Utah State (2-2) at San Jose State (1-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, September 27, 9:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Spartan Stadium (30,456) -- San Jose, California. Television: ESPN. Home Record: USU 1-0, SJSU 1-0. Away Record: USU 1-2, SJSU 0-2. Neutral Record: USU 0-0, SJSU 0-0. Conference Record: USU 1-0, SJSU 0-0. Series Record: San Jose State leads, 20-14-1.
GAME NOTES: The top two teams from the Western Athletic Conference last year get together as members of the Mountain West Conference this time around, as the San Jose State Spartans entertain the Utah State Aggies in California on Friday.
Last year, before the WAC eliminated football as a sponsored sport, the Aggies took the title be beating out SJSU and the other schools that were still around for the final year of competition. This year Utah State has been a tough matchup for everyone, even though the team is just 2-2.
After whipping up on the likes of Air Force (52-20) and Weber State (70-6), the Aggies collided with USC and came up just short in a 17-14 final in Los Angeles. Utah State is now 18-5 in the last 23 outings, with those five setbacks coming by a combined 13 points.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, who are now under the direction of head coach Ron Caragher, they've gone from being an 11-2 squad a year ago and closing out 2012-13 on a seven-game win streak, to already bowing in two outings this season. San Jose State opened the campaign with a 24-0 blanking of Sacramento State, but has since bowed to Stanford (34-13) and Minnesota (43-24) in Minneapolis last weekend.
Utah State demolished the Spartans a season ago, 49-27, but still the Aggies trail the all-time series, 20-14-1, even though they have won four straight over SJSU.
Against a USC squad that had won all four previous meetings in the series between the programs, the Aggies put up a fight last Saturday afternoon before suffering the three-point setback. Quarterback Chuckie Keeton registered touchdown passes to Brandon Swindall and Travis Reynolds in the second and third quarters, respectively, but he finished only 21-of-39 for 179 yards and was sacked four times in the losing cause. Because of those sacks, USU was held to only 106 net rushing yards and 285 yards of total offense, while being flagged for 11 penalties, leading to a loss of 89 yards.
Outside of being slowed by the USC defense, Keeton has been a beast against the competition this season. Not only has he completed an impressive 71.5 percent of his pass attempts for 275.5 ypg, the signal caller has tossed 14 touchdowns, against just a single interception. More than anything, Keeton has proven that he can manage a game like few others in his position.
Keeton is also third on the team in rushing with 172 yards on 40 attempts. The Aggies have spread the wealth in that department with four players all having gained at least 100 yards thus far, the quartet combining for all seven rushing TDs for the group.
Jake Doughty paces the defense with 42 stops over four games, but the bigger impact has been made by Kyler Fackrell who has come up with three sacks and two forced fumbles, while making just 17 stops overall.
The Spartans were paced by David Fales who converted 22-of-35 for 439 yards and three scores, but he was also picked off twice last Saturday afternoon as the team suffered the sizeable loss versus the Golden Gophers. Chandler Jones caught seven passes for 197 yards and all three of those touchdowns, but SJSU was limited to only 47 net rushing yards while allowing 353 yards to the Gophers. Averaging 9.3 yards per play, SJSU generated 486 yards of total offense, but the team converted just 1-of-9 on third down and controlled the action for less than 19 minutes.
Keith Smith rang up a staggering 21 tackles against Minnesota, but much of the credit for those stops should go to the Gophers who were willing to keep the ball on the ground so much to begin with. Through three games, Smith now has 51 total tackles, his 23 solo stops equally to the overall total of his closest teammate (Simon Connette).
Of the four sacks recorded by SJSU defenders, all but one have come from Eugene Taylor which means the rest of the unit needs to get into gear in order to give the team a chance to compete.
Fales was one of the top passers in the country a year ago, based on efficiency, and this year he has taken a few steps back. Now with an efficiency rating of 140.65, Fales has just six passing touchdowns, against three interceptions, while averaging 293.3 ypg. Obviously, Jones is the top target down the field with his 20 catches for 370 yards and four TDs, and while those numbers are impressive, they don't offset the fact that SJSU is one of the weakest running teams in the MWC (74.7 ypg).
After being held in check by USC, expect to see Keeton turn up the offense for the Aggies again this week and put San Jose State in its place.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah State 42, San Jose State 24
09/25 10:30:38 ET