Fresno St.-Wyoming Preview
Undefeated and attracting more national attention each week, Fresno State is poised to remain focused while beginning a challenging final stretch of the regular season.
The No. 17 Bulldogs try for a 14th straight regular-season victory Saturday night when they visit Wyoming in a Mountain West Conference matchup.
Fresno State (8-0, 5-0) is off to its best start since the 1989 team went 10-0, and its No. 16 ranking in the BCS standings is the highest of any team from a non-automatic qualifying conference. The highest-rated non-AQ team earns an automatic bid to a BCS bowl game by finishing in the top 12 of the final BCS standings or in the top 16 ahead of a champion from an automatic-qualifying conference.
The Bulldogs are certainly in position to bust the BCS, but they'll worry about that later considering a road date with a San Jose State team right behind them in the West Division and a possible berth in the MWC championship game still await. Fresno State plays two of its final three regular-season contests on the road.
"We expect everybody's best game," coach Tim DeRuyter said.
Wyoming (4-4, 2-2) has dropped two in a row, but the Cowboys, like the Bulldogs, boast one of the nation's most potent offenses and are coming off a bye week.
"It's going to be great," DeRuyter said. "Another league game on the road, it's going to be tough. I think any time somebody's got two weeks to prepare for you, it gives them an advantage."
The Bulldogs are 0-3 all-time in the thin air of Wyoming, but haven't played there since a 42-21 loss to the then-No. 23 Cowboys in 1996. Last season, Fresno State's Derek Carr threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-14 home victory over Wyoming on Oct. 20 that began the Bulldogs' current undefeated regular-season winning run.
The 13-game regular-season winning streak is the third-longest in the FBS behind Ohio State and Northern Illinois.
Carr threw for 487 yards, three TDs and broke Kevin Sweeney's school passing record during last Saturday's 41-23 victory over Nevada. Carr, who has 10,821 yards passing through four seasons in Fresno, has thrown of nine of his 28 touchdowns and none of his four interceptions over the last three games.
He ranks among the national passing leaders in yards (3,061), average per game (382.6), touchdowns, and has thrown 183 consecutive passes without an interception.
Josh Harper hauled in a school-record 17 of Carr's 39 completions last weekend for 253 yards with two TDs. However, the Bulldogs led by eight in the fourth quarter before scoring the game's final 10 points.
"I like our team, we got great resolve, we expect to win and we find ways," DeRuyter told the school's official website after its 10th straight Mountain West victory. "We finished strong, which is what we always want to do."
While the Bulldogs rank among the top 10 in the FBS averaging 539.9 total yards and 43.9 points, their defense has allowed an average of 19.8 points over the last four games after yielding 38.3 per contest through the first four.
They expect to be in for a major test against Wyoming, which also ranks near the top of the FBS averaging 516.3 total yards while scoring 36.5 points per game.
Backed by a career-high 234 yards on 17 carries from sophomore Shaun Wick, the Cowboys gained 332 yards on the ground but lost 51-44 at San Jose State on Oct. 26.
Wick has averaged 138.0 yards and 8.4 per carry while rushing for four TDs in the last three games. He ran eight times for 34 yards versus Fresno State last season.
The Cowboys, however, have allowed an average of 44.0 points while losing three of four and given up at least 51 in each of the last two.
"Defensively we must to get better," Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said. "We'll evaluate where we are and find ways to correct things. We need to find ways to win football games."
The Cowboys have dropped 19 straight games against Top 25 opponents since a 34-26 win over then-No. 22 Air Force on Oct. 26, 2002.