What does it take to upset a dynasty?
Jeff Tedford knows. Fresno State’s first-year coach was at Cal in 2003 when the Golden Bears upended a Southern Cal team that ended up with a national championship. USC was in the midst of its time as college football’s top program under Pete Carroll.
The odds are considerably longer Saturday, when Tedford brings his Bulldogs to Bryant-Denny Stadium to face top-ranked Alabama, which is favored to win by more than 40 points.
“When Pete was at USC they were very dominant, no question about it,” Tedford said this week. “We beat them once in triple overtime, and really that came down to turnovers; we were able to take the ball away in key situations.
“Typically what this comes down to is you have to win the turnover battle to have a chance.”
Tedford took over a Fresno State program that went 1-11 last year. UA coach Nick Saban said this week that the Bulldogs are a “much, much improved team,” and called Tedford “one of the best coaches, I think, offensively in the country.”
Fresno State defeated a lower-tier Incarnate Word team 66-0 last weekend in Tedford’s debut as the program’s head coach. He spent last season as an offensive consultant to Washington, which Alabama defeated in the College Football Playoff, but had taken the job at Fresno State by that time and didn’t help the Huskies prepare for that game.
Even so, Tedford knows this week will be different.
“There’s no chinks in their armor anywhere,” he said of Alabama. “Every player on the team is outstanding. They’re big and physical and fast and can make a lot of plays.
“Obviously it’s a huge challenge for us, but it’s a great opportunity to play in that environment in front of 100,000 fans.”
Dealing with the setting, Tedford said, will be as important to his team as how it deals with Alabama’s athleticism.
“There will be a lot of electricity in the stadium,” he said. “When we go over there Friday, we’ll walk the field and try to get familiar with the setting.
“You can’t get overly emotional about it, you’ve got to stay within yourself. Getting up for it won’t be a challenge. They’ll go there excited to play. How you handle things, it’s our first time on the road and anytime you go on the road in front of 100,000 fans, you have to handle that.”
Reach Tommy Deas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0224.