Hope you’re having a fabulous summer, Fresno State fans. Apologies for bringing the dark clouds.
While college football season may be six weeks away, hype season is already here and about to get even more breathless with this week’s Mountain West Conference Football Media Days in Las Vegas.
Tuesday morning – at precisely 8 a.m. – the conference will release the preseason All-Mountain West team along with the Preseason Offensive and Defensive players of the year and predicted order of finish in both divisions.
When the all-Mountain West team comes out Tuesday morning, don’t bother scanning for the names of any Bulldogs players.
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Let me save you the trouble of waiting. When the all-conference team comes out, don’t bother scanning for the names of any Bulldogs. And when looking for where Fresno State is picked in the six-team West Division, save time and start from the bottom.
I don’t expect the Bulldogs will be relegated to last place. That dishonor likely goes to Hawaii, which is coming off an even worse three-win season that led to the coach getting canned. (Fresno State took the opposite approach, changing almost every whistle and clipboard except Tim DeRuyter’s.)
Nope, I expect the Bulldogs to be tabbed fifth behind San Diego State (duh), Nevada, San Jose State and UNLV. Yes, UNLV, a program that’s had two winning records this century.
It isn’t just Mountain West media entities that are down on Fresno State. The national publications are piling on as well. Athlon, Lindy’s and Phil Steele each picked the Bulldogs fifth in the West. ESPN is the optimist: It has the Bulldogs fourth (ahead of UNLV) but gives them a 2.5 percent chance of winning the division. How generous.
Two seasons removed from back-to-back conference titles and one from a championship game appearance, regard for Fresno State has nosedived.
Here’s what an anonymous Mountain West coach told Athlon about the Bulldogs:
“Gosh, I don’t know what happened there. I watched a bunch of their games, and they had the talent, but it’s like they didn’t compete.”
I watched a bunch of their games, and they had the talent, but it’s like they didn’t compete.
Anonymous MW coach, on Fresno State
This is new territory for Fresno State, which has always gotten the benefit of the doubt from the pundits and prognosticators based on past success. (Just go back 12 months, when the Bulldogs got picked second in the West.)
Now it’s mainly doubt.
Why has outside esteem fallen so far, so fast? Here’s a simple two-part answer: 1) Last year’s 3-9 disaster; 2) The roster contains no obvious returning standouts.
The absence of Bulldogs on the preseason all-conference squad will be proof enough of that.
To anyone paying attention, this should not come as any shock. Fresno State did not have any first-team postseason all-conference selections in 2015 – the first time that’s happened since 1951 – and its two second-teamers (Ejiro Ederaine and Alex Fifita) were both seniors. Claudell Louis, the only Bulldogs honorable mention, was a senior, as well.
Here’s how the preseason all-conference team works: Each school submits a list of players for consideration, and the media votes based on the submissions.
The six names Fresno State submitted for all-conference consideration were the fewest of any school.
The six names Fresno State submitted (linebacker Jeff Camilli, cornerbacks Jamal Ellis and Tyquwan Glass, receivers Jamire Jordan and Da’Mari Scott and tight end Chad Olsen) were the fewest of any school.
Last week I spent a couple of hours filling out a ballot, and, frankly, it’s impossible to make a good case for any of them.
That isn’t to demean the six Bulldogs representatives. Solid players all – Glass and Jordan in particular have a chance to be more than that – but none merit preseason all-conference consideration.
Am I the only one who feels that way? Not hardly. None of the magazines I mentioned picked any Fresno State players on their All-Mountain West teams, either. In fact, only one (Lindy’s) lists any Bulldogs on their second team. Glass made it, and Scott got the nod as a return specialist.
That’s opposed to schools such as Boise State and San Diego State, which have multiple all-conference selections on both sides of the ball.
3.5 over-under win total for the Fresno State football team, according to Las Vegas sportsbooks
Now that I’ve presented the doom and gloom, time for a little silver lining: None of this stuff, the dire preseason rankings and lack of all-conference selections, means a darn thing.
It’s conjecture and educated guesswork – not actual results.
Just because the Las Vegas sportsbooks set Fresno State’s win total at 3½ doesn’t automatically mean they’re destined for 3-9 or 4-8. Those guys are wrong all the time. (OK, they aren’t. Just work with me here.)
DeRuyter is sure to drive home this point to his players. He may even turn it into a source of motivation. As far as rallying cries go, a coach can do a lot worse than, “Nobody believes in you. Here’s your chance to prove them wrong.”
With how they’ve been slagged this preseason, I fully expect the Bulldogs to take the field this fall with buffalo-sized chips on their shoulders.
Anything short of that and the doubters will be proven right.