Where: Spartan Stadium, San Jose, CA.
When: Friday the 27th, 9 p.m. EST.
2013 Season So Far: San Jose State 1-2 (0-0 MWC), Utah State 2-2 (1-0 MWC)
San Jose State and Utah State are both coming off a 6 day turnaround to face each other at Spartan Stadium, but the game possibly means different things to each team. For San Jose, they are fresh off their second trouncing at the hands of a bigger, more physical team. Their performance has done little to impress their new Mountain West conference. San Jose has so much to prove in this game on offense and defense in this game: Can the offense be consistently fantastic? Can their defense contain the rushing attack of a MWC team (as opposed to a Pac-12 or Big-10 rushing attack)? Finally, can the Spartans avenge the crushing defeat they suffered last year when Utah State ran all over the Spartan defensive and offensive lines for 13 sacks (13!!!) 212 rushing yards, 273 passing and 49 points.
Utah State's two losses have been flukey ones, and that must lead to some frustration for the Utah State team. They're an offensive powerhouse whose secondary have given up just enough yards to lose two games for them. In their last game their offensive line allowed 4 sacks and Chuckie Keeton's output was severely limited on the ground and in the air. Even so, Utah State is heavily favored in this match-up and they are in San Jose to prove that they're able to crush all Mountain West opposition.
What to look for, SJSU Spartan edition:
Some Spartan apologists have claimed that the Spartan defense is designed to stop speed, not power, and that's why it has done poorly so far and why it will do so well against the rest of the Mountain West. Friday's game will be a good indication of whether San Jose's defense is good against anyone in FBS football. Utah State has Chuckie Keeton, a dynamic dual threat quarterback who will probably try to do what he did last year against the Spartans: run for one million yards. Stanford and Minnesota together got 8 touchdowns on the ground, and I can't imagine Utah State will ignore that. Can San Jose State's front 7 contain anyone's running attack?
San Jose State's secondary has not really been tested so far, so how they fare against Chuckie Keeton's productive passing game will be a will be a good indication of where the secondary is at this year. They've given up only 1 touchdown though, and had two interceptions.
Can the Spartan's get any sort of offensive consistency going? Against Minnesota, in about 18 minutes of offense they put up 400+ passing yards and three touchdowns. They would have had probably at least 2 more scores but for a stripped ball and a bad 4th and 2 yard running play. 17 of those points came in the 2nd quarter though, so it remains to be seen whether San Jose can sustain a dynamic offense for 4 quarters of the game. On a positive note for the Spartans, their offensive line did not allow a single sack to the Minnesota Golden Gophers after allowing 3 to Stanford. Look for Fales to put up some big numbers regardless of the game's outcome.
What to look for, Utah St. Aggie edition:
What does Utah State's secondary really look like? They've given up 4 touchdowns and have not intercepted the ball once this year. Their secondary gets a lot of help from Utah State's phenomenal front 7, who last year managed to sack David Fales 13 times (13!!!). San Jose State returns about 4 starters from last year's offensive line and I doubt they've forgotten the game against Utah State, so I'm expecting the Aggies' secondary to participate a little more. David Fales passed for 467 yards against Utah State in their last match up, even though his offensive line was as porous as a spaghetti strainer, which could make this game very interesting.
Will the Aggies handle pressure better this game? Chuckie Keeton was sacked 4 times in the game against USC and completed 21 of 39 for just 179 yards. USC seems to have focused on keeping Chuckie Keeton in the pocket, daring him to beat them with just his arm. If San Jose State plays a similar game, throwing the kitchen sink at Chuckie Keeton, what will the Aggies do to adjust?
TIME OF PREDICTION:
Predicting a Spartan victory hasn't worked out so well, so I'm going to try something different. San Jose shows some improvement against the running game, but Chuckie Keeton scrambles for 2 million yards on busted or read-option plays. Utah State wins 31-17.