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Even with a coaching change, Fresno State football shouldn’t miss a beat in the 2022 season as the Bulldogs are primed to challenge in the Mountain West.

Whenever Kalen DeBoer elected to leave Fresno State football for Washington, it seemed as if the Bulldogs might be put into a state of disarray. Thankfully, Jeff Tedford has come back to the program and seems like he’s going to prevent that from happening.

Not just that, but he has every reason to believe that the team that he’s taken over can get to double-digit wins again and possible take the Mountain West crown.

Coming at No. 39 in the FanSided Top 50 Preseason Rankings, the Fresno State Bulldogs.

Fresno State Football 2021 season in review

In what was eventually DeBoer’s last season with the program, he earned his chance to jump to a Power 5 league. Despite a banged-up quarterback that was the team’s driving force, they used a defense that was one of the best in the Mountain West and a strong rushing attack to reel off a 10-3 season and a 6-2 record in the conference.

Of course, as mentioned, DeBoer left and made way for former head coach Jeff Tedford, at the helm from 2017-19, to take back the reins. That kept the status quo going for the Bulldogs and leaves the team eyeing a 2022 season in which they can be one of the best teams in the Mountain West yet again.

Previewing Fresno State Bulldogs offense for 2022 season

Returning starters (8): QB Jake Haener, WR Jalen Cropper, WR Josh Kelly, TE Raymond Pauwels Jr., OT Dontae Bull, OG Braylen Nelson, OC Bula Schmidt, OG Mose Vavao
Notable newcomers: WR Nikko Remigio (Cal), OL Daniel Taumalolo (College of San Mateo)
Impact player: Jake Haener

Jake Haener flirted with the decision to follow DeBoer to Washington, incidentally where he started his career, but the Tedford hire convinced him to stay. Now it’s time for him to take another leap and establish himself as a legitimate NFL prospect, a plight he began last year with a fantastic campaign.

He’ll have plenty of weapons to help him with his top two pass-catchers, Jalen Cropper and Josh Kelly, back in the fray along with the high hopes for Jordan Mims at running back as he takes over for longtime starter Ronnie Rivers. Newcomer Nikko Remigio will be a big factor as he caught 97 balls in the Pac-12 with Cal.

No matter how good Haener is, though, everyone needs the line that returns four players who started six or more games in 2021 to be more consistent. Haener took a beating and it showed, unfortunately, at times. With this type of experience and hopefully more consistency, though, there is at least reason for optimism with that group.

Previewing Fresno State Bulldogs defense for 2022 season

Returning starters (7): DE David Perales, DT Leonard Payne Jr., LB Levelle Bailey, S Evan Williams, S Elijah Gates, CB Bralyn Lux, NB Justin Houston
Notable newcomers: CB Cam Lockridge (Hawaii), DT Joshua Pakola (Stanford), LB Raymond Scott (USC)
Impact player: Evan Williams

It was a huge jump in performance last season for the defensive side of the ball and one that Tedford and new/old defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, who held that position from 1997-2000, will hope to keep the trend going upward.

The driving force behind that will be a secondary that returns both starting safeties — including the star and leader of the group, Evan Williams — one starting cornerback, the hybrid ace in Justin Houston and multiple players who played meaningful snaps a year ago. That group should inspire confidence and may need to make up for some deficiencies up front.

David Perales and Leonard Payne Jr. are solid and Levelle Bailey was a banshee in the middle of the field. However, the depth on the line and at linebacker are tough to projected to be a little troublesome, something that Coyle will have to contend with if they want to be one of the Mountain West’s best defenses for the second straight year.

Fresno State football players awards watch for 2022 seasonJake Haener, Maxwell

It speaks to the 2021 season Haener put forth that he’s on the Maxwell Award watch list but it’s well deserved. If he can not only match his production from last season but better it while leading the Bulldogs to success, I wouldn’t count him out to potentially earn some hardware.

Jalen Cropper, Biletnikoff

Haener’s top running mate, Jalen Cropper is up for the award that honors the top wide receiver in the country. His ability to make plays on all levels of the field and as a veteran who now has loads of experience with Haener should lead to a highly successful campaign.

