Wyoming (4-3) at San Jose State (3-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 26, 7 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Spartan Stadium (30,456) -- San Jose, California. Television: ROOT-NW, RM. Home Record: Wyoming 3-1, SJSU 1-1. Away Record: Wyoming 1-2, SJSU 2-2. Neutral Record: Wyoming 0-0, SJSU 0-0. Conference Record: Wyoming 2-1, SJSU 2-1. Series Record: Wyoming leads, 6-1.
GAME NOTES: The San Jose State Spartans head back to the football field this weekend as they attempt to stretch their current win streak to three games when they host the Wyoming Cowboys in Mountain West Conference action.
The Spartans, members of the MWC's West Division, have not played since Oct. 12 when they topped Colorado State in Fort Collins, 34-27. The win was the second in a row for the program, after losing three consecutive challenges. San Jose State is currently 2-1 in league play, which is where Wyoming stands as well, albeit over in the Mountain Division.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, their most recent outing was a key matchup against an old foe, Colorado State, and the Pokes failed to put up much of a fight in a 52-22 final at home in Laramie. The loss was the second in the last three contests for Wyoming.
This is the first meeting between the programs since the Cowboys captured a 30-10 win back in 1997, pushing its advantage in the all-time series to 6-1 in the process.
In one of the most important games on the 2013 schedule, the Cowboys were man- handled by Colorado State at home by 30 points last weekend. Wyoming hadn't been beaten that badly in the annual Border War matchup in close to 90 years, and found itself behind by a 31-7 score just moments into the second half.
Quarterback Brett Smith connected on 21-of-36 passes for 246 yards and a score, but he was also sacked three times and tossed a couple of interceptions. Dominic Rufran posted a career-best 135 receiving yards and Tedder Easton tacked on 81 yards and a score on the ground.
The Wyoming defense didn't help matters either, allowing close to 300 yards rushing and more than 500 yards to the Rams overall. Jordan Stanton had a career-high 18 tackles last week, while Lucas Wacha registered a career-high 13 stops in the setback.
The run defense for the Cowboys has been abysmal this season, permitting 246.9 ypg which is 117th in the country this week. The pass defense is by far the more dominant aspect of the unit, giving up just 193.7 ypg (16th nationally), but overall the group is allowing almost 29 ppg which just isn't good enough when the offense is cutting it close with 35.4 ppg. Granted, a lot of that has to do with the severe beating from the Rams last week, but still Smith has to make up the difference.
Thanks to an even 300.0 ypg through the air, Smith has been a major force for the Pokes, converting 63.5 percent of his attempts for 16 touchdowns and just six interceptions. The signal caller is also second on the unit with 434 yards and three TDs on the ground, while Shaun Wick has responded with eight TDs and close to six yards per attempt.
The Spartans, while a dangerous team for sure with David Fales directing the offense, have been a slow-starting group in 2013, generating just 22 combined points in the first quarter this season. The same is true for when the squad needs to pick up the pace down the stretch, posting just 20 points in the fourth period which means playing from behind is never easy for the group.
Fales, one of the most accurate passers in the country last season, is converting 59.6 percent of his attempts, resulting in 323.8 ypg, but his yardage and his 12 aerial scores have been offset by his eight interceptions.
For a defense like Wyoming, identifying a key receiver shouldn't be that much of a problem at all, seeing as how Chandler Jones, with his 36 receptions, has more than twice the number of receiving yards (676) than any of his teammates and has scored six touchdowns, compared to two for anyone else on the unit. Unfortunately, the rushing attack is another story altogether, producing only 119.7 ypg, which is 105th in the nation this week.
While Wyoming has a pair of standout defenders in Stanton and Wacha, Keith Smith headlines the SJSU defense with 89 total tackles in just six games, his 45 solo stops only two fewer than his closest teammate (Christian Tago) has total tackles.
Generating more than 500 ypg in total offense, the Cowboys have the potential to take the ball up and down the field almost at will, but Fales and San Jose State will not simply stand by and be driven into the ground by the visitors, even though the numbers indicate that could be a possibility.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wyoming 35, San Jose State 24
10/23 10:34:13 ET