Where: CEFCU Stadium, San Jose, Ca.
When: 4 p.m. PST
Watch: Facebook Live
Who would’ve thought this game would have so much riding on it at the start of the season?
San Jose State’s homecoming matchup with in-state rival San Diego State has shape up to be a huge game for both squads Saturday.
The Spartans have been the surprise team in the Mountain West to this point. Brent Brennan’s team is 3-3 heading into Saturday’s game, and are in desperate need of a win to stay in bowl-contention.
On the other hand, Rocky Long’s Aztecs are rolling. With a 5-1 record up to this point, SDSU boasts what has easily been the conference’s best defense so far. It allows just 13 points per game.
It’ll be the toughest challenge for the Spartans thus far. Let’s take a look at how they can pull off yet another major upset.
Get the running game going — with or without Nick Nash
Nick Nash left last Saturday’s game against Nevada with an ankle injury. Nash’s father Kenny, a former wide receiver at SJSU, initially told The Spear that Nick would miss the game against SDSU, before later backtracking and saying that Nick was “ready to go.”
With conflicting reports, it’s safe to say that even if he does play Saturday, he won’t be too heavily involved. Therefore, SJSU needs to get its running backs going.
Even with Nick fully healthy, the Spartans are ranked 126th in the nation with 90 ypg. Nick alone accounts for over half of that. Dejon Packer and Tyler Nevens have to get going against this stout Aztec front.
It’s going to be easier said than done. SDSU has the best rushing defense in the conference, and fourth best in the country, at just 64 ypg allowed on the ground.
Game-planning for SDSU should be simple. Don’t stack the box. Focus on sending blitzes as Josh Love and playing smart coverage in the back. Which brings me to my next point.
Josh Love has to play the best game of his career
The Spartans aren’t going to be able to run the ball on the Aztecs. Plain and simple.
Josh Love has been the offense for SJSU, and that has to remain true Saturday. He’s sixth in the nation with 303 ypg passing. To beat SDSU, that number is going to have to be in the 400’s or 500’s. He’s not going to have much help on the ground, and SDSU knows this.
With Nash being banged up, the pressure just keeps mounting on Love. He’s shown that he’s capable of carrying a team, now lets see if he can drag one to a win.
Keep the turnover train rolling
SJSU leads the nation in turnover margin. But guess who’s number two? That’s right, the Aztecs from San Diego State.
This is going to be a dogfight. Both starting QB’s have only thrown two interceptions all season. That number will certainly be different after these ball-hawking defenses get their hands on those quarterbacks.
SJSU may be without Ethan Aguayo once again. That means the rest of the defense, specifically the defensive line, have to put pressure on Ryan Agnew. In the games without Aguayo, the Spartans have struggled with their tackling. They don’t have the luxury of having one of the nation’s premier tacklers behind them, so the D-line has to step up and make sure Agnew doesn’t have time to pick apart the defense. Speaking of Agnew...
Make Ryan Agnew beat you
Ryan Agnew is not a bad quarterback by any means. But he hasn’t been consistent, or flashy. He’s a solid game manager that doesn’t mess up, doesn't throw interceptions and does enough for his team to win.
The Spartans need Agnew to mess up, plain and simple. If the Spartans want any chance of winning, they’ll need it to be a low-scoring affair. Agnew isn’t going to go off for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns, so they just need to focus on the fundamentals, and make him play the sloppy football he’s played at times this season.
The Spartans have proved me wrong a few times this season already. And behind what will likely be the most rocking crowd CEFCU has produced in a while, maybe they will again on Saturday.
But I just don’t see the Spartans pulling off another shocker this week. The SDSU defense is simply too good, and without a running game, SJSU won’t be able to produce much on offense.
SJSU 10, SDSU 20