No. 15 Fresno St. seeks title vs. New Mexico
Fresno State already has a pregame celebration planned to honor quarterback Derek Carr and the other seniors for the final home game of the regular season.
A win over New Mexico will give the 15th-ranked Bulldogs something more significant to celebrate after the game on Saturday as Fresno State would clinch the West Division championship in the Mountain West.
''I think it's great,'' coach Tim DeRuyter said. ''It's terrific for our fans to be able to be here and experience the fact we're clinching the West. ... We still have some unfinished business to do a week later. The fact we can clinch is special for our players and the Red Wave fans.''
The Bulldogs (9-0, 6-0 Mountain West) also need a win over the Lobos (3-7, 1-5) to keep alive their hopes of making a BCS bowl for the first time in school history.
Fresno State will play at San Jose State next week in their final regular season game and will most likely host the Mountain West title game on Dec. 7.
With wins in the final three games, the Bulldogs could be in position to go to the Fiesta Bowl. They are currently 15th in the BCS standings, one spot ahead of Northern Illinois and Central Florida.
If Fresno State can remain in the top 16 and ahead of those two schools, the Bulldogs will automatically qualify for a BCS bowl, giving Carr and his talented group of receivers led by Davante Adams and Josh Harper a big stage to end their season.
''That quarterback with those wide receivers and that big tight end they have is impressive,'' New Mexico coach Bob Davie said. ''That's a BCS-caliber talent team.''
Here are five things to watch when the Bulldogs host the Lobos:
RELYING ON RESERVES: New Mexico's chances this week are even slimmer because of concussions that have sidelined quarterback Cole Gautsche and running back Kasey Carrier for the final two weeks of the season. The two have combined for 1,899 yards rushing and 17 TDs on the ground while leading the Lobos' triple-option offense. Backup quarterback Clayton Mitchem is much less skilled at running the option, limiting what New Mexico will be able to do offensively. ''We're always going to have the triple option,'' Davie said. ''We're always going to have the presentation of the triple option, but I doubt we'll run it in as many phases as we do with Cole.''
RUN DEFENSE: The Bulldogs have struggled on run defense for much of this season with blown assignments frequently leading to big plays. The Lobos gutted Fresno State with the triple option last year for 349 yards. The Bulldogs have allowed more than 250 yards per game in three contests against option teams the past two years under DeRuyter. ''The challenge when you play a triple-option team is you have a lot of one-on-one assignments,'' DeRuyter said. ''One guy makes that mistake and you give up an explosive play. The thing you have to do is be sound in all assignments and play extremely hard and be responsible to your teammates.''
LAUNCHING PAD: The Bulldogs were struggling a bit last year in DeRuyter's first season when they went to New Mexico on Oct. 27 and quickly fell behind 21-0. They rallied to beat the Lobos 49-32 for the second of what is now 14 straight regular season wins. ''That kind of shaped who we are today,' receiver Davante Adams said. ''We've come through in the clutch and won some tough games this year. That was kind of the starting point for us.''
SUNNY DISPOSITION: The Bulldogs have been night owls for most of the season with nine of their first 10 games kicking off after dark. Now they get a chance at an afternoon start for the first time since beating Idaho 61-14 last month, with the 1 p.m. PST start time giving poll voters in the Eastern half of the country a better chance to see what Fresno State can do. ''I get antsy waiting around all day,'' DeRuyter said. ''I'd just as soon get up and play right away. My ideal time would be 10 o'clock in the morning.''
LOSING GROUND: While the Bulldogs used the week off to heal some bumps and bruises, they did lose some ground in the polls and BCS standings. They fell two spots to 16th in the coaches poll and one spot to 14th in the Harris poll, which are both used to determine the BCS standings. Fresno State also fell from 14th to 15th in the BCS standings. This was a contrast to the Bulldogs' last week off, when they capitalized on upsets around the nation to move up four spots in the AP poll last month.