"It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle."
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
In accordance with the teachings of Master Sun, I humbly apply to give you the knowledge that every Spartan fan needs about this week's opponent, the Leland Stanford JUNIOR University.
First, the numbers:
Cumulative Record versus Stanford: 14-50-1
Last year: Stanford 57 SJSU 3
Last SJSU win versus Stanford: 2006 – @ SJSU 35 Stanford 34
Current Streak: Stanford W4
Best SJSU Streak: W3 (happened twice, 1981-1983 and 1998-2000).
Worst SJSU Streak: L11 (first eleven games, spread out from 1900 to 1953)
Well, Stanford fans, no more Luck for you. Everybody's All American has gone off to Indy, and now a lot of people are going to figure out whether or not David Shaw is the real deal, or if he was feasting on the left-overs so generously provided by Jim Harbaugh.
Most pundits have Stanford picked to be the #2 team in the PAC-North, and we cannot disagree with that assessment, primarily because the PAC-North (outside of Oregon) isn't looking too swift this year. With that said, though, most prognosticators have this Stanford team going pretty much as far as their defense will take them, and for Stanford that means stopping the run. Their run defense ranked #3 nationally last year, and they return six starters from that front seven unit (with one other returning starter, Shayne Skov, suspended for one game for DUI).
Last year, SJSU's starting QB got what everybody thought was a massive case of the yips with multiple fumbles - turns out he got himself a concussion in the first quarter and didn't let anyone know for a while. This year's starter, David Fales, will once again be facing his first exposure to real-game speed with a Stanford defense that's geared to stop the run, and will dare the passer to pass. If SJSU is unable to establish any type of ball control offense, things will once again go very poorly for the Spartans up on the Farm. SJSU's offensive skill players all have the talent to match up with their counterparts on the Stanford D, but it'll be a matter of getting Fales enough time to allow those guys to make the athletic plays they need to make.
Most oddsmakers have this game as a 20+ point win for the home team; while we don't believe in Moral Victories here on the Blitz, it would be nice to be inside that nice round number. If SJSU is anywhere within single digits by halftime, most Spartan Faithful will be ecstatic.
When THEY have the ball: The fortunate young man selected to fill the shoes of Andrew Luck will be Josh Nunes, a junior and four-star recruit, even though he came close to being tipped at the line by soph Brett Nottingham. Their job is to just be good, not great, and let the rest of matters take care of themselves. Nunes' main job will be handing the ball off to Stepfan Taylor, who figures to be a 30-touch man this year. The Furd also has some talented wideouts in Ty Montgomery and Jemari Roberts, but the departure of Griff Whalen and noted Spartan-killer Chris Owusu renders the Stanford receiving corps somewhat inexperienced. This, combined with our relatively experienced backfield (despite the loss of the Duke), may be our best matchup of the day.
When WE have the ball: As noted above, Stanford finds its strength in its defensive front seven, and we catch a break with the one-game suspension of Shayne Skov for his Randy Travis impersonation back in January, but Stanford's much deeper than just one linebacker, and considering as how last year SJSU piled up all of 27 yards on the ground in 32 attempts, this may be a bit of a problem. Look for SJSU to continue its pattern of quick-toss plays to the flat, bubble screens, and other such misdirection plays in order to get the Stanford defense to not just pin its ears back and come after Fales (and Jurich...and Stewart...and Gray...). Critical for SJSU in this game - their RB's must-must-must break the first tackle; if they can get past the line they can do some damage, but getting plugged at the line like we did last year will lead to a very long afternoon.
Overall: They are not invincible. We've got guys who line up well with their guys - especially our receivers against their backfield and our backfield against their receivers. This game will be decided by how our O-line fares against the Stanford front seven. If they hold their own, and we play mistake-free football (2 or fewer turnovers, generate short-field conversions, kick the crap out of the ball when we kick), then we stand a puncher's chance at an upset that will get a lot of peoples' attention.