Fresno/Houston U49 3.3% play
There is a lot to like about both of these teams. I feel the spread is a bit more unpredictable because we don't know what we will get from Houston who has not made this trip before. Fresno already made this trip, and to make matters worse for Houston they lost their offensive coordinator to Florida. Their HC Applewhite will be making the calls, which is not a huge deal since he was an OC here, but he had to do it last year when Tom Herman left, and we saw how they struggled against San Diego State in last year's bowl. If anything I think the offense will struggle because of these things.
Fresno, had a spectacular season under Jeff Tedford and he took a team from 1-11 to 9-4 and they almost won the Mountain West Championship at Boise State. Speaking of the Mountain West they have thoroughly impressed me. Especially the good defenses that have played so far (Boise, Wyoming) both of those defenses rank 12th and 13th in yards per play allowed. In their bowl games the defenses played amazing. Boise State dominated Oregon holding them to 280 yards and only 14 offensive points in garbage time. Oregon had 2 defensive TD's in that game to make it 28 total points. Oregon, was a top notch offense averaging 52 points per game when they had their QB Justin Herbert which they did for that game. Then Wyoming last night in a game that hurt my soul, because I had Central Michigan. Even though CMU out gained Wyoming by almost 100 yards Wyoming dominated the game forcing 6 fumbles (recovering 4), and 4 interceptions for a total of 8 interceptions. Holding them under 400 yards and to just 14 points.
Fresno State's defense is in that same category with Boise, SD State, Wyoming for defenses in the Mountain West. They ranked 25th in yards per play allowed. They switched from the 3-4 back to the 4-3 this year and it made a huge difference. They faced Alabama & Washington to begin the year which is as tough of a schedule as you can have considering both games were on the road, but against the other top 50 offenses Fresno faced they allowed an average 16.8 points per game.
Houston's defense was equally as dominating facing 6 top 50 defenses they allowed an average of 24 points. They gave up two big numbers 27 to Texas Tech and 42 to Memphis (in come back mode). Texas Tech & Memphis are in the top 30 in pass play % and top 40 in plays per game. That's really not Fresno State's gig any more. They switched to a balanced approach with a pro style offense and ranked 111th in plays per game, and they were 80th in pass play % at 45%. Take out those two games for Houston and their defense allowed just 19 points per game against the top 50 offenses.
Fresno offensively faced 6 total top 50 defenses on the year and averaged 18 points per game. They will have their hands full again with Houston and Ed Oliver on the defensive line. Although I think if there is one thing Fresno State can do it may be run the ball and control the game with their balance which will keep the clock ticking and the under in good shape.
Houston offensively is a running team, and typically with the QB. They faced just two top 50 defenses however, and scored 24 and 28 points. When looking at the two defenses they faced we are not that impressed. Vs. Temple's #40 ypp defense which is a live ranking after Temples misleading bowl win, FIU lost their SR QB on the first series. Temple really struggled this year against the run ranking 74th, and 52nd vs. the pass. Their sacks really helped them make the list for top 50 YPP. Fresno comes in better and more balanced ranking 34th vs. the run and 43rd vs. the pass. Houston could struggle against this defense. Against South Florida's #14 defense they scored 28, but were shutout in the first half. They scored 2 TD's late to get the impressive win on the road over what I think to be an over rated South Florida defense. A defense that really did not play many top offenses on the year. The other thing to note about Houston is their QB D'Eriq King who took over the last 4 games did not face many top defenses. He faced South Florida in his first game who had zero tape on him, and then he aced #130, #125, and #108 defenses none of which were top 75 in rushing ypc defense. Fresno State has some tape on him and we have seen what happens to mobile QB's after a while in college teams catch up with scheme and are able to defend it.
Red Zone offense and defense also a key here. Both defenses have played well, with both offenses struggling at times. I think we could also see some field goals and 4th down stops. With two top notch defensive lines who are very good at stuffing opponents both ranking top 40 in DL play. Fresno #37, and Houston #17 in adjusted lines facing off against Houston's #88 OL, and Fresno's #40 OL. All around I think we may see Fresno more interested in focused in this game. I could see them putting up 28 points, but if that's the case it will be 28-10 or something along those lines.
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