Published October 18, 2013
Fresno State had quite a productive week off, moving up four spots in the AP poll despite not playing a game.
The 17th-ranked Bulldogs benefited in the polls from a weekend of upsets that also served as a cautionary lesson on how easily a team can slip up if it loses focus.
Fresno State (5-0, 2-0 Mountain West) takes that lesson into Saturday night's meeting against UNLV (4-2, 2-0).
"You point out real world examples to them," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "This isn't just theory that you can lose every weekend. Last weekend there were four or five teams that were favored that lost. When they see that happen, they realize that any given weekend you're susceptible to lose if you don't perform that week."
DeRuyter said his team's position in the AP poll puts a target on them for teams that hope to use a win over a ranked team to make their season.
The Rebels come into this meeting with a four-game winning streak that is their longest since 2000. They haven't won five in a row since Randall Cunningham was quarterback during a seven-game streak in 1984 and have lost 14 straight games to ranked teams since beating Arizona State 23-20 on Sept. 13, 2008.
"Whoever we play, we put the target on their back," Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr said. "We prepare and play physically during the game and practice. It doesn't matter who we play. We're going to put the target on our opponent's back and go take it."
Here are five things to watch when the Bulldogs host the Rebels:
RECORD-SETTING DAY: Derek Carr is hoping for a record-setting homecoming as two of the most prominent career passing records at the school are within his reach this week. Carr needs three TD passes and 33 completions to break the marks held by Paul Pinegar (82 TD passes, 848 completions).
"The one thing when I was a little kid I wanted to make sure it said Carr at the top somehow, whether it was Dave or Derek," Carr said.
Older brother David also played for Fresno State and was taken first overall in the 2002 draft by Houston.
RECORDS PART 2: There's another school record in peril — this one at UNLV. Tim Cornett became the second UNLV back ever to top 3,000 career yards rushing last week and needs just 40 yards to break Mike Thomas' school record of 3,149 in 1973-74. Cornett has scored at least one TD in five of the team's six games in 2013, including seven in the last three.
DEVANTE VS. DAVANTE: The game features two of the best big-play receivers in the country in UNLV's Devante Davis and Fresno State's Davante Adams. Davis leads the Rebels with 36 receptions for 618 yards and a Mountain West-best eight TDs. Adams has 21 TD catches in 18 career games and is coming off his best game yet with a school-record tying 16 catches for 185 yards and three TDs against Idaho.
"Physically he's an imposing guy," DeRuyter said. "We have to have a plan to try to slow him down."
ANNIVERSARY: The Bulldogs are on their longest season-opening winning streak since David Carr led them to six straight wins to open 2001. That streak ended 12 years to the day before Saturday's game, when Boise State beat Fresno State 35-30 with 8-year-old Derek crying in the stands.
"That's pretty cool," Derek Carr said. "It's one of those things, but this will probably the last time I think of it. It's a cool moment. But my focus is UNLV."
BCS RANKINGS: If Fresno State wins the game, the focus will immediately turn to the release of the first BCS standings on Sunday. The Bulldogs need to finish in the top 12 and stay ahead of Northern Illinois to get an automatic berth into a BCS game. They can be in the top 16 if they finish ahead of the champion in an automatic-qualifying conference.
"It has nothing to do with our preparation. If we prepare and execute on Saturday, things will take care of itself. That's what we have control of," DeRuyter said. "Your body of work will determine whether you deserve it or not."