New Mexico vs. San Jose State: Three Keys to a Spartans Win
SJSU gets an unexpected home game to face the Lobos. Here’s how the Spartans can earn their second straight win.
How can the Spartans extend their strong start?
WEEK 9: New Mexico Lobos (0-0) vs. San Jose State Spartans (1-0)
WHEN: Saturday, October 31 — 4:00 PM PT/5:00 PM MT
WHERE: CEFCU Stadium; San Jose, California (game relocated from Albuquerque, NM)
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes FS1, by following this link. You can also click here to find more information on accessing the channel via different platforms.
You can also find the audio broadcast on TuneIn.
RADIO: The San Jose State broadcast can be found on 90.5 FM (KSJS) in and around San Jose and on the flagship KDOW (1220 AM and 96.3 FM) out of Palo Alto. The New Mexico broadcast can be found in and around Albuquerque on 770 AM (KKOB).
SERIES RECORD: San Jose State leads the series 13-5-1. In the last meeting on October 4, 2019, the Spartans defeated the Lobos, 32-21, in San Jose.
LAST WEEK: San Jose State defeated Air Force at home, 17-6. New Mexico’s game against Colorado State was canceled.
ODDS (as of 10/28, via Vegas Insider): San Jose State -13.5
SP+ PROJECTION: San Jose State by 17.1 (84% win probability)
FEI PROJECTION: San Jose State by 11.1
After pulling off the opening weekend’s most surprising result, the San Jose State Spartans return to their home field, unexpectedly, chasing their first 2-0 start since 1987.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this, of course, but with the state of New Mexico struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks, a decision was made to relocate the game in order to help the Lobos get their season underway. That’s been a strange odyssey in its own right and while you can feel for new head coach Danny Gonzales and company, there’s a lot on the line for San Jose State and they won’t be tempted to pull punches.
Here’s how the Spartans can defeat New Mexico.
Three Keys to a San Jose State Victory
1. Test the new-look Lobos secondary.
New Mexico was actually fairly stout defending the run in 2019, but the good work done up front was unmade by some fairly disastrous performances against opposing quarterbacks. It was especially problematic early in games, when the Lobos allowed 9.99 yards per attempt and a 170.35 pass rating in first halves, effectively turning the average QB into Dillion Gabriel.
Enter Rocky Long, who last year built his best defense ever at San Diego State but enters year one here starting over in a lot of respects. Dylan Horton, Brandon Burton and Eric Cuffee have all exited the program via the transfer portal and, at least according to the depth chart put out before the New Mexico/Colorado State game was canceled, some intrigue remains: Donte Martin, last year’s top cornerback, wasn’t listed on the two-deep and a true freshman, Tavian Combs, was slotted for the crucial LOBO position that makes the patented 3-3-5 formation go.
Nick Starkel didn’t replace all of Josh Love’s production in the opener against Air Force, but he looked plenty sharp and able to spread the ball around to keep the Falcons off-balance. The Spartans would be well-served to test New Mexico’s mettle early and often where the cadets could not.
2. Keep Bryson Carroll in check.
We don’t know exactly what the New Mexico offense will look like under new offensive coordinator Derek Warehime, but the initial depth chart suggests they’ll rely on 11 personnel as their base formation. Within that, Bryson Carroll is listed as the starting running back and, while the Lobos may not be as run-heavy as Air Force was, he’s a big threat to change the tenor of a game.
Though he had just 105 carries in 2019, Carroll ran for at least ten yards on 15 attempts, a 14.2% rate that’s not too dissimilar from bigger names like UNLV’s Charles Williams and Wyoming’s Xazavian Valladay. New Mexico will probably lean on a committee of backs since Bobby Cole and Daevon Vigiliant both flashed at times, too, but keeping Carroll from breaking out a handful of big runs will go a long way.
3. Keep the pressure on Tevaka Tuioti.
The junior quarterback from Long Beach was never really able to escape the quarterback carousel that Bob Davie set up from the start of last fall and, as a result, may have been a mild disappointment even as he finished 2019 as the Lobos’ leading passer.
It’s telling, though, that Gonzales pre-emptively named Tuioti the starter and with a clean slate there are good reasons for it. He’s only completed 51.4% of his 356 career passes, but he’s averaged a reasonable 7.3 yards per attempt. His mobility enables him to extend plays when needed and he can throw on the run when called upon. He could be the guy to get the most out of a wide receiver unit that’s still long on speed despite losing Elijah Lilly to the transfer portal.
Slowing Tuioti down could still be easier said than done, though, with a veteran-laden offensive line in front of him. Athletes like Teton Saltes and Kyle Stapley may not be households names across the Mountain West, but they’re back to anchor a unit that finished in the top 40 nationally last fall with a 4.7% sack rate allowed. How much SJSU forces him to be erratic isn’t the kind of thing that’ll always show up on the stat sheet, but it’ll be a key factor overall.
The Lobos were supposed to get this game at University Stadium, so you can’t help but wonder how much of a mental blow it must be to instead open the season on the road instead. Beyond that, San Jose State pretty clearly possesses the best unit on the field, its offense, and while New Mexico is likely to improve throughout the fall, the Spartans have the horses to keep them at bay even if the Lobos can land a haymaker or two.
San Jose State 30, New Mexico 13