Are you ready for Fighting Sioux football? With fall camp around the corner, we're counting down the days to the return of UND football. With 36 days to go until the pigskin flies through the air for the first time, we'll be previewing all 11 UND opponents during that stretch right here on FightingSioux.com.
Countdown to football: 36 days
Who: Fresno State
What: Game 3 and second against an FBS level team.
When: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 9 p.m. (CT)
Where: Fresno, Calif.
Why: The Fighting Sioux will square off against their second consecutive foe from the FBS level and Western Athletic Conference, as they head to Fresno State for another tough match-up. It will be the first meeting between the two teams on the gridiron.
The contest will also be the first home game of the season for Fresno State at Bulldog Stadium, which had FieldTurf installed this past summer. Could that play to UND's favor? Maybe, as the Sioux are familiar with the surface, practicing on it numerous times a year at Memorial Stadium. However, once the game starts, it is doubtful the players will be too worried about what is underneath their feet.
The Bulldogs season opener against California is considered a home game for Fresno State, but will be played in San Francisco at AT&T Park. After the opener with Cal, the Bulldogs do not lighten the schedule any as they travel to Cornhusker land to take on Nebraska in week two before returning home to take on the Sioux.
Fresno State lost some of its key skill players from a season ago, but they are expected to reload with another quality recruiting class. The Bulldogs went 8-5 in 2010 under head coach Pat Hill and advanced to their fourth-straight bowl game and seventh overall since Hill took over the program in 1997.
Fresno State faced a Northern Illinois team in the 2010 UDrove Humanitarian Bowl, falling to the Huskies, 40-17. Fighting Sioux fans will remember their squad putting up a much tougher fight with NIU earlier in the regular season, dropping a 23-17 contest to the Huskies on Sept. 11 in Dekalb.
Offensively, four of the top five receivers are back along with the top three running backs. The Bulldogs are replacing a quarterback, but a familiar name will be looking to take over the signal-calling reins. Redshirt freshman Derek Carr, whose brother David was a star for the Bulldogs before being the No. 1 overall draft pick by the Houston Texans in 2002, is the odds on favorite to lead Hill's 2011 squad.
Senior defensive lineman Logan Harrell leads the way on the other side of the ball. He's been named to a number of watch lists this summer and was a first team All-WAC selection in 2010 after recording 10.5 sacks - a total that ranked 13th in the nation.
Logan will be flanked by four other returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, including outside linebacker Travis Brown, who had 79 tackles and was a second team All-WAC performer.
It will be another tough road task for the Sioux, but should be another exciting game.