Fresno State-Cincinnati: 10 Things to Watch for in This Season Debut
The 2010 college football season is just 48 hours away, and for a lot of us, those 48 hours can't pass fast enough.
For Fresno State, it's been a long offseason, one that has been spent working on things that failed them in their disappointing bowl loss to Wyoming to end the 2009 season. That's not something this team wants to experience again.
Before they focus on where they're going this season, they have a big test to start off the season, as they'll welcome the Cincinnati Bearcats to Bulldog Stadium on Saturday night.
These two teams met last year in a game that Cincinnati was able to pull off, 28-20. It was a game Fresno State could have won—that they should have won. Alas, missed opportunities were a constant theme for this team last year.
This season is a new beginning with new faces and returning faces. A big win in the season and home opener would go a long way.
Here are 10 things to watch during Saturday night's game.
Robbie Rouse Replacing Ryan Mathews
Fresno State will begin the 2010 season without one of their staples in the backfield, as Ryan Mathews departed for the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League.
Taking his place will be sophomore running back Robbie "Mighty Mouse" Rouse. He had some playing time last season and has gotten his feet wet, so to speak. However, this will be the first year where he will get the brunt of the workload as the team's featured back.
While Rouse won't be alone in the Bulldog backfield, Bulldog fans will be looking to him to replace the former All-American in Mathews. Big shoes to fill for a young back.
Maturity and Experience of Ryan Colburn
Ryan Colburn will begin his second season under center for Fresno State, and it comes with a new set of expectations. His struggles early in the season provided some moans and groans from the Central Valley.
But with a full year under his belt giving him more experience against some big teams like Wisconsin and Fresno State's opponent this Saturday, Colburn could have the maturity and decision-making skills to lead this team to a much better finish than they had last year.
Colburn needs to come out firing against Cincinnati and keep their offense moving.
Bulldogs Need to Get Better on Defense
One of the major problems for Fresno State last year was defense, especially against the run. Mobile quarterbacks like Nevada's Colin Kaepernick were a sore spot for the Bulldog defense last season, a defense that was giving up 214.1 yards per game on the ground.
Senior defensive end Chris Carter and defensive tackles Chris Lewis and Logan Harrell will need to lead the defense in 2010 and be solid playmakers from their positions. They need to clog up the line and keep running backs from hitting open holes.
Along with Carter, they'll need guys like linebackers Ben Jacobs and Kyle Knox, along with hard-hitting safety Lorne Bell, to fly around the defensive unit. The Bulldogs had just eight interceptions last season, good for 95th in the nation. There needs to be a big improvement in that number in 2010.
Talented Corps of Receivers
Devon Wylie, Rashad Evans, and Jamel Hamler will lead a very talented corps of receivers. One of those will try to replace departing receiver Seyi Ajirotutu, who joined teammate Ryan Mathews with the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent.
While they will have Vince Pascoe, younger brother of New York Giants tight end Bear Pascoe, at tight end, he will be used as more of a blocker than someone they'll count on to catch passes unless it's a short yardage situation.
Not only will the Bulldogs have three talented receivers, but you'll also see a few incoming freshmen like 6'5" freshman Victor Dean see a few touches this season.
Unbeaten Season Home Opener Record on the Line
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Fresno State is 9-4 in its last 13 season openers under head coach Pat Hill and is unbeaten (6-0) when it opens the season at home.
That record will be on the line this weekend.
Beginning the Butch Jones Era at Cincinnati
In the middle of the night, former head coach Brian Kelly up and left his team before their BCS bowl game for the golden dome of Notre Dame.
Taking over as the new head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats is Butch Jones, who compiled a 27-13 record over three season as the head coach at Central Michigan, winning the conference title in two of his three seasons at the school.
He inherits a high-powered offense and a team that could do some damage again in college football.
Quarterback Zach Collaros Replacing Tony Pike
When you're Zach Collaros and you're replacing a guy like Tony Pike, who threw for almost 5,000 yards over his final two seasons, the pressure on your shoulders might feel a little heavy.
However, Collaros has already made a name for himself from last season after taking over for Pike, who missed four games due to injuries. Collaros threw for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns in 12 combined appearances last year.
Running Back Isaiah Pead
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Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead will test just how much better the Fresno State defense has gotten from last year to this year.
He'll be facing a defense that gave up more than 200 yards per game on the ground last year, which should be good news for the third-year running back. Pead rushed for more than 800 total yards last season and averaged almost seven yards per carry.
The Debut of Wide Receiver Vidal Hazelton
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Vidal Hazelton will make his debut with the Cincinnati offense, sitting out all of last season after transferring from USC.
His coaches love his ability, and he could become a big time receiver for the Bearcats as the season rolls on. The matchup between Hazelton and the young Fresno State cornerbacks could be a battle to watch on Saturday.
Which Defense Will Give Up More Points?
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These are not the two best defenses in the country, but their offenses can put up points. This matchup might come down to who can give up fewer points.
Fresno State gave up 34.3 points per game last season, while Cincinnati, over their final five games of 2009, gave up more than 39 points per game.
This might be a battle of who can stop each other at least once. This might even come down to a game-winning field goal by the time the night is over.