The goal is simple for the Fresno State Bulldogs football team: Keep on winning, and you’re more than likely to crash the BCS party one final time.
The Bulldogs, who are 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the Mountain West Conference, debuted at No. 17 in the first BCS rankings, which were released on Sunday night.
The ranking puts Fresno State one spot above the other potential BCS crasher, Northern Illinois from the Mid-American Conference.
Just based on that fact alone, it is clear that the margin for error is slim for the Bulldogs.
No one can be sure whether the computers will favor the Bulldogs over the Huskies as the season wears on, but one thing is for sure: A loss will eliminate any non-AQ school from BCS bowl consideration.
The Bulldogs have been a textbook version of the stereotypical BCS buster. Led by senior quarterback Derek Carr (the younger brother of former Bulldog great David), Fresno State is the No. 4 team in the nation in total offensive yards per game. This is thanks in large part to Carr, who averages nearly 380 yards passing per contest.
While the Bulldogs are making their case as the best non-AQ school in the country with some convincing offensive statistics, they are by no means out of the water with regards to competition. In fact, head coach Tim DeRuyter’s team has already had some close calls.
One-point victories at home against Rutgers in the season opener and against Boise State can definitely be categorized as nail-biters. In both of those games, the Bulldogs allowed over 540 yards of offense to the opponent.
Unfortunately for Fresno State, there are several more trap games left on the schedule.
All three remaining road games (San Diego State, Wyoming and San Jose State) come against teams that love to sling the ball around. San Jose State and Wyoming have the second and third best passing attacks in the MWC, while San Diego State is also capable of wreaking havoc through the air.
Fresno State is No. 9 in the conference in pass defense.
However, if the Bulldogs do manage to make it through the regular-season slate unbeaten, they will have a chance to solidify their BCS case with a victory in the inaugural Mountain West Conference Championship Game.
Fresno State, which is a member of the conference’s West Division, will take on the first-place finisher in the Mountain Division. Currently, Boise State is the leader of the Mountain Division by way of a tiebreaker over Utah State.
A rematch with the Broncos could be particularly challenging for Coach DeRuyter’s squad. Boise State recently lost starting quarterback Joe Southwick to an ankle injury and will use backup quarterback Grant Hedrick for the foreseeable future.
Hedrick proved he is a true threat on the ground by rushing for 115 yards in Saturday’s 34-17 victory over Nevada.
Obviously, the Fresno State Bulldogs have a lot of work left to do if the team wants to spend the holidays preparing for a BCS bowl game. However, everything appears to be in front of them based on the first BCS rankings.
If prior years are any indication, ranked teams above the Bulldogs will continue to fall in late October and throughout November. Per BCS rules, if a non-AQ team finishes the regular season in the Top 12 or in the Top 16 and ahead of at least one AQ conference champion, it is guaranteed a BCS bowl berth.
As long as Fresno State keeps winning, they’ll remain relevant to the BCS bowl conversation.