GAME NOTES: One of six remaining undefeated teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the 15th-ranked Fresno State Bulldogs try to keep hope alive for a spot in the BCS as they host the New Mexico Lobos in Mountain West Conference action this weekend.
The Bulldogs, all alone atop the West Division of the MWC standings with an unblemished 6-0 mark, are coming off a bye week which followed a 48-10 romp over Wyoming in Laramie on Nov. 9.
In the all-important BCS rankings, Fresno State settles in at No. 14 this week, the highest placement of any program outside of the power conferences. More importantly, the Bulldogs are still ahead of undefeated Northern Illinois which is the only other squad that can disrupt the BCS.
As for the Lobos, they've been unable to produce a sustained effort from week to week. Granted, the team has been putting up solid offensive numbers for the most part, but last week it was crushed by Colorado State in the home finale, 66-42. The defeat was the fourth in the last five games for a Lobos group that is 1-5 in league play and fifth in the Mountain Division standings.
FSU pounced on the Lobos last season, 49-32, which means the all-time series now stands at 9-4 in favor of the Bulldogs.
The Lobos were lit up by Colorado State last week, more specifically, running back Kapri Bibbs who blitzed the UNM defense for a staggering 291 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. As a group, the Rams delivered 649 yards versus a battered squad that just could not keep up.
"Defensively, I feel for our guys," said UNM head coach Bob Davie after the game. "I appreciate the effort on defense. People may certainly have the right to be cynical when I say that and they certainly can. I understand that, when you give up 66 points and 600 yards."
The Lobos ran for 278 yards and three touchdowns, added another 249 yards and two scores through the air and still lost the final home game of the season. Cole Gautsche and Clayton Mitchem combined to convert 11-of-18 passes, the former also being intercepted twice, as the Lobos took the loss. Crusoe Gongbay responded with 12 carries for 98 yards and a score, but he and the rest of the UNM ball carriers were no match for Bibbs, although UNM's Jacori Greer wasn't ready to heap praise on the opposing running back.
"He was a strong guy. Good runner and physical. But to be honest it wasn't him, it was his offensive line."
The problem now for the Lobos is not only to figure out how to bounce back from such a tough loss, but how to move forward without Gautsche and running back Kasey Carrier, both of whom are now listed as being out for the remainder of the season due to concussion symptoms. Carrier was leading the team in rushing with 1,122 yards and nine touchdowns and Gautsche was right behind him with 777 yards and eight scores.
Stepping in for Gautsche will be Mitchem who has completed 54.4 percent of his 57 passes for 461 yards and just a single touchdown.
In addition to regrouping on offense, the Lobos also have to put together a tight game plan to try and slow down Fresno State, which won't be easy considering UNM is 117th in the nation with 39.9 ppg allowed.
With plenty of time to prepare for the meeting against New Mexico, you can be sure that FSU quarterback Derek Carr is ready to put up epic stats yet again. Named one of the five finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Carr currently ranks second nationally in both passing yards per game (380.1) and touchdowns (32), and he has not thrown an interception in his last 229 attempts.
Carr, who has thrown at least one TD pass in 29 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation, will turn to Davante Adams as his preferred target down the field. Adams leads the unit with 91 catches for 967 yards and 15 touchdowns, but when he's not available it is Josh Harper who fills the void with 68 grabs for 823 yards and another nine TDs.
Not to be completely overshadowed by Carr, Adams was named one of 10 semifinalists for the 2013 Biletnikoff Award, recognizing the top receiver in the country.
Seeing as how the Lobos are very weak at slowing down the run, this might be a good time to get Josh Quezada and Marteze Waller into the action even more. The pair has combined for more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The Fresno State defense doesn't have any household names necessarily, but you can count on Ejiro Ederaine having some sort of impact this weekend after making 13 of his 40 tackles this season behind the line of scrimmage. Derron Smith is not only third on the team with 50 stops, he is also tops with five interceptions and tied for the lead with nine passes defended.
Because Carr is driving such a potent offense, it really hasn't hurt the Bulldogs to be ranked 68th in the country in scoring defense, giving up 26.9 ppg, but that's a number that could improve significantly this weekend with so many injuries afflicting key members of the UNM offense. Don't be surprised to see a series of backups in the game for the Bulldogs in the second half once the outcome has been determined.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Fresno State 56, New Mexico 20