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Loving the Fantastic Starts for Fresno State, Haener, Raiders

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Fresno State offensive lineman Alex Akingbulu (75) celebrates with fans after a win over UCLA. on Saturday, Sept. 18, in Pasadena. (AP File)
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If you’re a Central Valley football fan, you couldn’t ask for a better start to the season.

Fresno State is ranked No. 22 in the nation and riding the high of an epic, last-second road victory over a UCLA team that had stunned LSU of the mighty SEC.

David Carr

On Football

I know from experience what a victory on a big stage can do for a team and a community. The Bulldogs are well worth the price of a ticket, and I think we’ll see a resurgent Red Wave in the weeks ahead. Give the fans a quality product, and they’ll pack the stands.

Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Raiders are 2-0 and coming off a victory in which they relentlessly roughed up Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger on his home turf.

The San Francisco 49ers have yet to lose. More importantly, their sack-master, Nick Bosa, is healthy.

And, the undefeated Los Angeles Rams are showing themselves to be the most complete NFL team.

It gets better. Not only is my brother Derek leading the NFL in passing yards with 817 after facing two tough opponents, but Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener is the NCAA yardage passing leader with 1,464.

Fresno State is once again Quarterback U.

Fresno State Deserves a Higher Ranking

I understand how the college polls work for a team like Fresno State. If you are unranked at the start of the season, you break in and then try to work your way toward the Top 10.

But when you evaluate the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball and consider their performance against now No. 3 Oregon — a game they could have easily won — I believe they deserve to be ranked higher. Fortunately, there are match-ups on their Mountain West schedule that will provide them the opportunity to move up.


Topics Ahead: 

  • Sky’s the Limit for Haener
  • NFL Top 5/Bottom 5

Coach Kalen DeBoer has done a fantastic job of building this team. You don’t get a player of Haener’s caliber to transfer from Washington unless you offer a creative scheme that fits his skill-set.  Haener is surrounded by playmakers (Ronnie Rivers, Jalen Cropper, Josh Kelly), and they all pose big problems for college defenses.

On defense, I like that the Bulldogs don’t wait to see what happens. They’re tough and disruptive. When going up against Fresno State, you better have a good quarterback because the Bulldogs are not going to allow easy completions.

Sky’s the Limit for Haener

When Jake came to my house this summer to throw with Derek and me, his arm and athleticism stood out. Jake is very confident in his abilities, and he should be. He has a quick release, a live arm, and the ability to move so that he can throw over tall linemen.

He also has all the intangibles — leadership and toughness — that coaches love and teammates admire. The way he soaked up DeBoer’s offense, which isn’t an easy one, on the fly last season was incredible. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be in the Heisman Trophy conversation.

At 6-foot-1, Jake isn’t the 6-4 guy some NFL teams want. But that isn’t the issue it used to be. Kyler Murray is 5-10, Russell Wilson is 5-11, and, at 6-2, Zach Wilson was drafted No. 2 overall in April.

Jake’s performance the rest of the season, in the Senior Bowl, and in NFL workouts are important to his future. But he’s going to get a chance to play on Sundays and I’ve seen it where a quarterback’s stock gets really hot before the draft. For Jake, the sky’s the limit.

For 44-year-old Tom Brady, it’s good to be 2-0 with a franchise-best 10-game winning streak, and a run of nine straight 30-plus point performances in a victory. (AP File)

Top 5

1. Tampa Bay (2-0)Tom Brady is 44 years old, in his 22nd season, and leading the NFL in touchdown passes (9). The fact that the Bucs are already in stride offensively is scary for the rest of the league. Will Brady have revenge on his mind Sunday vs. Los Angeles after playing poorly in last year’s loss to the Rams? (Last week: 1)

2. Kansas City (1-1) — It took a perfect storm (Patrick Mahomes’ first career interception in September, Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s first NFL fumble) for Baltimore to end the Chiefs’ dream of a perfect season. Don’t be fooled. The Chiefs remain a dominant team. (Last week: 2)

3. Los Angeles Rams (2-0) — The Rams, who have all the ingredients to reach the Super Bowl, will get better as the season wears on. They’ll need the Matt Stafford-Cooper Kupp connection to stay hot at home against the Bucs. (Last week: 3)

4. Las Vegas (2-0) — I might be the only NFL analyst ranking the Raiders this high. However, the tape shows that the Raiders are pressuring quarterbacks with just four guys, and getting a lot of key stops. They’ll go for their first 3-0 start since 2002 at home against Miami. (Last week: unranked)

5. Baltimore (1-1) — Starting 0-2 is one of the worst feelings you can have in the NFL because every team begins the season with so much hope and so do their fans. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens willed their way to victory against the Chiefs. That alone vaults them into my Top 5. (Last week: unranked)

Fell out: Seattle (1-1), Pittsburgh (1-1)

Bottom 5 

28.  Detroit (0-2) — The Lions move up without winning because they’ve played San Francisco and Green Bay tough, and Jared Goff has the ability to deliver some wins. (Last week: 31)

29. Houston (1-1) — With Deshaun Watson sidelined while the Texans try to deal him and Tyrod Taylor hurt, rookie Davis Mills starts at QB against a Carolina team that dominated New Orleans last Sunday. (Last week: 29)

30. Atlanta (0-2) — The Falcons have a new coach (Arthur Smith) but the same old problem — a failure to finish. Down by 3 heading into the fourth quarter, they ended up losing to the Bucs by 23. (Last week: 28)

31. New York Jets (0-2) — Zach Wilson threw four interceptions in the loss to the Patriots, but the Jets’ problems are a lot deeper. Their first realistic shot at a victory isn’t until Oct. 10 when they play … the Falcons! (Last week: 30)

32. Jacksonville (0-2) — Urban Meyer’s offense is strictly vanilla, and a team with this little talent requires creativity to win. (Last week: 32)

Escaped the Bottom 5: None

About the Author

David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 overall draft pick, and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with GV Wire’s Bill McEwen. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Healthcare.

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