Location: CEFCU Stadium – San Jose, CA
Date/Time: Saturday, September 24th @ 7:30 PM PDT
Broadcast: CBS Sports Network, KTRB 860 AM
Head-to-head history: San Jose State (1-1, 0-0 MW) is 0-1 vs. Western Michigan (1-2, 0-0 MAC). In the Spartans’ fourth game last season, a 23-3 loss in Kalamazoo, MI set the tone for a shaky 2021 season.
After the bye week, the Spartans play their third of four regular season non-conference foe in Western Michigan; a team that belies its pedestrian stats and 1-2 record.
“Bye weeks can be tricky. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s not,” said SJS head coach Brent Brennan.
The Spartans are 3-3 after bye weeks during Brennan’s tenure.
“The danger of a bye week is putting in too much work. It’s a real fine line to get the work in, but you’ve got to give the players some time off to recharge. They’ve been going non-stop since late July, so they took a couple days off.”
The Spartans face a young, explosive and very capable team. Odds makers favor SJS by seven, but many see the Broncos able to cover and then some.
What to expect from the Broncos of Michigan
“Coach Lester is a really good dude and a really good coach,” said Brennan on WMU head coach Tim Lester. “His teams are incredibly efficient and it’s really important we play a clean game.”
The Spartans experienced their worst statistical outing at WMU last year (and one of the worst 8700 mile travel stretches a team can go through). When then SJS QB Nick Starkel went down with an injury early in that game, the Spartans also became rudderless for a good portion of the season.
Those 2021 Broncos finished 8-5 with premiere wins over Pitt and Nevada in the Quick Lane Bowl.
These 2022 Broncos are younger, but bolstered by the transfer portal, which is an all too familiar story.
WMU redshirt freshman QB Jack Salopek (522 yards passing, 1 TD, 4 INTs through three games) is still field-qualified and capable. With at least three strong receivers, Salopek is confident and it’s shown even in losses against Pitt and Michigan State, where WMU showed well going into the second halves despite 34-13 and 35-13 losses, respectively.
WMU receivers Corey Crooms (six TDs, 768 yards, 44 receptions in 2021), A.J Abbott and Jehlani Galloway from Boston College give the edge game life. Running backs Sean Tyler (1,150 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2021) and La’Darius Jefferson are a one-two gut punch.
Defensively, WMU numbers look questionable, but consider two power 5 losses in three weeks skews things. With observation, they are still potent.
Through three games, WMU allowing 431.3 yards of total offense, 33 point average per game, and 6.7 yards per play might say one thing, but the eyes say something else.
Beware these Broncos.
“Every week if you don’t prepare and you don’t show up and bring your best stuff to the practice environment, meeting environment, weight room and every step of the way to game day, you’re going to have a tough time and you’re not going to have a chance,” said Brennan on the level of competition throughout the country.
How the Spartans exact revenge
Regardless, revenge is revenge. Payback is payback. Yet still, every year can be so different for any team, especially, in the Mountain West.
Spartan QB Chevan Cordiero impressed at Auburn (an Auburn follower tweeted if the Tigers had Cordeiro and his receivers, Auburn would do great).
“I felt we found some offensive rhythm in Auburn and hopefully, we’ll continue to do that,“ said Brennan. “We’re still growing and offensive football takes time since we have a lot of new players here too.”
If Cordiero continues to do his thing and continues to expand his command of the offense and keeping the Spartan offense on the field that is the least expectation.
The offense needs to find the end zone more and with more than just Cordiero’s legs. That also means more north than SJS’ current 18.5 points per game average.
And that means offensive line support and might we say, hopefully, run support. All pretty simple stuff that compounds to more dimensions of football - with execution.
“It really does come down to execution, making plays in the scheme on both sides of the ball,” said Brennan. “I’ve been part of offenses that carry 350 plays into a game and part of offenses that carry 15 plays. I’ve had my butt whipped and won games with both schools of thought.”
So far, the turnover margin dilemma from last year looks to be turning around this year. Currently ranked third in the country (+2.5), it is a major step forward that speaks volumes.
It shows and means of a focused, opportunistic defense and a disciplined offense. Yes, yet another dimension of football that compounds to the whole.
The Broncos gave up nine sacks and are -3 in turnover margin. The Spartan defense has the edge here. SJS’ been pounded by bigger competition and peppered by a creative, daring offense and overall, held up. WMU is somewhere in the middle and well within the Spartans’ defensive bandwidth. So, expect the Spartan defense to at least hold up to give way to Cordiero and company.
The numbers say it’ll be close, but it will be the feel and execution on the field and what we observe as the final truth in the end.