Connecticut vs. Fresno State Predictions & Preview
When: Saturday, August 28
Start Time: 2:00 PM ET
Where: Bulldog Stadium (Fresno, CA)
TV Channel: CBSSN
Connecticut vs. Fresno State Predictions & Betting Picks:
The Connecticut Huskies will take the field for the first time in nearly two years as they travel to the west coast and take on the Fresno State Bulldogs. UConn didn’t have a season in 2020 due to COVID-19, and their last game took place in November 2019. There have been lots of personnel changes for the Huskies between then and now, but the one thing that has remained constant is head coach Randy Edsall who returns in that role for the 2021 season.
I can’t help but think this first game since 2019 for UConn will be a tough one for them. The Huskies have a horrific 6-30 SU, 12-24 ATS record in three seasons under Edsall, and this team looks to be starting all over again. Twenty players transferred out of the program following the 2019 season, which means that UConn has endured a total roster overhaul in the last 18 months since the team last played a game.
UConn is expected to play both of their top two QB’s in Jack Zergiotis and Steven Krajewski. That is not an optimal ‘bet on’ situation for me entering the season when there is no clear-cut starting QB which often indicates neither QB was really good or dominant enough in camp to earn the job. There are some solid skill position players for UConn, but the offensive line is an area of concern with only two returning starters from the 2019 team.
The defense has been one of the worst in the country over the last few seasons, and there are doubts whether they will progress and improve. The front seven has some pieces and looks to be the strength of an overall weak and depth shy stop unit, but the secondary for the Huskies is troubling. The pass defense was hideous in the last few seasons, and UConn is right now settled on just one starter in that position group, which indicates there are holes and question marks all over that Huskies secondary.
Fresno State is primed to take another step forward this season into possibly the upper half of the Mountain West. The Bulldogs went 3-3 last season in the first season under head coach Kalen DeBoer, and they return their starting QB, the Washington transfer Jake Haener who got better and more comfortable in the offense down the stretch as his completion rate, passing yards, and TD numbers all improved late in the season. He had a 65.7% completion rate and a 14-5 TD-INT ratio last year, solid for a first-year starting QB. I expect him to be even better in 2021, especially with all his top WR’s, the dynamic Ronnie Rivers at RB, and the majority of the Bulldogs starting offensive line from last season returning.
The Fresno State defense has 11 starters back from a group that struggled at times last year. Still, it should be improved this year as Fresno State brings back an excellent defensive line, all three starting LB’s and a secondary with two senior starting CB’s in Elijah Gates and Wylan Free. The Fresno State defense has the strong secondary and the experience upfront to wreak havoc on this UConn offense. That could be trouble especially given the immense problems turning over the football that the Huskies have had in their recent seasons.
The number is close to where I expected it to be with Fresno State -27.5 in this game. It’s not a bargain, and it’s a big number, but sometimes you can’t be scared to lay a big number in the first game of the season. UConn is starting almost from scratch after going two years without playing a game, and there are far too many question marks across the team on both sides of the football to trust them to hang tough on the road for an entire game against what should be a much improved Fresno State squad. So I can only endorse Fresno State laying the points in this game.
Still, I am going to split this bet between the first half and full game on the Bulldogs because of the fact they have a big road game at Oregon on deck next week, so you might see Fresno State take their starters out late in the game with a big lead should they get one.