EUGENE — While Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr knows No. 4 Oregon is going to be fast, and Autzen Stadium is going to be loud, he got over any fear associated with big games last season.
The Bulldogs opened last season with Pac-12 foe California at San Francisco's Candlestick Park. They also faced No. 10 Nebraska and Mississippi last season. Carr, the younger brother of former Fresno state QB Derek Carr, was a first-time starter as a sophomore.
"Before the game against Cal, in my head I was still confident, but I was like 'Can I still do this? What are they going to do?' Then I figured out they can't eat me," he joked. "I settled down and realized it's just football. The worst they can do is hit you."
But that doesn't diminish the "extreme" challenge that Oregon poses to Fresno State today in Eugene, as first-year head coach Tim DeRuyter puts it.
Oregon, the three-time defending Pac-12 champions, has gone 32-6 against nonconference opponents in the regular season since 2000. The Ducks played in the BCS championship two years ago, and then beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl last season.
So it's not surprising that Oregon is favored to beat the Bulldogs by five touchdowns.
"I'm just really excited to go out there and compete against Oregon," Carr said. "Not a lot of people have faith in us (but) I have nothing but faith in our guys."
The Bulldogs went 4-9 last season before dismissing longtime coach Pat Hill. In DeRuyter's debut last Saturday, the Bulldogs defeated Weber State 37-10. It was Fresno State's first game as a member of the Mountain West Conference.
Carr threw for 298 yards and two touchdowns and Robbie Rouse rushed for 123 yards and two scores.
Rouse needs just 10 more carries and 194 yards rushing to break Fresno State career records. In seven career games against BCS opponents, he has rushed for 536 yards and two touchdowns.
DeRuyter has brought in a new spread offense, which he has dubbed "fast, physical, fanatical" while he and defensive coordinator Nick Toth have transformed Fresno State's 4-3 defense from last season into an attacking 3-4.
Oregon is coming off a 57-34 victory at home over Arkansas State in its opener last Saturday that lifted the Ducks up a spot in the AP Poll.
In his debut for the Ducks, redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota threw for 200 yards and three touchdowns. Mariota takes over for Darron Thomas, who threw for a school-record 33 touchdowns last season before leaving school with a year of eligibility left.
"It was surreal running through the tunnel for the first time. I am from a small school so it was a bit of a shock to run out to 60,000 screaming fans," Mariota said about his first college start. "After the butterflies went away it was fun to see how crazy these fans are about their football, it made me relax and just have fun out there."
Kenjon Barner, who took over as Oregon's starter at running back now that former Heisman finalist LaMichael James has moved on to the NFL, ran for 66 yards and two touchdowns. Multidimensional sophomore De'Anthony Thomas had three touchdowns (two TD receptions, one via rush) while only touching the ball eight times. To date, Thomas has 21 touchdowns in 15 career games and he's already generating Heisman buzz.
Many of Oregon's starters played less than a half before watching from the sidelines. Oregon built a 50-10 lead by the half before allowing the Red Wolves to close the gap in the second.
The defensive lapses had defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti angry after the game. By midweek, he softened his view a bit.
"I just wanted the young men to know when you get in and get an opportunity you have to compete," Aliotti said. "It's your turn."
Oregon may take the same approach today against Fresno State by resting the starters after a couple of quarters. Coach Chip Kelly said he has to juggle getting players ready for the Pac-12 season, giving reserves some live-game experience, and guarding against injury.
Fresno State has not defeated the Ducks since a 10-4 victory at Autzen Stadium in 1982.
"You play every game like it's a championship, never take anyone for granted," De'Anthony Thomas said. "I feel like they're going to come here and play hard. They're a tough team, a real physical team. Just can't take them for granted."