Mountain West Football: Midseason Team Grades

Mountain West Football: Midseason Team Grades

Air Force

Mountain West Football: Midseason Team Grades

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San Jose State Spartans

Oct 15, 2022; Fresno, California, USA; San Jose State Spartans quarterback Chevan Cordeiro (2) throws a pass against the Fresno State Bulldogs in the fourth quarter at Valley Children’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Offense: B | Defense: A | Special Teams: D | Meeting/Exceeding Expectations: B+

After a down year in 2021 filled with injuries and offensive ineffectiveness, the Spartans have rebounded and looked like they’ll be a major player in the conference title chase throughout the second half.

Their off-season transfer portal activity has been a big factor in this resurgence, especially on offense, where quarterback Chevan Cordeiro has played some of the best ball of his career, wide receiver Elijah Cooks has thrived with a clean bill of health and his Nevada peer Justin Lockhart continues to stretch the field, and James McNorton has started five games at right tackle. The Spartans lead the Mountain West with 36 plays of 20 or more yards and have also turned the ball over just twice in six games, the second fewest giveaways of any team in the country, so they haven’t often beaten themselves.

That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement, however. San Jose State is much closer to the middle of the pack in terms of points per drive than you might expect, ranking 61st overall at 2.33 PPD, because they have have only scored 13 touchdowns in a conference-high 30 trips to the red zone, a 43.3% rate that is eighth in the Mountain West. It’s been a particularly acute issue in their two losses so far (one TD in eight red zone opportunities vs. Auburn and Fresno State), so that’s something which bears watching.

Derrick Odum’s defense, meanwhile, has arguably been stingier than the one which carried the Spartans to a conference championship in 2020. After six games, San Jose State is ranked in the top ten nationally by points per drive allowed (1.22, seventh), available yards percentage allowed (32.5, 7th), and drive yards per opponents offensive play (4.72, ninth), and they also lead the Mountain West at the moment with 1.5 takeaways per game while posting a healthy 23.7% stuff rate (18th in FBS) and 6.8% sack rate (42nd).

As you might have expected, it’s the veteran stars like Cade Hall (2.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss) and Viliami Fehoko (three sacks, 7.5 TFLs) who have led the way but the group effort has really made the difference: Seven different Spartans defenders, for example, have an interception, which is the most in the conference, and they have allowed the lowest red zone scoring rate, 68.8%, of any team in the Mountain West.

The team’s specialists, by contrast, have tended to be shaky. Taren Schive is just 9-of-14 on field goals with four misfires from within 40 yards, while Travis Benham’s per punt average, 40.1, is four fewer yards than what Will Hart managed in 2021. He has, however, landed 11 punts inside the 20 and has just four touchbacks on 29 total kicks.

Head of the Class: Elijah Cooks, WR

The way that Cooks has played to this point of the season, Nevada fans surely wish he was still lighting up secondaries in Reno. He has 30 receptions for 548 yards, the latter figure being the most in the Mountain West as of this writing, with three touchdowns. It’s been the caliber of performance that recalls vintage Tre Walker.

One Player Deserving of More Attention: Tre Jenkins, S

Long one of the more underappreciated players in the conference, all Jenkins has done is put together another half-season that, well, probably burnishes that reputation with the strong performances from his more famous peers on the defensive line. His five tackles for loss are tied for the most by a Mountain West defensive back with Nevada’s Tyson Williams, but Jenkins also has 32 total tackles, three pass breakups, and an interceptions.

Midseason Grades By Team

Air Force | Boise State | Colorado State | Fresno State | Hawaii | Nevada | New Mexico | San Diego State | San Jose State | UNLV | Utah State | Wyoming

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