As soon as Fresno State ended one winning streak, Boise State's 31-game Western Athletic Conference mark, players here at Bulldog Stadium took aim at another, Southern California's streak of 32 consecutive victories. After beating the Broncos last week, fans chanted "Beat S.C.!" One Fresno State player carrying a torn "Bring on USC" poster simply said, "We got 'em." And wide receiver Paul Williams added: "They're beatable. Anyone is beatable. They bleed."
Locals say Saturday night's game against top-ranked USC is the biggest sporting event in the history of Fresno. The team message board, the Bark Board, received more than double the amount of page hits Monday compared to normal game weeks. Not surprisingly, the contest has not attracted similar hype four hours south on Interstate 5. Here is what USC running back Reggie Bush said he knew about Fresno State: "Not much."
Coach Pat Hill's Bulldogs are not intimidated. When asked how he can get players to believe they can beat a team that has not lost in two years, Hill said, "They believe they can. Why shouldn't they?"
Granted, anything is possible and the bizarre often occurs at Fresno State. A case in point was the hiring of a men's basketball coach named Tarkanian, who still calls his program one of the nation's "cleanest." But make no mistake, this is neither a joke nor a gimmick to stir interest on a Saturday when results are not expected to disturb the national landscape.
In talking to coaches, players and locals, we compiled eight cogent reasons why Fresno State is uniquely qualified -- more than California was last week, at least as much as Notre Dame was Oct. 15 -- to upend the two-time defending national champion. Come 1:45 a.m. Sunday morning, when University of Miami students are still crowded in campus libraries, the national title picture could be as foggy as northern Fresno and teams such as the Hurricanes could have renewed hope.
-- Eric Prisbell