With only 40 days remaining until the BCS ends its 15-year reign of terror, it’s time for a flurry of “last-ever” lists.
Yes friend, upon us is the “last-ever” BCS selection show, the “last-ever” final BCS standings, the “last-ever” at-large bids and the “last-ever” BCS buster.
Following in the great tradition, which began in 2004 when Utah got invited to the Fiesta Bowl, either No. 14 Northern Illinois or No. 16 Fresno State will become the final non-AQ team to make a BCS bowl game.
So, which of the two teams should the non-committed enthusiast hope makes the big money dance and why?
Though Heisman-hopeful Jordan Lynch and 12-0 Northern Illinois have all the right stuff to bust the BCS in the chops, Fresno State is the better choice for a nation in need of an underdog hero.
First, you’ve got the “been there, done that” angle. Northern Illinois became the first-ever MAC team to bust the BCS last season, so the storyline is used. Yes, the Huskies played valiantly against Florida State in the Orange Bowl, but they lost 31-10. Do you really want to go there again?
Next, if Fresno State manages to win out, it will be the team that had a tougher road to get to the BCS. This presumably makes the Bulldogs the more battle-ready team, meaning most likely to win a BCS game.
Take a look at a breakdown of the two programs’ complete slate of opponents this season.
|Schedule Comparison: Fresno St. vs. Northern Illinois 2013|
|Fresno State||Northern Illinois|
|Winning % of FBS Opponents||42%||37%|
|Opponents With a Winning Record||4||3|
Though Northern Illinois played—and beat—two Big Ten opponents this season (Iowa and Purdue), it still played an easier slate. In fact, the Huskies played four teams in 2013 which have only managed one win all season. This in addition to beating a team that won only two games. This means that five—or almost half—of their opponents didn’t exceed the two-win mark.
Last up, Fresno State has a story to tell. And while all teams have something to say to a wider audience, the Bulldogs are worth getting to know better.
Fresno State came into 2013 off a 9-4 finish last season that included its first conference championship (shared with Boise State) since winning the WAC in 1999.
Despite the glory, 2012 ended with an embarrassing Hawaii Bowl performance against SMU. The Bulldogs had been 13-point favorites coming into the game and got drilled 43-10. The loss cost Fresno State a shot at hitting the double-digit win mark for the first time since 2001 when it went 11-3 under Pat Hill.
Coming into this season, the Bulldogs had the benefit of eight returning starters to each side of the ball including senior quarterback Derek Carr.
Among the losses were leading rusher Robbie Rouse (1,490 yards and 12 touchdowns) and top tackler Phillip Thomas. Thomas was a defensive back who contributed 84 tackles, eight interceptions (three for touchdowns), 12 tackles for a loss, four sacks, four forced fumbles and five broken-up passes as a senior in 2012.
Though prognosticators like Phil Steele had Fresno winning the new West division in 2013, the Bulldogs were—again—overshadowed by conference-mate Boise State, still considered the No. 1 potential BCS buster.
To illustrate, Boise State came in at No. 19 in the preseason AP, while Fresno State, with 36 votes, was technically No. 32.
After opening up the 2013 season with a 52-51 overtime win versus Rutgers, the Bulldogs have stormed to a 10-0 record, including a 41-40 thriller over Boise State in Week 4.
Though Fresno State’s overall margin of victory is 19.8 points, four games have been decided by seven points or less, and two have stretched into overtime.
The Bulldogs have dined out on their prolific passing offense this season and managed to hold opponents to 27 points per game despite a secondary that has been generous.
Here’s a snapshot of Fresno State statistically:
|Fresno State: 2013 Team Statistics|
|Per Game||FBS Rank|
|Scoring Offense||46.8 points||5|
|Rushing Offense||174.7 yards||63|
|Passing Offense||399.4 yards||2|
|Scoring Defense||27 points||68|
|Rushing Defense||156.2 yards||58|
|Passing Defense||250.8 yards||97|
|College Football Statistics|
Tim DeRuyter is in his second season as the head coach at Fresno State and is 20-4 through Week 13.
