Fresno State football fans still queasy over last year’s struggles, or concerned it might take a while to rebound following that trip to rock bottom, may find their hopes boosted by the nation’s legal sports-betting parlors.
When bookmakers up, down and off the strip released season win totals for college football teams this summer, they opened the Bulldogs at four. It’s an intriguing number for a team that has to navigate nonconference games at Alabama and Washington and at home against BYU as well as Mountain West champ San Diego State on the road and cross-divisional conference matchups against Boise State and Wyoming.
Off that opening number, anyone eyeing a play on the over would need five wins from the Bulldogs to cash. Maybe it’s no surprise then that the juice is on the under – meaning those opting for that bet have to lay more money – or that at some books the total was moved down to 3.5.
If they just win the games that they should and pull one upset in their winnable road games, then there is no reason not to believe that Fresno State can win four or five games this season.
Matthew Holt, chief operations officer at CG analytics
Five victories, seemingly, would be a big number for the Bulldogs and coach Jeff Tedford, who along with wideout KeeSean Johnson and defensive lineman Nathan Madsen were in town this week for the Mountain West Media Summit.
The Bulldogs, after all, were 1-11 a year ago and were picked to finish last in the West Division in the conference’s preseason poll. Then there is this telling stat: during the past five years, of the 26 one- or zero-win teams with a posted win total the following season only three had numbers set at four or higher.
But since Vegas doesn’t try to make it easy for bettors, there must be a school of thought that the over-4 wager will draw some action.
“You should do better with Tedford, make no mistake about that, “ said Jimmy Vaccaro, director of sportsbook marketing at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa. “We opened at four and we actually took some money under, so we’re at 3.5 right now. But let’s call it like it is: You’re not very good. Let’s call it like it is: The conference is not very good. And let’s call it like it is: You have Alabama, Washington and at the end of the season Wyoming and Boise State and that’s not going to be a bargain.
“But you have some decent kids coming back – 10 (starters) offensively and six defensively – and this is more with the coaching change as opposed to anything else.”
The over-under on regular-season victories for Fresno State is four. Over the past three seasons, the Bulldogs have been under their total going 1-11 last season when it was 3.5, 3-9 in 2015 when it was 4.0 and 6-6 in 2014 when it was 7.5.
The Bulldogs, Vaccaro reminds, did also lose four games by seven points or less a year ago.
They lost in two overtimes to Tulsa 48-41 when blowing a lead that was 31-7 midway through the second quarter. At Nevada, they fell 27-22 but were inside the Wolf Pack 5-yard line with a chance in the final minute despite poor clock management.
Against Hawaii, a 14-13 defeat, the Rainbow Warriors blocked a 43-yard field-goal attempt as time expired. They lost 16-14 to San Jose State when generating only 32 yards on six second-half drives against a team that ranked ninth in the conference in total defense.
“They were in a lot of games until the end of the third quarter and it doesn’t seem like you ever go that bad two years in a row,” Vaccaro said. “I’m giving those guys more the benefit of the doubt there.”
Also to the plus, there are two teams in the conference that opened with lower totals than Fresno State. Nevada and San Jose State opened at 3.5 and both are on the Bulldogs’ schedule. So, too, is Hawaii, which opened at four.
The issue with the games against San Jose State and Hawaii is both are on the road, and Fresno State has won one of its past 14 games when hitching a ride by bus or plane.
They were in a lot of games until the end of the third quarter and it doesn't seem like you ever go that bad two years in a row. I'm giving those guys more the benefit of the doubt there.
Jimmy Vaccaro, director of sports book marketing at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa
The one victory came at Hawaii in 2015, when Zack Greenlee, who completed only 47.4 percent of his passes that season, threw for six touchdowns and a defense that ranked last in the conference in allowing 38.1 points per game gave up only 14.
The Bulldogs, losers of two in a row and seven of eight going in, won 42-14.
So, presumably, anything is possible.
“If they just win the games that they should and pull one upset in their winnable road games, then there is no reason not to believe Fresno State can win four or five games this season,” said Matthew Holt, chief operations officer at CG analytics.
“The program is not an also-ran as they have a long history of success in the Mountain West including winning nine games in 2012 and 11 games in 2013. In fact, as recently as 2014 they won six. Last season seems like more of an aberration than the norm for Fresno State and the climb back to respectability should not be a steep or long one and obvious strides should be seen this season.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE 2017 SCHEDULE
Home games at Bulldog Stadium; additional kickoff times to be announced
Sept. 2 vs. Incarnate Word
Sept. 9 at Alabama, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sept. 16 at Washington, 6:30 p.m. (Pac-12)
Sept. 30 vs. Nevada
Oct. 7 at San Jose State
Oct. 14 vs. New Mexico
Oct. 21 at San Diego State. 7:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Oct. 28 vs. UNLV
Nov. 4 vs. Brigham Young (ESPN networks)
Nov. 11 at Hawaii
Nov. 18 at Wyoming
Nov. 25 vs. Boise State, 12:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Mountain West win totals
Opening numbers posted by the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa
Air Force 5 under -130
Boise State 8 over/under -110
Colorado State 7.5 under -120
Fresno State 4 under -120
Hawaii 4 under -125
Nevada 3.5 over -120
New Mexico 5.5 over/under -110
San Diego State 9.5 over -125
San Jose State 3.5 under -120
UNLV 5.5 under -130
Utah State 4.5 under -125
Wyoming 8 under -115