San Jose State did last week what it hadn’t accomplished since 2015: win in Week 1. This week, it will attempt something it hasn’t done since 1987: start 2-0.
Despite a solid victory over Northern Colorado, there are still many questions to be answered when the Spartans square off against Tulsa on Saturday night.
Time: Saturday 6 p.m. PDT
Location: CEFCU Stadium in San Jose
Both of these teams had very different season openers. The Spartans beat Northern Colorado 35-18 in an impressive offensive performance, while their defense left some to be desired. Meanwhile, Tulsa was manhandled by Michigan State 28-7, with the Golden Hurricane rushing for -73 yards. No, that’s not a typo.
Obviously, take both of these results with a grain of salt. Northern Colorado was an undersized team, even for FCS standards. And Michigan State is what it has been all decade — smash mouth, physically overpowering football. Neither Tulsa nor SJSU were on an even playing field last week. Here are a few things to consider about this matchup.
The ground game: A stoppable force vs. a moveable object
If there’s one thing that should’ve concerned SJSU fans last Thursday, it’s the Spartans’ run defense. They allowed 150 yards on the ground, and that was against a team with a small O-line. UNC gained 10 first downs on running plays, with many coming at crucial times. This will be an issue down the road against teams like Army and Nevada, but will it be an issue against Tulsa?
As stated earlier, Tulsa had -73 rushing yards against Michigan State. The leading rusher for the Golden Hurricane was Shamari Brooks with 6 carries for zero yards. Obviously not the best start. Last season Tulsa had a solid rushing attack led by Brooks, who gained nearly 1,000 yards on the ground. Corey Taylor II, who had -1 yard on 7 carries against MSU, was second on the team with 846 yards and led with 11 touchdowns. That is a deep an effective backfield, but it couldn’t put it together in Week 1.
So the question is, which unit wakes up?
Josh Love is for real
SJSU quarterback Josh Love was someone that was expected to break out this season, and he sure looked good in Week 1. If there was one big critique on his game last season, it would be that he wasn’t as efficient as you’d like your QB to be.
He changed that on Thursday with perhaps the most efficient performance of his career. Love was terrific, going 21-31 with 224 yards and 2 TD’s. With some solid pass protection, Love can do great things in his senior season. He is the player to watch this week for the Spartans. Tulsa has a solid pass defense, so if Love can follow last week up with another great showing, the Spartans may have a dark horse MW offensive player of the year contender on their hands.
Turnovers margin winner = game winner
Turnovers were an issue for both squads last season. Tulsa gave the ball away three times against MSU last week, twice on the ground and once in the air. MSU escaped without turning the ball over.
SJSU picked UNC qb Jacob Knipp off twice and recovered a fumble for three total takeaways. The Spartans gave the ball away once, a Nick Nash fumble at the one-yard line.
Point is, both teams live and die by turnovers. In a game that could be as close as this one has potential to be, every play matters. Ball security is sure to be a major focus to each team, as they both suffered from costly fumbles in Week 1. All it takes is one big takeaway to change a game.
This is a tough one to call. Before the season, I predicted the Spartans would be able to take a close one at home. But after their Week 1 win, I’m less confident. Tulsa was unimpressive against MSU, but the Golden Hurricane will be going against a much less suffocating defense this time around.
It’s going to come down to whichever team can get the ground game going. And despite the -73 yard performance in Week 1, I think Tulsa can get it turned around and produce solid yardage in the running game.
Tulsa 41, San Jose State 35