Every week during the season I will talk to a media member who covers that week's opponent for an inside view of what to expect.
This week we start with Paul Loeffler, the play-by-play man for Fresno State. Loeffler has a distinguished first name, is a Syracuse grad and friends with our own Tommy Gelehrter, which puts him under the category "good people."
He gives great insight about what could be the Bulldogs' secret weapon, their biggest matchup advantage, the loss of Ryan Mathews and, most importantly, where I should go to eat in Fresno.
You can follow all things Bulldogs leading up to gameday at his blog here.
Paul Dehner Jr.: How much will the departure of Ryan Mathews change the dynamic of this offense? Can they be as potent?
Paul Loeffler: Mathews' departure, coupled with the increased experience at QB, will lead to more balance in 2010. These Bulldogs have the potential to be even more potent than the 2009 version. Robbie Rouse is nearly as explosive as Mathews, but won't touch it 40 times in a game the way Ryan did against the Bearcats last year. The passing game should be much improved. Hamler was the most dependable receiver by the end of last year, Wylie is the fastest player in program history, and Evans showed plenty of promise as a true freshman in 2008 before redshirting last year. There are some true freshmen WRs who will see the field against UC who are also capable of producing.
PDJ: A lot of the hopes offensively seem to be pinned on Ryan Colburn. Is he
the real deal? Do you anticipate him being able to take the next step and put up conference-best type numbers?
PL: Conference-best is asking a lot, given what
play in recent years, they have been close but unable to pull off the victory in those games. Do you get the feeling they believe they figured out how to get over that hump?
PL: We'll find out Saturday night. They always believe. Pat Hill makes schedules like this because he believes he can win these games. Take a stroll inside the football complex and you'll see the helmets of the BCS schools he's beaten lining the walls. The Bulldogs would be delighted to add a black Bearcats helmet to that display.
the passer. Is there reason to believe that unit will be improved or is it
still the major residing question mark?
PL: No question that's the question mark, and a big one at that. The defensive line is faster and deeper, and the best pass-rusher, Chris Carter, will once again have two hands to work with. After hurting his hand against
PDJ: The big question for any team playing
in particular, the cornerbacks. How are the corners and do they have the depth to stand up to UC's prolific trio of Binns, Hazelton and Woods?
PL: I think the corners are key on both sides of this matchup, with
PDJ: At what position there a feeling that
just about anyone they play this year and in particular on UC?
PL: The strength of this football team is the offensive line. All five starters return, and clearly they did a pretty decent job of controlling time of possession against the Bearcats last year at Nippert. If this quintet stays healthy,
PDJ: Pat Hill got another extension, what has made him such a great fit for
PL: He'll tell you his program gets more respect around the country than it does in Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley, but I think the quality that most mirrors the culture here is his tenacity. He is as hard-working as they come, and this part of
PDJ: What would you consider to be realistic expectations for the Bulldogs?
PL: History would indicate that
PDJ: Vegas has the game at a Pick 'em, and they always win -- I have receipts
and broken dreams to prove it -- what would the line be if you were handicapping the game?
PL: It's hard to say with so many unknowns. No one has seen Butch Jones coach a down with the Bearcats, and both defenses have a lot to prove. The lines I've seen are all within a 3-point margin, and if it's that close,
PDJ: Now for the important question -- where should I go to eat when I come out to
PL: The Fresno Grizzlies (AAA affiliate of the S.F. Giants) are home Friday night at Chukchansi Park and fighting for a playoff spot, so that would be a pretty good fit for a sports fan. Restaurants? They're everywhere, but I'd go for something you might not get in