Utah State (4-2) at San Jose State (4-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 13, 4:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Spartan Stadium (30,456) -- San Jose, California. Television: ESPN Regional, MASN. Home Record: USU 3-0, SJSU 2-0. Away Record: USU 1-2, SJSU 2-1. Neutral Record: USU 0-0, SJSU 0-0. Conference Record: USU 0-0, SJSU 0-0. Series Record: San Jose State leads, 20-13-1.
GAME NOTES: Aiming for their first five-game win streak in more than two decades, the San Jose State Spartans try to make it happen this weekend when they kick off the Western Athletic Conference portion of their schedule against the visiting Utah State Aggies.
San Jose State, which nearly knocked off local foe Stanford in the season opener, is enjoying a four-game win streak for the first time since 2006 thanks to a 12-0 victory over Navy at the end of September before taking a break in the action. The Spartans haven't posted five consecutive wins since turning the trick in 1990 when it finished off the campaign with a 48-24 victory in the California Raisin Bowl.
As for the Aggies, a team which made it to the postseason in 2011 but lost to Ohio University, they too are enjoying favorable returns in the early going with four wins in six opportunities. However, last Friday USU was pitted against in-state rival BYU in a defensive battle that saw the Aggies come up short in a 6-3 final on the road in Provo. The defeat snapped a two-game win streak by the team and means the only two setbacks in 2012 have come against local opponents (Utah) and have been by a combined 10 points.
Utah State trails in the all-time series by a count of 20-13-1, but the Aggies are the ones who have rattled off three straight wins in the relationship, including a 34-33 final last season at home.
After scoring 31 and 35 points against Colorado State and UNLV, respectively, in the two weeks leading up to the meeting with the Cougars, Utah State struggled mightily against a BYU defense that was more than up to the challenge of limiting Chuckie Keeton and company. The signal-caller finished the night 22-of-38 for 202 yards, but was sacked three times which means he was left with just 23 net rushing yards which was still enough to lead the Aggies.
Kerwynn Williams was limited to 18 rushing yards on 14 attempts as the Cougars stacked the line of scrimmage with heavy hitters that refused to back down. Williams was also responsible for five receptions for 39 yards and Matt Austin 72 yards on seven catches in the losing cause.
Defensively, the Aggies were more than ready to deal with BYU. Granted, Utah State did surrender 380 yards of total offense to the hosts, but much of that came between the 20's. McKade Brady was credited with a game-high 14 tackles for the Aggies, 11 of those being solo efforts.
The defense for the Aggies has been rather remarkable over the course of six games, ranking eighth in the nation and tops in the WAC in points allowed (12.8 ppg). Opponents have generated just 297.3 ypg, somewhat surprising given that Utah State is fourth in the conference and 101st in the country in turnover margin with minus-1.0 miscues per contest.
Williams has shown that he can do a little bit of everything for the Aggies, but he still has a long way to go to make fans forget about the exploits of running back Robert Turbin who was one of the best in the business last year before heading to the NFL.
While the Aggies have a modest running attack for the most part, the same cannot be said for San Jose State which is averaging just 122.2 ypg on the ground to rank 101st in the country heading into play this week. Against Navy, the Spartans managed only 108 net yards on the ground which is rather unusual given how often opponents tend to adapt the same mode of attack against a running team like the Midshipmen.
Nevertheless, SJSU has found a solid quarterback in David Fales who has completed an impressive 74.7 percent of his pass attempts through five games, leading to 280.0 ypg and a total of nine touchdowns, against just three interceptions. Not one to play favorites, Fales has four receivers who have each caught at least 20 passes, although it is Chandler Jones who has done the most damage on the scoreboard with his five touchdowns on just 14 receptions.
Perhaps most encouraging about the Spartans in 2012 is the manner in which the defense has aggressively sought out making stops in the backfield. Last year through 12 games, SJSU had a total of only 16 sacks and already the team has logged 22 such takedowns which means they are second in the nation with an average of 4.4 per game. With 8.6 tackles for loss per game, SJSU is fourth in the country this week.
Keeton will have to be alert a bit more this weekend when he drops back in the pocket because the Spartans will be bringing everyone available to try and shut down the USU offense. If Williams fails to be productive the Aggies could easily find themselves in the loss column for the second straight week.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: San Jose State 24, Utah State 13
10/10 10:33:29 ET