Many are predicting, myself included, that in 2008 Pat Hill will field the greatest team he has ever coached, or even that has ever represented Fresno State. With the returning personnel, a schedule that includes three BCS OOC opponents each expected to finish in the top half of their conferences, and Wisconsin coming to Fresno - I can optimistically, yet honestly say there is a very good chance that Fresno State will be the third WAC team to crash the BCS bowl party in as many years.
I think the two most challenging hurdles that Fresno must clear to reach that goal will be: 1. Limiting Wisconsin's rushing game; and 2. Overcoming the Boise State curse. There will be other challenges, but if these two are overcome the others surely will have already proven to be non-factors.
Wisconsin's strength coming into this season will be their rushing game, while the weak spot in Fresno at the end of last season was - rushing defense. Fresno's offense will provide more than enough opportunities to stack up points on Wisconsin - shoot Citadel was able to squeeze 31 points out of a not-so-stingy Wisconsin defense last year - but will the rush defense hold Wisconsin back enough to keep them from answering score with score? I think we'll have to wait until halftime on game day to see.
Boise State, Boise State, Boise State. If Fresno State proves that this season's OOC slate has been, in fact, winnable, and Boise State manages to return from Eugene with a W, we may get to kick back the day after Turkey Day and see quite a game on the blue field between an undefeated Boise State and an also undefeated - and highly ranked - Fresno State. If that's the case, is there any doubt that the winner of this game will not only be walking away with the WAC conference championship, but yet another berth in a BCS bowl for the conference? The big question for me in that scenario is: Will Fresno State finally be able to get over the hurdle that has been Boise State and do so on the road? If the Bulldogs can't do it this year, I don't know if I'll ever be able to be view Fresno's chances against the Broncos optimistically ever again.
The season still has much to reveal, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.