Welcome to the Northeast Corner of the Southeastern Conference, where the grass is blue and the folks have no clue about Fresno State football.
“You play USC?” asked local friend Alice Fischer. “Oh, you’re going to get killed.”
Fresno State is going to get killed? By a has-been Trojans program coming off a failed 2018 campaign?
What’s a Bulldogs team have to do to grab some respect? Go 12-2 and finish ranked 18th in the nation in the hitherto season?
Oh, wait …
Welcome back to practice this week, Fresno State football. We’re giving out paper bags for all your fans who can’t help but hyperventilate at the thought.
The Tedford factor
Don’t tell us Fresno State shouldn’t be nationally ranked this preseason just because quarterback Marcus McMaryion is gone, and he took 13 starters with him to the post-graduate (and NFL) side of the real world.
The Bulldogs have a quarterback, and his name is Coach Jeff Tedford. He made the calls two years ago that took 1-11 players and turned them into bowl champions twice over. He’ll do it again, only this time he has a head start.
And, yeah, I admit: Tedford turned out to be a hirable hire. If you expect a 1.000 batting average out of every predictive thought, explain to us why you cheered that dazzling Tim DeRuyter contract extension back in the day.
We’re sure new quarterback Jorge Reyna is going to be just fine, because that’s all he has to be. You think Tedford needs a 40-point octane machine to check his boxes?
If we learned anything about Tedford Redux, it’s that his sagacity no longer is barbed wire to the offensive side of the fence.
The Old Mind has come to understand offense so deep, he now knows defense like that was his specialty all along. You do know Fresno State ran a top-20 defense last year, which is the real reason the Bulldogs finally beat Boise State again, right?
Think about that: He knows how to beat a defense so thoroughly, that he figured out a way to reverse-engineer those concepts into an unstoppable defense.
If you win, Top 25 will come
Who cares if Fresno State starts the season unranked, other than all of you people who care about things with no shelf life?
Last year proved the new truth of the Mountain West Conference: Just keep winning games, and they’re almost all winnable games, and attrition alone will carry you into the Top 25 as winter falls.
So much for the days where you had to be perfect to have an imperfect chance.
Time for a New Year’s run
That said, at some point, we’re going to want to see Fresno State take the unstepped step – an undefeated run to a New Year’s Six bowl.
The Bulldogs can beat USC and Minnesota as an opening act, because neither USC nor Minnesota is any better than Fresno State. If you insist on dreaming, this would be a good time to wear those Bulldogs pajamas.
Honor the Old Trainer
Do it for Paul Schechter, the Old Trainer who oversaw the ascent of Fresno State football from the ’80s through the Double O’s. The man entered into his peace in June, a brilliant escape from one more day spent at a 105-degree practice.
That peace would get a lot more restful when his Bulldogs finally get their Fiesta Bowl win. How about you oblige the man to whom much is obligated, Fresno State?
In your honor, Paul, a nice-ish column about Fresno State from me.