Its 1:47 am
Quiet night,a little chilly but nothing heavy. Indianapolis is about to get rocked with some big T-storms which I am following on Twitter as I start to write this entry. We had a slight snow/rain mix this morning but nothing really worth mentioning.
So I am going to be doing my second preview of San Jose State's upcoming football schedule for next year.
My forecast for a 7-5 (I was hoping for a 8-4 year) was slightly off as the Spartans struggled with a poorly executed defensive plan (which I did forecast correctly) and finished a bad 6-6 and no bowl. That was an injustice in itself as the Spartans finished their first season in the Mountain West at 5-3 and defeated the two teams that did go bowling,Colorado State and Nevada Las Vegas,on the road. But bad losses to a very poor Nevada Reno team and a Navy team the Spartans had handled two years in a row before doomed them as far a bowl game.
A lot has changed in the off-season. Coach Ron Caragher and his staff have been working hard to get ready for this year. The most positive change relatively speaking is Caragher hired a new defensive head coach. The trouble is I got to watch him up close and personal as former Syracuse HC Greg Robinson was Michigan's defensive HC for two years and his defenses struggled. It sort of scares me as Robinson coached a school that regularly finishes in the Top 15 in terms of players recruited. He had a lot of great players at the U of Michigan but they struggled mightily during his two years here.
Robinson resurfaced on the college football radar last year when he stepped in at Texas to help Mack Brown after the Longhorns were trampled by BYU's ground game. Brown was forced out at UT and Robinson wasn't retained by the new coaching staff.
So now he comes to SJSU....and he has a still potent defense in place,it just needs to be given the right scheme to play in. And it better happen quickly,while Coach Caragher recruited the 4th best class in the Mountain West,the Spartans are again going to be playing a very rugged schedule in 2014.
With record setting QB David Fales and the gifted Chandler Jones heading to the NFL and losing 4 of 5 starting offensive linemen,the Spartans are going to tested right out of the gate. While the passing game has led the way the last two years,its going to be the running game that needs to take charge...and the Spartans are blessed with a lot of good tailbacks in Jarrod Lawson,Tim Crawley and returning star Tyler Ervin who missed last year with injuries. Jr Joe Gray looks to be winning the QB job in the spring and could very be the starter come fall.
The defense still has NFL prospect Travis Raciti plugging the d-line but I am hoping Robinson switches Raciti to the outside of the line. Travis has a motor that never quits but being double teamed while in the 3-4 limited his true value and allowed teams to attack the center of the line. Playing a 4-3 will limit that option for other teams and Travis can handle anyone in a one on one match-up and make plays.
Vince Buhagiar returns to lead the linebacker corp while Dasheon Frierson will head up the secondary.
The 2014 schedule:
North Dakota - 30 August
SJSU opens up at home against FCS foe North Dakota. Lucky for the Spartans,its not North Dakota State,as the Bison has beaten many a FBS school including Kansas State last year. No,the Spartans get the Fighting Sioux in what should be a good game to break in new players and schemes. Last year SJS stopped a hard fighting Sacramento State squad 24-0. While I don't think SJS will blow out the Sioux on offense,I do see them winning this game.
at Auburn - 6 Sept.
Wow...talk about a baptism in fire,the first road game is against Auburn who went to the National Championship game last year and upset Alabama as well. This will be a supreme test for the Spartans as they have yet to beat a SEC team,the last time they ventured down south,they got steam rolled by a very good Alabama team,48-3. I don't expect the Spartans to win but I (and the rest of Spartan Nation) just want to compete with the Tigers. Being blown out here cannot happen...losing a 10-14 point game will give the team some momentum..I know what some of you are saying,isn't a loss a bad thing? Yes and no...Auburn is going to be jacked after the monster year they had last year while SJSU is going to be starting a new QB behind a reloaded offensive line,to get a W would be a huge upset and it could happen as Auburn might overlook SJSU after opening the season playing SEC rival Arkansas.
After a open date,SJSU once again heads on the road to play Big 10 Minnesota.
at Minnesota - 20 Sept
Minnesota leads the series 2-1
Last meeting, Minnesota 43,San Jose State 24
I got to watch this game and was pretty frustrated watching it. This game showed why the Spartans couldn't and shouldn't have played the 3-4. Raciti was contained most of the game as the Spartans failed to get any kind of a pass rush against the Gophers. Coach Caragher had watched senior tailback Jason Simpson have a good game against Sac State and insisted on running him to no avail against Stanford and the Gophers. SJS ended up with 47 yards on the ground and forced Caragher to take another look at his running game. David Fales had a monster game in a losing effort. This year will also see the Gophers rebuilding as they are losing a QB and have to reload on the defensive front as well.
This game will be a toss up as Minnesota will have already faced two good teams in Middle Tenn and TCU before facing Lawson,Winston and the Spartans.
Nevada 27 Sept
Nevada leads the series 4-13-0
Last meeting,Nevada 38, San Jose State 16
This was the game in my opinion that kept San Jose State home from a bowl game. The Wolf Pack game was by far the worst game the Spartans played last year. Coming off a bitter loss to Adam Muema and the San Diego Aztecs,the Spartans were crushed by the woefully bad Wolf Pack,a team that had been blown out 62-7 to Florida State earlier in the season. If the Spartans are to make a statement in the Mountain West,this is the game to do it. Pound the bad teams and dogfight the good teams. The Spartans don't want a repeat of last year in winning their opener then dropping three in a row. 1-3 and trying to win a bowl bid is a hard road to hoe. I do see a Spartan win here however.
