13 October 2011

Weekly Spartan and WAC football review and picks

October 8: Brigham Young beat San Jose State 29-16 in a game televised on ESPNU. The factors? (Sources: Box score, play by play)
  • SJSU gets the ball after Keith Smith recovered a Riley Nelson fumble at SJSU's 3 yard line, pre-empting BYU's first scoring attempt. However, a bad snap sent the ball flying to the end zone and a safety for BYU. BYU then gets the ball and scores a TD and goes up 9-0. On his weekly radio show on KLIV-AM, coach Mike MacIntyre explained that the BYU fans sitting behind end zone were so loud that the snapper misheard directions and promised that this would never happen again.
  • However, SJSU did get a field goal and TD off both times when BYU's Nelson threw interceptions.
  • An inept Spartan defense let BYU's punter get a rest: Never in the game did BYU ever have to punt on 4th down! It was either scoring or turnovers for the BYU offense.
  • Furthermore, SJSU's leading rusher Brandon Rutley sat out the game due to ankle injury but will return on Friday night v. Hawaii. Without Rutley, SJSU was outrushed 70-224. In contrast, in the past 2 wins with Rutley, SJSU ran for 230 yards (against New Mexico St) and 137 yards (Colorado State).
However, Rutley's fellow backup running backs Jason Simpson and Tyler Ervin did provide the backbone for the SJSU scoring drives that did exist. Simpson ran 39 yards; the freshman Ervin 40. Tight end Ryan Otten continued to be a reliable receiver having caught for a total of 108 yards; regular WR Noel Grigsby caught for 88.

Furthermore, SJSU will have to put up against a powerful defense much more cunning and intimidating than BYU's. According to USAToday.com:
  • Hawaii's defense is ranked 27th of all FBS teams and has allowed an average 327 yards per game, 5.14 yards per play, and throughout the year 18 touchdowns.
  • Colorado State: 33rd, 344.00 yards/game, 5.18 yards/play, 17 TDs.
  • BYU: 43rd, 351.33 yards/game, 5.58 yards/play, 16 TDs.
  • SJSU: 92nd, 414.50 yards/game, 5.98 yards/play, 22 TDs.
Bryant Moniz, the starting QB for the Hawaii Warriors, currently has a greater quarterback rating (150.7) than SJSU's Matt Faulkner (126.4) and slightly edges Faulkner with a 64.6% completion rate in contrast with Faulkner's 62.8%. And Moniz has thrown 15 TDs in contrast with 1 INT; Faulkner has 4 each of both TDs and INTs. SJSU defense will have to scare and pressure Moniz...and should he get injured, Moniz' backup David Graves has been pretty reliable so far with a 70% completion rate of 20 passes over 111 yards.

Hawaii's running unit has generated much production: 8 TDs over 435 yards, while SJSU took 804 yards to score 9 TDs.

Many in the SJSU community are hyping this game as it will be ESPN's Friday night game of the week; kickoff will be 6PM Pacific. Other outlets broadcasting the game will be ESPN3.com (the live streaming arm of ESPN) and local radio stations KSJS-FM 90.5 (pregame 5:30PM followed by the game in entirety) and joining in progress at 7PM KLIV-AM 1590. (KLIV is a news station, I guess they insisted on playing the news at six in the evening in competition with the TV stations.)

If Hawaii in Ruston, La. could beat Louisiana Tech , ranked higher than SJSU in both passing and rushing, 44-26 on Oct. 1, it will take a strong-willed defense for the Spartans even to get close to beating Hawaii. In fact, in September, Hawaii lost 40-20 on the road to UNLV, whose statistics and overall record are even worse than SJSU. UNLV choked Hawaii to only 6 yards of rushing that game and forced 4 turnovers! Indeed, Hawaii has specialized its game in passing instead of run plays. So with hopes that the Spartan defense can stop Hawaii at its tracks at times with interceptions and forced loss fumbles, I regretfully must pick Hawaii to win by 15 on Friday night. Still I will be watching on ESPN3.com to see how SJSU fares on national TV, should be an extra motivation.

Other picks:
New Mexico (Mountain West Conf., 0-5...when will they ever win?) at Nevada (2-3): Nevada by 21. Nevada last week blew out its in-state MWC rival UNLV 37-0, that game was in Reno. This is an offensively well-rounded Wolf Pack team vs. a New Mexico team leaning towards pass/receive. Nevada's runners have average 4.8 yards per carry, NM 3.5, and Nevada's Mike Ball 4.7 vs. NM (freshman) Crusoe Gongbay 4.0.

Idaho (1-5, 0-2 WAC) at New Mexico State (2-3, 0-1 WAC): NMSU by 13. In completing passes, NMSU Aggies QB Andrew Manley finishes 56.9% with 6 TDs and 3 INTs, Idaho's Brian Reader 51.1% with 9 TDs and 6 INTs. NMSU offense also has the edge (Rushing TDs: 5-3, Received TDs: 11-9). Will be on ESPN3.

Utah State (2-3) at Fresno State (2-4, 1-0 WAC): Another ESPN3 game. Utah State by 7. With a 64.8% completion rating and 157.0 overall QB rating, Chuckie Keeton can definitely create a fast edge in offense in contrast to Fresno State's Derek Carr, who has completed just 60.5%. Keeton has yet to throw an interception this season, while Carr has thrown 6. Both teams have very similar reception averages around 12 yards each, but Utah State again has another offensive edge in rushing: 6.4 yards per carry vs. Fresno State's 4.0 yards/carry.

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