DeRuyter played linebacker at Air Force in the early 80s, and after serving seven-and-a-half years in the Air Force, he started his coaching career an assistant at his alma mater in 1991. He has had coaching stops at Ohio, Navy, Nevada and Texas A&M.
DeRuyter came to Fresno State—his first head coaching role—after serving as the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M from 2010 to 2011 under Mike Sherman.
Though DeRuyter has been a defensive coach throughout his career (mainly working with the secondary), his most significant contribution to Fresno State to date is improving team discipline.
To illustrate, take a look at how the Bulldogs have developed under DeRuyter:
|Fresno State: Team Stats Since 2011|
|2011||FBS Rank||2012||FBS Rank||2013||FBS Rank|
|Penalty Yards per Game||62.2||100||65.1||97||47.2||68|
|College Football Statistics|
Though there is lots to like about the 2013 Fresno State squad, here are three guys worth keeping an eye on:
Adams is a sophomore wide receiver from Palo Alto, Calif. He was a 2-star recruit with the class of 2011 and led the team in receiving as a freshman in 2012.
Through 10 games, Adams has 1,213 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns on 100 catches. He is the No. 2 receiver in the FBS in yards per game (121.3), No. 6 in yards and No. 1 in touchdowns.
NFL Draft Scout has Adams ranked as the No. 2 receiver among guys eligible for the 2016 draft.
Carr is a senior quarterback and third-year starter from Bakersfield, Calif. Carr—younger brother of David—was a 3-star recruit in the class of 2009, and according to Rivals, he's ranked No. 29 nationally among pro-style quarterbacks.
Carr is 350-of-502 (69.7 percent) for 3,943 yards, 39 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. He is ranked No. 1 in the FBS in yards per game (394.3), No. 4 in completion percentage, No. 2 in yards, No. 1 in touchdown passes and tied for fifth in fewest interceptions thrown. His passer rating of 159.75 ranks No. 14 in the FBS.
According to Bovada via John Taylor of NBC Sports, Carr has 20/1 odds to win this season’s Heisman. NFL Draft Scout has Carr ranked at No. 1 among quarterbacks eligible for the 2014 draft (ahead of Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Alabama’s AJ McCarron and Georgia’s Aaron Murray).
Ederaine is a sophomore outside linebacker from Corona, Calif. Ederaine was a 2-star recruit in the class of 2011 and registered three tackles in three games as a freshman last season.
Ederaine has been a surprise contributor in 2013, racking up 42 tackles, a fumble return for a touchdown, 15 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks and a forced fumble. He is ranked No. 9 in the FBS in sacks and No. 17 in tackles for a loss.
Can They Really Bust It?
There are two levels of questions for what remains of Fresno State’s 2013 season: Can the Bulldogs win out, and if they do, can they win a BCS game?
In order to overtake Northern Illinois in the BCS rankings, Fresno State must knock off 5-6 San Jose State on the road Friday and win the inaugural Mountain West title game on Dec. 7.
If Utah State can beat Wyoming this Saturday, the conference championship game will be played between the Aggies and the Bulldogs at home in Fresno.
What will likely decide Fresno State’s fate is if its No. 97-ranked pass defense can hold up against San Jose State’s No. 9-ranked passing attack. Then, it will be up to Carr, Adams and the offense to score on Utah State’s No. 7-ranked scoring defense.
So, if all the stars align and Fresno State busts the BCS, can it expect to put up a fight against the likes of Oklahoma State or Auburn?
For an inside look, here’s what DeRuyter had to say about his team’s mentality in an October interview with Jim Rome on CBS Sports Network.
They’ve got a lot of heart, they believe in what they are doing, they believe in each other and they don’t believe they can lose.
After we lost the bowl game the way we did last year our kids were really embarrassed by it. And not to take anything away from SMU, we didn’t play our best game and so they came back with a different resolve in January. And from then…we pushed it, we cranked things up in the offseason and they responded. This group has a glue unlike any other team I’ve been around.
Is it enough for a team to think it can’t lose? Well, check out what legendary Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes had to say after the No. 4 Buckeyes upset No. 1 Purdue 13-0 in 1968.
"What do you mean upset? It’s never an upset if the so-called underdog as all along considered itself the better team."