UNLV 4 Oct
SJSU leads the series 12-5-1
Last meeting,SJS 34,UNLV 24
Second straight week hosting a Nevada school,this time its the Rebels of UNLV. The Spartans had one of their better defensive games as they dominated the first half,shutting out the Rebels at halftime. The second was much tighter as a improved and well coached UNLV made it a game as SJSU hung on to win by 10.
Getting the first two league games at home is a golden chance to go 2-0 and put pressure on the rest of the division...win here and this could the start of something special.
After the second and final open date of the season,SJSU heads out on the road in league play.
at Wyoming 18 Oct
Wyoming leads the series,2-6
Last meeting, SJSU 51,Wyoming 44
Perhaps the most exciting Spartan win of last as David Fales scored with mere seconds remaining as SJSU won a shootout with the Cowboys. Both teams clicked on offense while both defenses struggled all game long.Wyoming started strong but the lack of speed on defense doomed them and led to the firing of the head coach. Wyoming hired the coach at North Dakota State to help rebuild the team. They will be like the Spartans were last year,in transition with a new coach. A victory here would be huge in the bowl picture. The Spartans run game will be critical in helping keep a potent Cowpoke attack off the field.
at Navy 25 Oct
San Jose State leads the series,2-1
Last meeting,Navy 58,SJSU 52 (2 OTs)
Last non conference game of the year and this series as SJSU travels to Maryland to battle Navy and its lethal option offense which carved up SJS despite the Spartans knowing what was coming. Navy's QB set a college record for most TDs scored by rushing in a single game last year. The 3-4 defense got totally gutted as the defense looked helpless and powerless to stop Navy. The Spartans,who had shut Navy out last time here,had no answers in stopping the option despite have much of the same players on defense from the year before. The Spartans will once again have to control the ball via the running game in order to sink Navy's chances for a win....if not,a loss is very possible here.
SJSU leads the series 4-3
Last meeting- SJSU 34,Colorado St. 27
This year Colorado State will be one of the favored teams in the Mountain West. This is a team on the rise again after stopping Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl. The Rams are explosive on offense but were uneven....scoring 66 points against New Mexico and an astounding 58 against Air Force. But between those games,the Rams were shut out by Utah State showing they still have a ways to go to becoming one of the better teams in the Mountain West. This is will be a swing game as in its anyone's game to win...or lose.
at Fresno State
Fresno State leads the series 35-39-3
Last meeting,SJSU 62, Fresno State 52
Normally the Spartans and Bulldogs meet in the last game of the season but not this year. But this is STILL San Jose State biggest game every year. Like many of the SJSU-FSU clashes in the past,last years game was a instant classic. Fresno came to Spartan Stadium ranked,undefeated and look to go to a BCS game. Derek Carr was having a fantastic season yet David Fales outplayed him in leading SJSU to a major upset and derailing Fresno's dreams for BCS glory. This was the first time SJSU had two in a row against the Bulldogs since the 86-87 games.
Like SJS,Fresno will be rebuilding this year as Carr and Fales are heading to the NFL. They also will be playing a extremely rugged schedule...USC,Utah and Nebraska. So this game might be decided by which team is the less banged up squad.Fresno's schedule towards the end is much more friendly while SJSU has to travel back home to battle the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.
Hawaii leads the series 10-13-1
Last meeting,SJSU 37,Hawaii 27
Despite the shootout type score from last year,Hawaii was just awful. Beating Army in overtime is the only the thing that prevented a winless season for Hawaii. Famed offensive guru Norm Chow has been a complete bust as a head coach but the Warriors have shown some fight the past two years. The Rainbow Warriors are not really expected to improve much and they have always struggled on the road a bit. Chow will have his hands full in trying to win some of the close games Hawaii dropped last year. If the Spartans can jump on them early and keep the crowd into it,the Spartans should win this game in the 4th quarter. They will need to win as they end the season on the road at two of the better teams in the Mountain West.
at Utah State
SJSU leads the series,17-15-1
Last meeting,Utah State 40,SJSU 12.
The Aggies of Utah State are starting to get it together. Despite head coach Gary Andersen moving to Wisconsin,the Aggies hardly skipped a beat by having a great season that saw them narrowing losing the Mountain West title game to Fresno State but bounce back strong to defeat Jordan Lynch and N. Illinois in the Pointsetta Bowl.
The past two seasons,Utah State has spanked the Spartans,beating them two years ago by 22 and last year by 28 points. The Spartans have a lot to prove if they want to be considered a elite team in the Mountain West. Playing smart sound defense and limiting mistakes on offensive will enhance their chances of upsetting Utah State. Anything less and this could get ugly once again.
at San Diego State
SDSU leads the series,5-12-1
Last meeting,San Diego State 34,SJSU 30.
Last year the Spartans led the Aztecs by 10 points heading into the last quarter. But thanks to the amazing Adam Muema,who scored twice in the last stanza,the Spartans went down in defeat at home. The was the first of three straight losses that killed any chance of a bowl game and a winning season. The Spartans couldn't contain Muema all night long and they wore down in the last quarter while San Diego State just got stronger. They defeated Boise State for the second year in row and went on to crush Buffalo in the Potato Bowl.
Muema won't be back this year and the Aztecs will be hard pressed to replace that kind of talent. The Spartans however will have a full stable of good hard runners and could be poised to return the favor of a beatdown this year.
This season again has the potential to be a good one. Its critical that Caragher go to a bowl game and get the Spartans to a 3rd straight non-losing season. The benefits are paying off as the quality of the recruits are picking up,the team (and its fans) have to keep showing up and playing hard.
In closing I know this is pretty early but this is how I am looking at the upcoming season.
Thanks for reading and feel free to send me some feedback on your team.
If you are on Twitter,follow me @Jinzo_2400