The San Jose State Spartans open up their final OOC game at Iowa State Cyclones in Ames, IA. With HC Ron Caragher well into his 4th season with the Spartans, he has been searching for his signature victory over his tenure. Now with Iowa State being a perennial door stop in the Big 12, it may not be that big of a deal.
Yet, the Spartans have been on a victory drought against Power Five teams that date back to 2006 with a 35-34 victory over Stanford.
This is the chance for the Spartans to capitalize on a team in transition with a new coaching staff and professing a mantra of “Trust in the Process.” Doesn’t sound like the Cyclones have faith in a successful season this year, especially starting off at 0-3 with losses to FCS Northern Iowa, Iowa and TCU.
Keys to the Game
The Spartan offensive line needs to work together in making sure QB Kenny Potter has time in the pocket to make the throw or use his legs to move the scrimmage markers. The 1st quarter of last week’s loss to Utah was what people were expecting to see out of the Spartans. Potter roaming in the pocket using both mobility and a TD pass to TE Josh Oliver. 7th year RB Deontae Cooper was delivering some good hits to defenders and pushing the field marker for over +7yds a carry. The defense was able to hold the Utes to punts and FGs.
Then….the wheels fell off. Utah was able to get +3 turnovers that converted into 17 points and earned a new school record for number of QB sacks with 10. The Spartans were held to +56 yards rushing for the game. These NEED to be corrected if they are going to have any chance against the Cyclones.
The Spartans need to establish themselves on both sides of the running game. RBs Cooper and Zamore Zigler need to establish themselves early and push the chains for the offense.
With the Spartans getting outweighed on the offensive line by over 30 pounds last week against Utah, the Spartans hold the advantage this week against the Cyclones DL with a 32 pound advantage. Hopefully, this will translate into control at the line of scrimmage and allow the Spartan playmakers to work their magic.
On the opposite side of the ball, the wet paper bag-like run defense of the Spartans, allowing FBS opponents 253yds per game, needs to solidify and stop Iowa States’ RB Mike Warren from having a breakout game.
A down-hill runner, he had only +58yds rushing in his first two appearances, but had +95yds last week against TCU. HC Matt Campbell is going to try and tap into that success and the Spartans need to hold him at bay. With the probability of the return of defensive captain, LB Christian Tago, back on the field, this should help shut down the middle of the field with fellow LB Frank Ginda, current tackle leader with 32.
With Iowa State currently using a carousel of QBs to start off the season, with QBs Joel Lanning (469yds, 55% completion, 3:3 ratio) and Jacob Park (169yds, 43% completion, 0:0 ratio) vying for the starting position. With lack of consistency and overall poor stats, this should play to the strengths of the Spartan pass defense and allow them to focus on run in their 3-4 defensive front with nickel coverage.
To make this happen, San Jose State needs to shut down Iowa State’s star WR, Allen Lazard (14 rec, 248yds, 17.7yd average/catch) from having a career day. This will be a true chance for the Spartan defensive backfield to show off their skills against a skilled receiver.
Iowa State is one of the weaker teams in the Big XII, if not all of FBS. Consider their recent history:
No winning seasons this decade3-9 last year2-10 the year before that3-9 the year before that
Or consider their very recent history in 2016:
Week One: Loss to Northern Iowa (FCS)Week Two: Loss to Iowa (by 39)Week Three: Loss to TCU (by 21)
By these standards, the Spartans have an opportunity to break their losing streak against P5 programs with a victory this Saturday. As long has Kenny Potter has time in the pocket and the Spartans can keep mistakes/turnovers to a minimum, I see a successful day in Ames. Spartans 28, Cyclones 17.