2012 Record: 9-4 (7-1 in MWC)
Head Coach: Tim DeRuyter (second year head coach)
Last Bowl Game: 2012 Hawaii Bowl: lost to SMU 43-10
Stadium: Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, CA (capacity = 41,031)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 6th out of 55 mid-major teams
Toughest Conference Home Game: 9/20 vs Boise State
Toughest Conference Road Games: 10/26 at San Diego St, 11/29 at San Jose St
Stat to Fear: 61.5 yds of penalties in 2012 (8th in MWC)
Stats to Cheer: gained 35 turnovers in 2012 (2nd in MWC), had 38 sacks in 2012 (1st in MWC), held opponents to 33.96% on third downs (1st in MWC)
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 54th out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 7, Defense: 6, Special Teams: 1
Key Defensive Returnees: DB Derron Smith (79 tackles, 6 INT), DB Sean Alston (50 tackles, 5 INT)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Derek Carr (4104 yds pass, 67.3% completions, 37 TD, 7 INT), Devante Adams (102 rec, 14 TD), WR Isaiah Burse (57 rec, 6 TD), LT Austin Wentworth
Podcast with Andrew Marden of KGPE-TV (CBS47-Fresno):
In Tim DeRutyer's first season, the Bulldogs saw a big turnaround from 4-9 to 9-4. That is impressive and even more so when you consider that they moved from the WAC to the MWC.
On offense, the Bulldogs return the 2012 Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year in QB Derek Carr. They also return top targets Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse as well as Victor Dean and Josh Harper. The big key will be replacing workhorse RB Robbie Rouse. The OL loses two starters but does return All-MWC first teamer Austin Wentworth as well as three other players that have a combined 34 starts.
The defense saw huge improvements as they decreased their ppg allowed from 35.2 in 2011 to 23.8 in 2012. The Bulldogs will return their top four players along the defensive line so expect that group to improve a bit with experience. There could be a fall off at LB as the Bulldogs must replace some key players (Travis Brown, Tristan Okplalugo and Shawn Plummer). In the secondary, the Bulldogs must replace the best player on the defense, Phillip Thomas, but do return some key players like Derron Smith and Sean Alston. Who steps up in the back end of the defense could be the difference in a trip to the MWC Championship Game for the Bulldogs.
To me this looks like a team that could finish anywhere between 8-4 and 11-1. I like the direction that the team is headed so let's go with 10-2 with them as the odds on favorite to take on the Boise State Broncos in the MWC Championship Game.
Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews: