Fresno State Faces First Test Against Wisconsin

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer ISeptember 11, 2009

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Head coach Pat Hill and the Frenso State Bulldogs prepare to take on the UCLA Bruins on September 27, 2008 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

For this young team, picking up a 51-0 shutout victory over UC Davis was promising, but the team will have it's first real test on Saturday.

For the past few years, Bulldog fans have watched their team play only to the level of their opponent. Ending in a disappointing let down that either turned into a closer game than it should be or a game they shouldn't have lost.

But, fortunately for their fans, they were treated to something that hadn't been seen in the past few seasons. A dominating shutout of a lesser team.

Although UC Davis is nowhere near the team that Fresno State is, this Bulldogs squad came into their season opener young and untested, especially at quarterback.

Fortunately for Pat Hill and his coaching staff, junior starting quarterback Ryan Colburn and freshman quarterback Ebahn Feathers played like season veterans. Not just that, but the defense looked stronger than years passed, even intercepting a pass for a touchdown in the second quarter.

But even a promising first game won't get them read for what they face this coming weekend as the young squad will be in Madison, WI to take on the Wisconsin Badgers from Camp Randall Stadium.

This is going to be in front of a very hostile crowd, but don't take that the wrong way Badger fans, just meaning they're going to be ramped up for this one and the Badgers don't want Fresno State to hang around at all in this game.

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For the Bulldogs, this will begin the first of a very tough stretch of games. After their game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, WI. the Bulldogs will return home to face their WAC rival, the Boise State Broncos.

From there, it's back on the road to Cincinnati, OH to take on the Cincinnati Bearcats. Then, it's back on a plane for their longest road trip of the year as they'll travel to the Hawaiian islands to take on the Hawaii Warriors from Aloha Stadium.

But, before then, they need to get ready for what they're about to walk into on Saturday. Not only are they facing off against arguably their toughest opponent of the season, next to Boise State, they're doing it on the road in front of 100,000 fans or more.

Keys to the game

The Bulldogs need to be mentally prepared for this game and not be so focused on the crowd or who they're facing.

First, first year starter Ryan Colburn needs to have his offense ready. It's going to take definite communication to get past the crowd noise when the offense has the ball.

Ryan is going to need to focus on reading the Badger defense and needs to know how to get an audible to his offense when needed.

The biggest key to a win for Fresno State is going to be their running game. They're going to need huge contributions from their three-headed monster. Ryan Mathews, Lonyae Miller and Anthony Harding need to have the game of their lives if they're going to get this done.

Keeping Wisconsin's offense off the field is a major key to this game.

Defensively, Fresno State needs to key in on Badger's quarterback Scott Tolzien but they also need to be on the lookout for redshirt freshman quarterback Curt Phillips who could give Fresno State a whole another look.

In Wisconsin's home opener against Northern Illinois, a game they only won by eight points, Northern Illinois loaded the box and dared Wisconsin to beat them through the air. Wisconsin was up for the challenge as Tolzien and Phillips combined for 281 yards passing.

If Fresno State keep Tolzien and Phillips in check and their offense can jump on Wisconsin early, they may be well on their way to victory.

Todd's prediction

If Fresno State can get on the board early and keep Wisconsin's offense off the field, this could be a big win for the Bulldogs. I think the game will be kept close for all four quarters, but I believe Fresno State will pull ahead late and stay ahead.

Fresno State 27 - Wisconsin 21

Game notes

Fresno State will make it's 63rd national television appearance this decade as the game will be televised by ESPN. Kickoff is scheduled for 9am PDT.