The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Today at No. 109: Fresno State

Coach: Tim DeRuyter (0-0, first season, 1-0 overall)

2011 record: 4-9 (3-4 in Western Athletic Conference, tied for fourth in WAC)


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Look back: Coming off back-to-back 8-5 seasons, bigger things were expected from the Bulldogs going into 2011. The team dropped its first two games to non-conference opponents Cal and Nebraska but bounced back with back-to-back wins over North Dakota and Idaho. A 38-28 loss to Ole Miss and 57-7 loss to Boise State dropped Fresno State to 2-4 on the season. A victory over Utah State in Week 7 looked promising but the team followed it up with three straight losses including the program’s first-ever loss to New Mexico State. A win over Hawaii wasn’t enough as the team dropped its final two games of the season to finish with its worst record since 2006. In the offseason, Pat Hill was fired as head coach and Tim DeRuyter was hired to take his place.

Offensive starters lost/returning: 4/8

Defensive starters lost/returning: 4/8

Key losses: WR Jalen Saunders, WR Devon Wylie, DT Logan Harrell, PK Kevin Goessling

Top returnees: QB Derek Carr, RB Robbie Rouse, WR Rashad Evans, LB Travis Brown, S Phillip Thomas

Strengths: Fresno State has traditionally been an offensive-minded team and that won’t change much especially with the addition of Dave Schramm as offensive coordinator. Schramm’s job is to convert the tradition pro-style offense the Bulldogs were running into more of a spread formation that caters to quarterback Derek Carr. Carr led the WAC last season with 3,544 passing yards and 26 touchdowns and will be key to that offensive transition. Running back Robbie Rouse led the WAC in rushing with 1,549 yards. Both Carr and Rouse were responsible for a majority of Fresno State’s offense, which ranked 37th overall in the country. Receivers Rashard Evans (44/351/3), Isaiah Burse (40/436/1) and Josh Harper (35/497/5) provide plenty of targets for Carr to focus on.

Weaknesses: Defense has never really been Fresno State’s strong suit, that’s why bringing in a defensive-minded coach like DeRuyter could payoff in a huge way. Last season, Fresno State was ranked 100 in total defense in the country. In the offseason, DeRuyter switched the defense from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 look. Linebacker Travis Brown will be a key ingredient for the defense. Brown, an All-WAC selection last season, led the team with 85 tackles and three sacks. The Bulldogs need to find a replacement for DT Logan Harrell, who led the team in sacks (6.0) and anchored the defensive line. The secondary will welcome the return of Phillip Thomas, who sat out 2011 with an injury.

Outlook: A lot of changes in the offseason for Fresno State including a move from the WAC to the Mountain West Conference in July. Playing with a new coaching staff, with new schemes and in a new conference could be a little much for this squad to handle in 2011. Carr and Rouse will have to carry the offense again and if the defense can make a smooth adjustment to a new scheme, things could go a lot better than last season. The schedule features tough non-conference road games against Oregon and Tulsa as well as key conference matchups with Boise State, San Diego State and Air Force.

2012 Schedule
Sept. 1 Weber State
Sept. 8 at Oregon
Sept. 15 Colorado
Sept. 22 at Tulsa
Sept. 29 San Diego State
Oct. 6 at Colorado State
Oct. 13 at Boise State
Oct. 20 Wyoming
Oct. 27 at New Mexico
Nov. 3 Hawaii
Nov. 10 at Nevada
Nov. 24 Air Force

The rest of the countdown:
No. 110 Central Michigan
No. 111 Indiana
No. 112 Memphis
No. 113 Middle Tennessee
No. 114 UAB
No. 115 Buffalo
No. 116 Tulane
No. 117: FAU
No. 118: UNLV
No. 119: Akron
No. 120: New Mexico

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