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November 26, 2013

BCS game out of their hands?

There's no doubt that the 2013 Bulldog season has been memorable. Whether or not they achieve their dream of playing in a BCS game is largely out of their hands at this point. Since the goal has always been going 1-0 every week, there's really not too much more that Fresno State can do short of leaving their starters in for an entire game.

But head coach Tim DeRuyter isn't going to do that and it would be dumb of any coach to risk injury during garbage time for a couple of votes. So the Bulldogs will do what they always do and take care of their business, let the rest handle itself. After all, there's no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater. This season has been nothing short of magical and there's no reason for it to end just yet.

It's worth talking about the very real possibility of the Bulldogs being left out of the BCS, despite running the table. Even the mighty Southeastern Conference hasn't gotten everything they wanted out of the BCS. Don't believe us? Go back to 2004 and ask Auburn if they felt the BCS worked. It hasn't happened often, but the system has even worked against the SEC.

So what happens if Northern Illinois gets the BCS bid that the Bulldogs covet so dearly? Well, perhaps the possibilities get a bit brighter. We'd like to take a look at some of those possibilities. Not because we believe it will work out this way, but because it doesn't hurt to know what lies in store if things don't end up going as planned.

The obvious stop for Fresno State, assuming they finish unbeaten, is the Las Vegas Bowl against the No. 5 team from the Pac-12. Bowls are allowed to pick within one game of the best available team, so there's a little room for wiggle with the selections. In most cases, the bowls opt for the best matchup available to them. But what about their opponent?

Depending on how things shake out in the Pac-12, it's entirely possible that the best available matchup may be a USC team that the Bulldogs will face when they open the 2014 season. The Bulldogs would have a slightly different makeup when they arrived at the Coliseum next fall, but that's all the more reason why a showdown in Vegas makes all the more sense.

The Bulldogs won't have Derek Carr when they play next year and there's a possibility that many more could be gone, too. Fresno State would almost certainly be guaranteed that the Trojans would take them seriously. Their coaching situation is too precarious for them to have a bowl showing like last year's. No doubt DeRuyter would like to wash out the taste of last year's bowl game from his mouth as well.

Both Carr and Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler are highly religious family men from Bakersfield. It's not difficult to see these two bonding over values and mutual respect in a city like Las Vegas. Both young men know how to have fun, but they're about each other's speed when it comes to off-the-field activities. Not to mention the fact that both of these young men are the leaders of two highly-publicized programs that have some impressive legacies.

Bulldog receiver Greg Watson and Trojan tight end Randall Telfer have a friendship that goes back to their days in high school. As a matter of fact, Telfer copied Watson's Twitter game as a means to interact with the fans. They share laughs, jokes, and a deep friendship. There's enough mutual respect on both sides of the ball that the two teams would like see each other's best.

There's also the little matter of DeRuyter finishing strong as a means to renegotiate his contract and Trojan interim head coach Ed Orgeron trying to get the full-time gig. Nothing says 'I'm not going anywhere' quite like putting a beatdown on USC and signing an extension afterward. You can be sure that DeRuyter's agent would find a way to parlay a bowl victory over USC into more money. The Fresno Bee reported that Fresno State is working on an extension for DeRuyter. This would help.

Conversely, USC could seemingly put the final nail in the coffin of the Lane Kiffin era by beating an unbeaten Bulldog team in a bowl. The fact that Kiffin is a Fresno State alumnus would just be a bonus for Trojan fans. More importantly, a win over an unbeaten Bulldog squad would be the icing on the cake for a season that started with misery and a coach losing his job.

An unbeaten Bulldog squad taking on a resurgent Trojan team with coaching and NFL draft stock implications would certainly make it on the radar of must-watch non-BCS bowls. The fact that this would take place in Las Vegas would only add to the desire to watch this game live. Most Californians use any reason to go to Vegas as it is, these two teams would bring the bodies and the party.

There's also a possibility that a team like Stanford could face the Bulldogs. The Cardinal could very well lose in the Pac-12 Championship to an Arizona State squad playing as good as anyone in the country right now. Facing and beating a power like Stanford would be quite a feather in the cap of Carr.

Here again, Bulldog fans can be sure that David Shaw would treat the game with the respect that it deserved. Shaw is one of the classiest coaches in the game and he would immediately recognize the talent on this Bulldog squad. For the Stanford players, beating an unbeaten Fresno State would be a nice way to end a season that began with national championship aspirations.

An impressive game against the Cardinal would certainly help the draft stock of Austin Wentworth. If he is able to do his job against one of the most daunting defensive lines in all of college football, it would likely elevate his status as an elite pass protector. A showdown with Stanford would basically put a spotlight on any Bulldog lineman or linebacker. There's no need to list the ways it would elevate Carr's status.

The Pac-12 is such a mess right now that anyone from just about anyone could wind up in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Cardinal and the Trojans represent two of the best possible matchups because of the circumstances surrounding them. There would most assuredly be other entertaining possibilities, but these two options have that little extra to them.

The Bulldogs belong in a BCS game, if they win out. They've knocked down everyone they've faced and done it every way possible. This is a battle-tested team. They deserve an opponent that will take their bowl matchup seriously and let's be honest, that doesn't always happen. But when members of the Oregon Ducks are publicly shaming the iconic Rose Bowl, one can't help but be aware of the possibility that some of these teams will not take their bowl game seriously.

Fresno deserves better than that. They deserve a game against an opponent that will give them their best shot. The fans and the team deserve BCS, but they demand respect.

They've earned it.

Stay tuned to FSBulldogs.com for more updates on the 2013 Fresno State Bulldog season.

Josh Webb is a special contributor to FSBulldogs.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @BulldogsTwist.


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