Location: CEFCU Stadium – San Jose, CA
Date/Time: Saturday, October 30th @ 1 PM PDT
Broadcast: Fox Sports 2
Radio: KTRB (860 AM, San Francisco)
Head-to-head: In a series that has been sporadically played since 1959, the Wyoming Cowboys (4-3, 0-3 MW) are 7-4 over San Jose State (4-4, 2-2 MW).
Spartan head coach Brent Brennan and Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl are 1-1 in their teams’ head-to-head. In this tiebreaker game, the spread favors the Spartans by only a field goal at home.
Against a Cowboy offense that’s scored just three points the last 10 quarters, the momentum seemingly should tip more towards SJS, but Wyoming is desperate.
What’s up with the Cowboys?
Bohl and staff have noted being mystified of their severe slump in production especially after the fast non-conference start.
The Cowboys played “lesser” competition with a big false-positive win over Ball State. A similar Ball State that wiped out SJS in the Arizona Bowl last year.
And the reason to say “lesser” is looking at their three straight conference losses following that fast start. Losing to Fresno State and Air Force are understandable. The Lobos of New Mexico shoulda-coulda been a win, but Wyoming just didn’t show up in that 14-3 loss.
Relatively speaking, we can make a reasonable attempt to anticipate the type of Wyoming team the Spartans can expect.
It’s a visiting Cowboy team the Spartans can feast on considering the on-going quarterback uncertainty between Sean Chambers and Levi Williams. Williams is slated for the start Saturday.
But with all the senior leadership and maturity across the football landscape, the unusual parity has made things unpredictable.
What will keep things unpredictable for the Spartans Saturday is the desperation of the Cowboys along with Wyoming’s formidable defense.
Why and how the Spartans should win
Yes, San Jose State should capitalize on the lack of Wyoming QB play and clearly avoid turnovers against a Cowboy defense that will be looking to take advantage of the disparaging difference.
The Spartans are –9 in the turnover margin. Wyoming is at –2 and sliding notably since hitting their MW gauntlet.
The SJS offensive consistency issue has been around mental execution.
Along with the turnover issue, a penalty plague has hit the Spartans this year. SJS is 115th in the nation; averaging 7.8 penalties and giving up 68.62 yards of field position each game, though there was only one five-yard penalty last week against UNLV.
In contrast, Wyoming is the 32nd least penalized in the nation.
Three more specifics to a win
1) The D - with a month of regular season games left, the Spartan defense is good and still getting better. The one key item the Derrick Odum defense needs to do is tighten up on the longer passing downs, but this 43rd ranked defense should show its place on a 116th ranked Wyoming offense.
After a season highlight showing on San Diego State, it’s clearly the degree of will the Spartans bring to show out.
2) QB Nick Nash – Nash still needs to up his completion percentage and a lot of that is obviously around accuracy. At least in the short and intermediate game, accuracy has to become more automatic. That’s not fully there yet, but his athleticism, speed and strength is a value bundle that builds up with each game.
Nash should also remember the monster night his roommate QB Nick Starkel had throwing for five touchdowns and 467 passing yards last Halloween at home. It would be a very successful performance if Nash got half of that this Halloween weekend.
It’s also fair to say Starkel should not be seeing the field again for the fifth straight week.
3) A big wide out day – achieving a good level of the first two points above could suffice for a win and this one would be gravy (but gravy is often needed to help round out the meal).
There’s been run game successes with Tyler Nevens and mid-range seam successes with an all-Mountain West tight end Derrick Deese Jr.
Wideouts like Charles Ross, Isaiah Hamilton or Jermaine Braddock need a big game under their belts at this point in the season. If Nash can help blow the top off Saturday, it’s another elixir the Spartans can use. The hope is it can be a facet to extend the field more regularly.
Thinking ahead to the remainder of the regular season, the next mountain to climb only gets bigger with Utah State, Nevada and Fresno on the horizon.