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SJSU preview: Can the Spartans pound the Aggies next?

San Jose State v New Mexico Photo by Sam Wasson

Date/Time: Saturday, October 21, 2023 - 4 PM PDT

Location: CEFCU Stadium, San Jose, CA

Broadcast: CBS Sports Network

Radio: 860 KTRB AM

Head-to-Head: With a 20-1-20 historical record, San José State (2-5, 1-2 MW) and Utah State (3-4, 1-2 MW) have their tie-breaker Saturday. The Spartans haven’t beaten the Aggies since 2008, when Brent Brennan was an SJSU receivers coach and his mentor, the late Dick Tomey, was head coach.

You’re only as good as your last game, as the saying goes. In the game of football, it may be more granular than that.

Last week, the Spartans didn’t necessarily execute a perfect four-quarter game rather than stay close and feel out New Mexico in the first-half before blasting out to a 52-24 win.

One comes to realize a perfect game is near-impossible for any team in any sport. Each time is an adventure and its own entity, so-to-speak.

But it was a complete enough game in that SJS ramped up momentum, found a two-headed monster run game and was cohesive enough to win going away, as we noted in our game preview.

For Utah State, their trials and tribulations have been similar to SJS all season. A tough schedule, flashes of good to great football and a win-loss record not indicative of what each head coach felt they have under-the-hood.

Against high-powered Fresno State last week, it was Utah State’s game to win until Aggie quarterback Cooper Legas’ untimely interception. It was an offense that output 568 total yards (363 passing, 205 rushing) against the Bulldogs. Consider that Legas was a second-stringer with first-string QB McCae Hillstead supposedly available from injury this Saturday.

Aggie head coach Blake Anderson also considered their Fresno State game the most complete game of USU’s season so far.

What gives Saturday?

The Spartans should expect a dynamic game and quite possibly a closely fought contest with various odds favoring SJS by about a touchdown.

With the 16th ranked scoring offense in the country, Utah State is as a complete a team as any that SJS will face:

  • 37.3 points per game average for the Aggies to the Spartans 31.4 points per game average
  • Legas leads Spartan QB Chevan Cordeiro in several passing categories
  • The Aggies boast three players in each of several offensive categories in the MW top 10 lists

In terms of rushing, the Aggies have to run and test the Spartan defense. Fourth in the MW, USU puts up an average of 190.57 yards rushing. Compared to the worst rush defense in the MW, the Spartans allow 210 yards average per game.

Everyone knows the game sways and plays out on this aspect.

What the Spartans will do

On the flip side, SJSU wants to see Cordeiro smile. In last week’s post-game presser, Cordeiro was clearly happy and quite possibly relieved the other half of his offense shined at New Mexico.

259 net rush yards on the ground primarily between Kairee Robinson and Quali Conley contributed to 10.84 average yards per play on the Lobos last week enroute to 531 total yards on offense.

Against the Aggies middle-of-the-pack rush defense, the Spartan crowd will certainly want to see some of that same ground-and-pound. This can play out in a few ways. If the likes of Conley, Robinson and even freshman Jabari Bates can get anywhere close to the second level, it’ll be a very good day. If the ground game starts slow in the first-half, it will be up to OC Kevin McGiven to adjust and scheme their way to a run game. If that’s not happening, the OLine has to find another couple gears to open holes. If that doesn’t happen, we’ll see Cordeiro try to take it all on his shoulders to create.

Though SJS’ fortunes still run through Cordeiro, the yin-and-yang of running and passing has to be there so to not be too one-dimensional, where the opposition can lock in.

And the run game certainly helps any teams’ identity. So is the pressure then on the backs? Probably not; they’ve shown the rabid ability to run if given a couple slivers of daylight. The pressure sits first with the Spartan offensive line - they’re built for it and that’s their job, essentially.

As both teams are showing consistent improvement and realize this is now moreso a battle of bowl eligibility, the stakes are high all-around.

In this one, if the Spartans are consistent, patient and more mature (minimizing penalties, as there were 11 last week), they will win at home.

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