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This is one of the more interesting games to look at for the first week of the season. In most preseason rankings, both of these teams are ranked very closely to each other in the top 30-40 range. However, Fresno State is surprisingly pretty large 10-point favorites. Both teams finished with 9-4 records in 2012 so what gives? Sure, the game will be played in in Fresno, but is the MWC really that much better than the AAC?
The big reason for the confidence in the Bulldogs is quarterback Derek Carr who led the team to 37.9 points and over 300 passing yards per game last year. He regularly carved through defenses until a 43-10 loss to SMU in their bowl game. While Robbie Rouse is gone at running back, Carr has his two favorite receiving targets back in Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse. That's going to be Rutgers' biggest task by far on defense as they only have four starters from last year's squad. It's the main reason the line is so high. Fresno State has the ability to put up points on the board and Rutgers has a relatively inexperienced defense.
As for the Scarlet Knights on offense, it's unlikely that they will be able to keep up with the Bulldogs if FSU scores 30-plus points. Rutgers scored just 21.5 points per game last season and failed to score more than 17 points in their last four games. With former starting running back Jawan Jamison gone, it may be even harder for this team to put up points. Gary Nova is a question mark at quarterback. He threw 14 interceptions in the final seven games of the season after only throwing two in the first six. What Nova will show up in Week 1? His top receiver returns in Brandon Coleman, but that's just one piece to the puzzle.
To make matters worse, the Bulldogs improved steadily on the defensive end under new coach Tim DeRuyter last year which could mean they might be better in 2013. With eight returning starters and a solid secondary for Fresno State, it's going to fall on Nova's shoulders to pick Rutgers up.
After an early season bid to reach a BCS Bowl last season, the Scarlett Knights fell apart losing their last three games. Will that continue into this season with Nova at the helm? The Bulldogs were at their best last season at home which is another reason for the high line.
FSU has covered the spread in their last six home games. The point total sits at a heavy 55 points and most trends point toward the under. It has hit in five of Fresno State's last six non-conference games and 10 of Rutgers' last 13 road games.
Had these two played at the end of last season, our model would have had Fresno State winning by a hair, 20-18. Will the lost starters on the defensive side of the ball for Rutgers come into play here? Or will the new starters be able to step right in? This one won't be a Key Release but we'll go out on a limb here and suggest that while Rutgers may take a hit on the defensive side of the ball, it won't be as drastic as this line (the total) suggests. We'll side with our model as well as the Under trends mentioned above. Rutgers/Fresno State Under 55
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