Fresno State vs. San Jose State: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Bulldogs and Spartans close the regular season with a battle for the Valley Trophy. Here’s how to watch and what to watch for.
The latest chapter in a storied rivalry.
WEEK 13: Fresno State Bulldogs (8-3, 5-2 Mountain West) vs. San Jose State Spartans (5-6, 3-4 Mountain West)
WHEN: Thursday, November 25 — 12:30 PM PT/1:30 PM MT
WHERE: CEFCU Stadium; San Jose, CA
WEATHER: Sunny, high of 70 degrees
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes FS1, by following this link.
You can stream the Fresno State radio broadcast on Fresno State All-Access. You can also stream the San Jose State broadcast on The Varsity Network app, which is available for Android and Apple devices.
RADIO: The Fresno State broadcast can be found in and around Fresno on Fox Sports 1340 AM, as well as on the affiliates of the Bulldog Radio Network around the San Joaquin Valley. The San Jose State broadcast can be found in San Francisco on 860 AM (KTRB) and in San Jose on 90.5 FM (KSJS).
SERIES RECORD: Fresno State leads the all-time series 42-38-3. In the last meeting on November 30, 2019, the Spartans defeated the Bulldogs, 17-16, in San Jose.
LAST WEEK: Both Fresno State and San Jose State were on a bye.
ODDS (as of 11/22, via Vegas Insider): Fresno State -7.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Fresno State by 6.3
FEI PROJECTION: Fresno State by 11.0
PARKER FLEMING PROJECTION: Fresno State 69.97% win probability
After an unexpected year off, the historic rivalry between the Fresno State Bulldogs and San Jose State Spartans is back on Thanksgiving Day.
We've been waitin' for this one.
— Fresno State Football (@FresnoStateFB) November 22, 2021
— San José State Football 🏆 (@SanJoseStateFB) November 22, 2021
Not only is the Valley Trophy once again on the line, both teams have plenty more at stake with a win in this game. The Bulldogs still harbor hopes of reaching the Mountain West championship game, so while they still need some help (from hated rival Boise State, no less) later in the weekend, it will be moot if they cannot set a tone and take care of business on Thursday afternoon.
The Spartans, meanwhile, want to become the eighth team in the Mountain West to secure bowl eligibility. Doing so could help the program reach back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1986-87, so while the defending conference champions haven’t had the title defense they hoped for, any chance to make history is worth seizing.
Since they became conference mates in 2013, the battle for the silver V has rarely gone as expected. From David Fales to Juju Hughes to Tre Walker, new heroes always seem to emerge, so here’s how each team can claim the Valley Trophy.
Three Keys to a Fresno State Victory
1. Keep Derrick Deese Jr. in check.
While the Spartans offense hasn’t been as prolific as in years past, the plays they’ve been able to make haven’t been any less explosive. Deese Jr., Isaiah Hamilton, and Jermaine Braddock each average at least 14.5 yards per catch, one of two pass catching trios in the conference who can boast of that feat (Fresno State, coincidentally, has the other), but Deese Jr. is the big time threat, literally and figuratively, who can do damage anywhere on the field.
He leads San Jose State with 44 catches, 687 yards and four receiving touchdowns, so you can bet they won’t be shy about making him a primary focus of the passing game one more time. How the Bulldogs choose to cover him will be critical, more so with Tyson Maeva set to miss the game with injury. It could be that Justin Houston and Emari Pait prove exactly why the Husky position is so valuable on Thursday.
2. Snuff out a pedestrian running game.
Tyler Nevens has been okay in 2021 but he hasn’t had produced at a rate anywhere close to last year’s late-season explosion, and the offensive line’s performance in critical situations has been remarkably poor. The Spartans rank 126th in Power Success Rate and 127th in Stuff Rate, which means they’re one of the worst offenses in the country in terms of getting pushed backwards and moving the chains or scoring in short-yardage situations.
Meanwhile, Fresno State’s pass rush has cooled after a hot start but its ability to defend the run hasn’t wavered. While some adjustment for sack yards has to be made, the Bulldogs have allowed more than four yards per carry just twice in their last eight games. For the season, they rank 61st in Power Success Rate on defense and 13th with a 21.7% Stuff Rate, which means the defensive front should feel confident about going in with the upper hand. If they can force the Spartans to be one-dimensional, they’re more likely to force San Jose State into an opportune error.
3. Get Josh Kelly the ball.
Jalen Cropper gets a lot of headlines as the leader among the Bulldogs’ legion of wide receivers, but Kelly is the one that has come on strong as of late. He’s one of just eight Mountain West pass catchers with at least four catches of 20-plus yards in November, but he’s the only one to have played two games in that group.
Having a strong second option for Jake Haener to rely upon could be especially useful against a defense that has 33 passes defended since the beginning of October. He won’t even have to crack 100 yards to have an outsized impact, too, so long as he approaches the 15.46 yards per catch that he’s averaged this year.