Fresno State (2-1) vs. Tulsa (2-1)
Kickoff: Saturday, 5 p.m.
Television: CBS Sports
Radio: KMJ (AM 580), ESPN Deportes (1600 AM)
Keys to the Game
Protect the Football – Fresno State has just one offensive turnover through three games. One would expect the Bulldogs to have a game where it will lose the football more than once. Tulsa may be the toughest remaining opponent on the schedule for the ‘Dogs, and the road atmosphere while not Autzen Stadium could be a factor. And the Golden Hurricane leads the nation in sacks with 17. The Bulldog offense has not been stopped this year; it has stopped itself with poor execution and inconsistency. Last week, versus Colorado, it showed what it could do when it executes and is consistent.
Establish the Run – Robbie Rouse broke Ron Rivers’ career rushing record last week with a 144-yard rushing game but it came in just one quarter of work. The Bulldogs will need Rouse for four quarters on Saturday. Establish his presence early to limit Tulsa’s pass rush, and Derek Carr will have a much easier time throwing the football.
Spread it Around – Last week, the ‘Dogs were able to spread the ball around among its receivers. It was not longer the Davante Adams, Isaiah Burse show. Josh Harper is healthy. Victor Dean doubled his career reception total last week. Even true freshmen Aaron Peck and Justin Johnson got into the mix. The more targets for Carr, the harder it will be for defenses to stop the offense.
Force Green to Pass – Tulsa rushed for 333 yards last week versus Nicholls State. If the Golden Hurricane has the same success, it will be a tough Saturday for the ‘Dogs. Cody Green, a transfer from Nebraska, is a big, bruising quarterback that can beat teams with his arm and his legs. However, his passing game is still his weakness. He has attempted a combined 41 passes in two wins. In Tulsa’s only loss this year, Green went 23-of-49 passes for just 198 yards. If Fresno State can force him to attempt more than 30 passes, it’s a good sign.
Don’t Allow a 100-yard Rusher – A different running back has rushed for over 100 yards in each of its Tulsa’s three games. Trey Watts had 125 yards at Iowa State, Alex Singleton had 102 yards against Tulane and Ja'Terian Douglas had 163 yards last week versus Nicholls State. The Bulldogs were shredded by Oregon’s rush attack allowing over 300 yards rushing. But since the second half in Eugene, the ‘Dogs have been stout against the run.
Create Turnovers – It’s the benchmark of this defense. Through three games, the Bulldogs have created eight turnovers compared to the nine they created all of last season in 13 games. Phillip Thomas has played a huge part in the increase as he has been involved in five of the Bulldogs eight turnovers (3 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery). Tulsa has thrown three interceptions and fumbled five times, losing two.
Both teams matchup fairly even as Fresno State averages 515 yards per game compared to 525 for Tulsa. Both teams average over 43 points per game (Tulsa 44.6, Fresno State 43.6). Both teams have played one FCS school, but the ‘Dogs have played two BCS teams, including at then No. 4 Oregon. Tulsa lost 36-23 at Iowa State and beat Tulane 45-10 in its two games against FBS programs.
Quietly, the Fresno State offense has gone 14-of-14 inside the red zone to rank No. 1 nationally. But the Bulldogs defense has been the catalyst for FS since halftime in Eugene. It set the tone in the third quarter against the Ducks and again in its first series against the Colorado last week. It should do it again this week.
Tulsa will move the football and put up points as will Fresno State. But defense and turnovers will determine this game.
Fresno State 38, Tulsa 27