I think first-year head coach Tim DeRuyter walks into a pretty good situation at Fresno State. Under Pat Hill, the Bulldogs were consistent winners but could have been better had Hill tightened up the reigns some. The just-let-the-kids-play attitude no question helped when they were asked to step up in class. But with the amount of talent the Bulldogs had, there's really no excuse that under Hill they failed to finish better than third in the WAC from 2004-11.
Going back and looking at some of FSU's stats the last few years, the one that stands out was turnovers. From 2004-11, they were a combined -65 in turnover margin despite winning 56% of their games and posting five seasons of eight wins or better. And it wasn't just offensive miscues but more the inability to force turnovers. Over the last five years, no team in the country had as few takeaways as Fresno State (65). As a comparison, Air Force, where DeRuyter spent three seasons, posted 140 during that span.
Another thing that really deteriorated during Hill's last few seasons was the defense. And despite some injuries, I saw it more as a lack of effort and discipline. DeRuyter is the perfect elixir for that. His stop units at Air Force were very stout and despite some sub-par numbers and performances at Texas A&M, I think he did a great job considering the state of things prior to his arrival.
As I mentioned, he walks into a situation where there is work to be done but the pieces are certainly there to get back above .500. The Bulldogs are switching to an up-tempo, spread offense and have a capable quarterback in Derek Carr and solid run game with Robbie Rouse. Defensively, DeRuyter is putting in the same 3-4 scheme that he used at Air Force and Texas A&M. They move from the WAC to the Mountain West which isn't that drastic a change. The non-conference slate is once again challenging with trips to Oregon and Tulsa and a home game against Colorado. They also travel to Boise and Nevada. I was a little surprised to see 5Dimes price FSU at 7.5 wins – it has since been pounded with -280 juice now attached to the UNDER. While I like this team heading into the campaign, I think we need to allow for a little adjustment period. Getting to eight regular season wins is a possibility but a lot of things will need to go FSU’s way.
It will be interesting to see where this team is priced in the betting markets. Under Hill, FSU was a constant underachiever against the spread – especially against comparable and inferior competition. There are others out there who share my positive outlook (see: Phil Steele placed the Bulldogs on his Most Improved List) but I still think DeRuyter’s presence is going to help this team improve on the little things which are often key in covering spreads. I'm already eyeing Week 3's home tilt against Colorado. All we need is for Fresno to get blasted at Oregon the week before and we should get a nice short price to fire away with the home side.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @LangeSportsmemo