Is No. 21 Utah a better football team than Fresno State is? No question. However, on Saturday night betting the Utes could be caught peeking ahead to a huge Pac-12 opener next weekend.
QB Change For Bulldogs?
This will mark the first time since November 2010 that Fresno State will play ranked teams in back-to-back weeks. And it didn't go well for the Bulldogs at No. 17 Ole Miss last weekend as the Rebels laid down a 73-21 beating. I'm a glass half-full kind of guy so let's try and examine the positives of that game first for Fresno.
The Bulldogs did outscore Ole Miss 14-7 in the second quarter after falling behind 28-0 in the first. True freshman quarterback Chason Virgil led that second-quarter spark, going 7-for-7 through the air and adding a touchdown pass to Josiah Blandin with time expiring to pull the Bulldogs within 21. Virgil finished 12-for-18 for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Blandin joined Bear Pascoe (2007), Josh Harper (2011) and Davante Adams (2013) as the only Bulldogs since 2002 to catch touchdown passes in each of the first two games of the season. Marteze Waller led Fresno State in rushing with 91 yards on a career-high 28 carries, while also adding a receiving touchdown.
That's about it for the positives. Now the question is whether Virgil gets the start against Utah -- that hasn't been announced as of this writing. Zack Greenlee won the starting job in camp. In the season-opening 34-13 win over little Abilene Christian, Greenlee was 14-for-32 for 156 yards, three scores and a pick. Against Ole Miss, he was 3-for-4 for 13 yards. Virgil, who also played in the opener, entered the game at Ole Miss in the second quarter and finished the first half. He then started the third quarter and stayed there through much of the fourth before Fresno State got junior transfer Ford Childress some snaps, his first since 2013 when he was at West Virginia. Virgil seems the likely starter vs. Utah.
Fresno State is no pushover at home. In 20 games at Bulldog Stadium under coach Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State owns a 18-2 record and is averaging 508.7 yards and 40.8 points. Utah will be the 13th team from a Power 5 conference to make a visit to Bulldog Stadium since 2000. FSU is 8-4 in the previous 12.
Can Wilson Go For Utes?
The College Football Odds on this game was delayed a few days because of the uncertainty of Utah's starting quarterback and it still isn't known if Travis Wilson will go. Wilson sprained his non-throwing shoulder in last week's 24-14 win over Utah State. He was injured at the end of a 38-yard run in the second quarter that set up Devontae Booker's touchdown that gave Utah a 14-7 lead. Booker is one of the nation's top running backs. Coming out of Sacramento's Grant Union High School in 2010, Booker was once verbally committed to play for Fresno State but some academic issues scuttled that.
Injuries at the QB position are nothing new for Utah. Not since 2008 has Utah had a quarterback start every game during the season. Since the start of the 2009 season, nine QBs have taken snaps for the Utes and six different ones have started. If Wilson can't go, it will be Kendal Thompson. He has made eight career appearances for the Utes, starting twice. In relief of Wilson vs. Utah State, Thompson was 8-for-10 for 56 yards and ran six times for 23 yards and a touchdown.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham feels there's much "common ground" between Wilson and Thompson and that Utah's starter doesn't dramatically affect the offense's approach.
This is the Utes' first road game of the season. Utah has won its last eight non-conference games overall, with its last defeat at Utah State in 2012. Utah has won its past four games against teams from the Mountain West, of which Fresno State is a part.
Utah hosted Fresno in Week 2 last season and rolled 59-27. Wilson completed 11 of 20 passes for 181 yards and five touchdowns, leaving the game early in the third quarter with Utah ahead 38-7. Thompson also played, going 4-for-7 for 87 yards with a TD and rushing nine times for 71 yards and a score. Utah's defense had seven sacks. Fresno State is 3-0 all-time against Utah when playing the Utes at home but they haven't played there 1997 when both schools were in the WAC.
NCAAF Free Picks
FSU is a different team at home. This opened at 15 and I am hoping to find 14.5 by kickoff, but take the Bulldogs and the 'under' with your College Football Picks. Utah might be looking toward next week's game at Oregon. The Bulldogs are 4-0 ATS in their past four following an ATS loss. The 'under' is 4-0 in Utah's past four non-conference games. The 'under' is 5-1 in FSU's past six overall.
College Football Pick: Fresno State & Under