed to buy into the idea that Fresno State was going to bust the BCS this season, even with Northern Illinois competing for that accomplishment too. I think that it’s affected the fan base more than anything, especially in the way Fresno State’s BCS hopes were dashed: They lost what seemed to be a winnable game.

US: Bulldog quarterback Derek Carr is on the Heisman candidate list with his outstanding performance this season. How much of a motivator and/or distraction has that been for him and the team this season, and does he get an invitation to New York City?

CFS: It hasn’t been a distraction at all. Derek Carr is a humble dude, and you don’t get the sense here that his Heisman campaign takes precedence over everything else going on this season. The school’s athletic department launched his campaign after Fresno State beat Boise State on Sept. 20.

I don’t know if he cracks the top-5 in voting. He’s rewritten the Fresno State record books this year, but I’m not sure the strength of schedule helps his case. The Bulldogs haven’t exactly faced any tough secondaries in the Mountain West this season.

He’s definitely deserving of an invitation, though.

US: Fresno State has a very high-octane offense that ranks fourth nationally in scoring, and Utah State has a stingy defense that is ranked seventh in points against. In other words, the irresistible force meets the immovable object for the championship. Who would you say has the advantage in this matchup?

CFS: I think Fresno State has a slight advantage because it’s won games in two fashions this year: offensive routs and defensive stands in games that have been decided in the final play of the game — wins against Rutgers, Boise State, Hawaii and San Diego State.

Utah State is dominant on defense, particularly against the run, and Fresno State on offense. This is really a wild card because I’m not sure how the Aggies are planning on defending Fresno State.

I think this matchup is going to come down to Utah State’s offense against Fresno State’s defense.

US: The bowl picture in the Mountain West Conference remains muddled despite there being only one game left to play. Where do you see the Bulldogs and Aggies winding up?

CFS: Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said Monday in a conference call that he was “99 percent” sure that the Las Vegas Bowl would pick up the winner of the Mountain West title game — but I would be reluctant to believe that it would deny the bid to the Bulldogs, regardless if they win Saturday or not.

Fresno State — whether it finishes the season 11-1 with the conference title or 10-2 without it — seems like the most deserving and attractive Mountain West team for facing what seems to be USC. It’ll be the last college game for Carr, and I don’t think the Bulldogs are going to fall to the Poinsettia Bowl after being in the BCS discussion up until the final week of the regular season.

If Utah State entered the game 9-3 with a nonconference win over Utah or the Trojans or a win over Boise State, it’d definitely be a different story, and in that scenario I’d believe that the Las Vegas Bowl would take the conference champion.

US: What is your overall analysis and prediction for Saturday's MWC championship?

CFS: Fresno State’s played in close games this season, and I don’t think that the Bulldogs will snap its home game win streak Saturday.

Utah State has a really good defense and will test Fresno State and put them in uncomfortable situations, but no one has been able to stop the Bulldogs’ offense for all four quarters. I wouldn’t be surprised if Utah State tries to control the time of possession on offense while relying on its defense to minimize Fresno State’s production on offense.

Fresno State has injury problems on defense, and it’s impacted the team. Overall though, I don’t think Utah State — which can also put up points on offense — has faced an offense like Fresno State.

It’s going to be close, and it’s going to be a shootout.

42-41 Fresno State. 

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