San Jose State vs. Utah State: Spartans Game Preview, How To Watch, Odds, Prediction

San Jose State vs. Utah State: Spartans Game Preview, How To Watch, Odds, Prediction

Mountain West Football

San Jose State vs. Utah State: Spartans Game Preview, How To Watch, Odds, Prediction

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San Jose State vs. Utah State: Spartans Game Preview, How To Watch, Odds, Prediction

 

 

Spartans travel to frigid Logan, look to bounce back after blowout loss

 

 

Contact/Follow on Twitter  @coachmosser & @MWCwire

 

 

 

Game 10: San Jose State Spartans (6-3, 4-2) @ Utah State Aggies (5-5, 4-2)

When: Saturday, November 19th – 7:45 MT, 6:45 PT 

Where: Maverik Stadium; Logan, UT

How To Watch: FS1

Odds: San Jose State -1  Over/Under 51

 

Pack your cold gear apparel.  Or go buy some if you need to – and plenty of it.  San Jose State is headed to Logan, Utah to face the Aggies of Utah State on Saturday night, and with a high of 34 degrees forecasted for the day, and a kickoff of 7:45 local time, expect game-time temperatures in the 20’s, and probably down into the teens by the second half.  But hey, at least it won’t be windy!  

Conditions aside, the Spartans have other worries, as their early season promise has gone sideways over the last few weeks.  The 43-27 defeat at San Diego State a week ago effectively ended their hopes of a Mountain West Conference championship.  Mathematically they are still alive, but it would require a perfect combination of results, starting with Fresno State losing to Nevada this weekend – unlikely to say the least.  Instead, the focus should be on steering the ship straight and getting back to what was working so well to start in the season.

After a blistering 14-0 start against the Aztecs, things turned on a dime when Jordan Byrd returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.  Whether it was the shock of a big play against them, better adjustments by the SDSU staff, or the fact that it just took the Aztecs a little longer to get their footing, the Spartans of the first 10 minutes disappeared.  The group that replaced them, looked nothing like the Spartans that we’ve seen through 8 games.  Obviously credit needs to go to San Diego State.  They didn’t panic, had a game plan that they stuck with, and played as well as they have played all season, starting with QB Jalen Mayden.  

For the first time all year, the secondary was really exposed against Mayden and the Aztecs.  The converted safety threw for 268 yards on only 17 completions.  It was also the ease with which he found his receivers running free.  Mayden did have a big game a few weeks back against Fresno State, but was making only his fifth start, and it was difficult to see this kind of output coming against a highly ranked SJSU defense.  Perhaps, however, the numbers were a bit inflated when looking at the dearth of quality quarterbacks they have seen.  The Spartans benefitted from facing a handful of backups and inexperienced QB’s in the front half of their schedule and were never seriously challenged by a pocket passer.  Mayden has some growth to do at the position, but in the meantime, he uncovered some warts in the back end for San Jose State.

Let’s take a look at how Cooper Legas measures up, yet another backup quarterback.  Legas will be making his sixth start, taking over for Logan Bonner, after the super senior suffered a season, and college-career ending, injury.  Legas has been fairly consistent, and is coming off of his best statistical game – 16 of 24 for 238 yards and 3 TD’s, in a 41-34 shootout win on the islands of Hawaii last week.  He also has made an impact with his legs and is playing with a ton of confidence right now.  His leading target is Brian Cobbs, who has caught 53 balls, and is averaging 65 receiving yards per game.  On the ground, the Aggies lean on Calvin Tyler Jr., who is getting almost 20 carries and 85 yards each time out.  One thing to expect from USU is tempo, as head coach Blake Anderson is running plays at a very high rate nationally.  Anderson is in his second year in charge after coming west from Arkansas State.  His first campaign went rather smoothly – ending with a Mountain West Conference Championship.  As an encore, he has turned things around following a 1-4 start.  

Part of that is due to an improved Utah State defense over the last month, though as is a common theme in the Mountain West this year, some of that may be attributed to playing anemic offenses.  Games against Alabama, UNLV (with Doug Brumfield), BYU, and Air Force are far different than games against Colorado State, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Hawaii.  Like night and day different.  Still, it would have been easy for the defense to mail it in after a tough start, and they did not do that.  The run defense has been gashed at times, but that might not be a problem on Saturday, as San Jose State has been quite inconsistent running the ball this season.  Safety Ike Larsen was just named MWC Defensive Player of the Week for USU, racking up an impressive stat line; six tackles, one sack, two tackles-for-loss, and two interceptions, including one that he returned for a touchdown.  

For the Spartans, they may want to try getting running back Kairee Robinson more involved.  As mentioned earlier, the Aggies defense struggles a bit against the run.  Lately, the carries for Robinson have been few and far between, and as a result there is no run-pass balance.  The SJSU offense has become much more predictable.  Robinson is more than capable if given a fair amount of carries, and considering the weather conditions, this is as good a time as any to give the shifty back an extra workload.  

San Jose State still possesses the conference’s leading passer, in Chevan Cordeiro, although he is fresh off of his first sub-200 yard game of the season.  With defenses not needing to respect the run game, Anderson and his staff will be able to drop linebackers into coverage to take away some of the advantages the Spartans receiving core might otherwise enjoy.  Elijah Cooks hauled in a highlight reel grab on the very first possession, but was hardly heard from beyond that.  Cordeiro should have a decent amount of time to throw, as Utah State normally does not generate a lot of pressure, and they’ve only recorded 17 sacks on the season, barely half of the Spartans total of 31.  What we may see is a lot of dump-offs to running backs, or Cordeiro deciding to take off scrambling if he can’t find an open man downfield.  

Moving over to the other side of the ball, we touched on the secondary a little bit earlier, and the fact that they will be challenged again.  They would benefit from the front seven creating some havoc in the trenches, but they’re facing one of the best offensive lines in the Mountain West in Utah State.  The Aggies do not allow many sacks, but the stalwarts for the Spartans – Kyle Harmon, Junior Fehoko, Bryun Parham and company, need to show up and make things difficult for Legas and the Aggies.   

It will be interesting to see how SJSU responds to their worst effort of the season.  They played with fire and got away unscathed against both Nevada and Colorado State, based on a pure talent edge.  They were not so lucky leaving Snapdragon Stadium on Saturday night.  Now, they head back out on the road with their championship hopes dashed and may find themselves searching a bit for motivation.  That will most certainly not be the case for their opponent.  Aside from it being Senior Day, when 10 Aggies, including the aforementioned Bonner, Cobbs, and Tyler will be honored, Utah State enters with a 5-5 record.  With Week 12 scheduled for a trip to the vaunted blue turf against Boise State, this contest represents USU’s best chance to reach the magic number of 6 wins to go bowling.  Anderson has been quoted several times, stressing the importance of his program making a bowl game this year, especially in light of the 1-4 start.  That variable should not be undersold.  

If this game were played in San Jose, or even in Logan in September, it would have a far different feel.  But, you play the games when and where they are scheduled, and that’s what SJSU must do; it’s part of home-field advantage.  Unfortunately, short of taking some of the position groups inside a meat locker to run through drills, you simply cannot simulate the elements the Spartans will face on Saturday night.  These are two teams already headed in different directions.  Add in the situational dynamics at play, and this one seems tilted toward the home team.  We’d love to be wrong, but it says here the Aggies reach their goal of attaining bowl eligibility and in the process, extend the Spartans slide.  

 

Prediction: Utah State 27  San Jose State 17   

 

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