Fresno State went 1-11 two seasons ago, its lone victory over Sacramento State.
The Bulldogs then turned to one of their own and hired Jeff Tedford as coach, who oversaw the nation’s largest turnaround last season. The Bulldogs went 10-4 and won the West Division, earning Tedford Mountain West Coach of the Year.
Now he has elevated Fresno State to a higher level.
The Bulldogs cracked The Associated Press’ poll at No. 20 this week and the coaches’ poll at No. 23, the first time since 2013 they appeared in both rankings.
“Those rankings really don’t mean much until the end of the year,” Tedford said. “That’s really the goal. Hopefully, if we can prepare and do our job and then if we can be there at the end of the year, that would be great for the program and the team.”
Attention continued to come to Fresno State, which plays UNLV at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium, when the Bulldogs were slotted No. 23 on Tuesday in the initial College Football Playoff rankings.
Tedford pointed to his own history at California as a reason for the team to not get ahead of itself.
“We’re not going to go practice any differently because we have a number in front of our name,” Tedford said. “I’ve been in this many times. I’ve been ranked as high as No. 2 in the country and had a chance to be No. 1 and stubbed our toe. We just need to keep doing what we do.”
More than a defensive team
Fresno State’s defense has suffocated opponents, allowing 13.5 points per game, tied with Mississippi State for fourth best nationally.
But the Bulldogs also play some offense in averaging 39.5 points per game.
Quarterback Marcus McMaryion is completing 70.4 percent of his passes with an 18-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also averages 267.8 yards passing.
His top target, KeeSean Johnson, has caught 54 passes for 761 yards and six touchdowns. He is the nation’s active leader with 44 consecutive games with at least one reception and is tops with 234 career catches.
“They’re a pro-style offense that really does a good job of taking advantage of matchups and using their tight ends,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. “They’re going to take their fair share of shots, but they’re really good with the quick game, too. McMaryion’s got a good arm.
”He’s really savvy. He’s not looking to run the ball, but he’ll rush for enough yards in the game to keep you honest and to hurt you, so you’ve got to watch out for that, too.”
UNLV picks up receiver
Malik Wesley (6 feet 2 inches, 175), a wide receiver from Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina, tweeted he will play for the Rebels. Updated statistics were not available.
— Malik Wesley (@MTweezy22) October 28, 2018
Some silver linings
UNLV’s defense has given up at least 50 points in three of its past four games, but the Rebels have done some things right.
They have recovered 10 fumbles, which is second nationally only to Florida’s 11. The Rebels also have recorded 14 sacks, three more than they had all of last season.
All of that is overshadowed, of course, because of the defense’s overall struggles. This is the first time since 2011 that UNLV has given up three games of at least 50 points.