Nikko Remigio, Paul Hornung

The newcomer from Cal, Remigio is on the watch list for the award that honors the most versatile player in college football. That speaks highly of him and of a player who could make a big impact on the Bulldogs offense and possibly special teams as well.

Fresno State Bulldogs biggest game on 2022 schedule

After a non-conference schedule that features two Pac-12 opponents, Fresno State will begin Mountain West play with a trip to the blue turf to take on Boise State on Oct. 8. And that’s going to be a monumentally important clash.

With the MWC ditching divisions, getting a leg up on the Broncos is huge for Tedford’s team. There is also a motivational factor at play as the loss to Boise State was the one time that the Bulldogs looked mismatched and incapable in the 2021 season. Thus, with a potential conference championship berth on the line at the start of league play, that road trip in early October is going to be a pivotal one.

Fresno State Football best-case scenario

In virtually any scenario for the Bulldogs this season, a 3-1 start should be the expectation. UConn is a doormat, Cal Poly doesn’t pose a threat and, while I like Oregon State and they are a Power 5 team, what I’m seeing from Fresno State is a better team. The inverse is true when matched up against USC but that’s still a good start leading into Mountain West play.

With wins over San Jose State, New Mexico, Hawaii, UNLV and Wyoming likely coming without many problems, that leaves two road games at Boise State and Nevada in addition to welcoming San Diego State to town as the swing games. Looking at what Fresno State has to offer, though, they can win all three of those games.

This isn’t the most likely scenario, but if Haener gets even better and things break right in the trenches, the best case for Fresno State football is a monstrous 11-1 season and undefeated campaign in conference play.

Fresno State Football worst-case scenario

There is a bit of variance for Fresno State in terms of the best and worst cases for the 2022 season.

Let’s say Haener regresses with DeBoer gone, the offensive line is an issue, and the defense can’t solve the questions in the front seven. Well, things could get dicey there. In that light, I think it’s at least possible that Oregon State clips Fresno State, putting them at 2-2 leading into conference play, which would start with a loss to the Broncos on the road.

We’re still locking up the surefire conference wins for this team but, at the same time, that would really throw San Diego State and Nevada into question. For me, I’m not liking what that could mean and, if the problems persist from early in the season, all three of those games are possible losses. All told, that would put the Bulldogs at 7-5 on the season, so still bowling, but well short of expectations.

Fresno State Football 2022 season prediction

Full disclosure, I’m a Jake Haener believer and think that he has the goods to deliver this season. To me, the best-case scenario is far more likely than the worst-case scenario, especially given Tedford’s pedigree and history with this program.

As such, my previous statement about most scenarios including a 3-1 start to the season stands for this prediction. And by my measure, they are getting wins over Nevada and San Diego State more often than not when I see how those teams match up with Fresno State. That leaves the Boise State game as the aforementioned biggest game of the year, but I have the Bulldogs falling short in that contest.

Still, that puts Fresno State ending the year at 10-2 with a 7-1 conference record, which should be good enough to get them a shot at the Mountain West Championship and a possible second crack at taking down the Broncos.

Fresno State Football 2022 bowl game prediction

Bill Bender’s latest bowl projections at Sporting News have the Bulldogs taking on SMU in the Gasparilla Bowl on Dec. 23. Meanwhile, College Football News has Fresno State in the Easyport Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve playing against Florida Atlantic.

Up Next: No. 38: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Other articles in this series: 

  • No. 40 Kansas State
  • No. 41 South Carolina
  • No. 42 Boston College
  • No. 43 Louisville
  • No. 44 Auburn
  • No. 45 Appalachian State
  • No. 46 Coastal Carolina
  • No. 47 UCF
  • No. 48 Maryland
  • No. 49 Iowa State
  • No. 50 Nebraska
Next: College Football Rankings: FanSided Preseason Top 50

For more NCAA football news, analysis, opinion and unique coverage by FanSided, including Heisman Trophy and College Football Playoff rankings, be sure to bookmark these pages.

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