While San Jose State is calling this week’s game one of its biggest in years and a chance to get some national attention ahead of next week’s showdown with Louisiana Tech, I’m not sure really how interested BYU will be against the Spartans in the final college football kickoff on Saturday night.
The Cougars just had Senior Night and completed their home schedule last week with a 52-13 cakewalk over Idaho in which several starters got plenty of rest. BYU (6-4) already knows it is headed to the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 20 (vs. a Pac-12 foe), no matter what it does this week or next at terrible New Mexico State.
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SJSU (8-2) is winding down its final season in the soon-to-be dissipated Western Athletic Conference – the Spartans will head to the Mountain West next year. San Jose State, off to its best 10-game start in 15 years, is looking to bolster its national profile and bowl status with a win. But could San Jose State, which is bowl eligible for the first time in four years, also be a bit distracted? Should Utah State pull an upset earlier Saturday at No. 20 Louisiana Tech, SJSU would play for a share of the WAC title next Saturday vs. La. Tech.
BYU at San Jose State Betting Storylines
The Spartans, whose only losses are at Stanford and vs. Utah State, already have matched their win total of the past three seasons combined. They are on a four-game winning streak and have one of the better “mid-major” quarterbacks in the nation in David Fales (originally a Nevada commit). Last week in a 47-7 blowout at New Mexico State, Fales threw four touchdown passes for the second time this season and completed 12-of-18 passes for 276 yards before leaving early with the game not in doubt. Fales leads the nation by completing 72.4 percent of his passes. He is No. 8 with 3,126 yards passing and has thrown 25 touchdowns and seven picks. Fales is on pace to break every significant SJSU single-season passing record. His passer rating of 170.6 would easily surpass the record of Jeff Garcia’s, the former NFL player from SJSU.
BYU’s senior-laden defense ranks in the Top 10 nationally in every significant defensive category. The Cougars allow 14.2 points a game and just 92.3 on the ground. That unit is without one starter as senior cornerback Joe Sampson was recently suspended and then dismissed from the team because of a fight at a Provo restaurant. He started the first eight games this year at safety and had 33 tackles. Because of Sampson’s dismissal and a season-ending injury to nickel back Mike Hague, the team is short on defensive backs, although cornerback Jordan Johnson will return from a one-game suspension. Thus, look for the Cougars to often use a 2-5-4 alignment in passing situations, which will be often against SJSU. BYU has allowed just one team to pass for more than 300 this season (Oregon State) and three in the last 42 games. The Cougars have not allowed more than 230 passing yards to any other teams this year.
BYU has had some offensive problems this season. Senior quarterback Riley Nelson was the starter entering the season but was both hurt and ineffective and lost his job to freshman Taysom Hill. But Hill was lost for the season after suffering a knee injury in BYU’s 6-3 victory over Utah State on Oct. 5 (perhaps the ugliest game of season). Nelson has thus started the past four games and has gotten better in each game. He struggled in losses to Oregon State and Notre Dame but last week had a season-high rating off 157.2 with three touchdowns, no picks and 236 yards passing in the win over Idaho. Nelson says he is finally healthy. But BYU is just 63rd nationally in scoring (28.5 points per game), 67th in total offense and 69th in passing.
Nelson will be under siege against an SJSU defense that ranks seventh nationally in sacks with 34, already more than double last year’s total. SJSU has a Top 25 defense, allowing 20.0 points and 325.4 yards per game. The Spartans have held five teams under 300 total yards, including Stanford and Navy.
This is the 16th meeting between these teams but the first in San Jose in 34 years. Last year in Provo, BYU won 29-16 as a 14.5-point favorite. Nelson threw for 218 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 65 yards. It was his first start of the year, replacing an ineffective Jake Heaps, a former top recruit who has since transferred.
BYU at San Jose State Betting Odds and Trends
At BetOnline, BYU is a three-point favorite with the total at 47.5. The Cougars are 5-5 ATS and 4-5 “over/under”. SJSU is 8-2 ATS and 6-3 O/U.
BYU is 7-1 ATS in its past eight road games. The Cougars are 0-5 ATS in their past five games following a win. SJSU is 9-0 ATS in its past nine nonconference games. The Spartans are 6-1 ATS in their past seven vs. a team with a winning record. The under is 10-2 in BYU’s past 12 vs. a team with a winning record. The over is 4-1 in the Spartans’ past five overall.
College Football Predictions: BYU at San Jose State Betting Picks
SJSU hasn’t won five straight since 1990 and is looking for its first nine-win season in six years. The Spartans must establish a run or Fales is in trouble. In SJSU’s 49-27 loss to Utah State, Fales threw for a season-high 467 yards but was sacked an incomprehensible 13 times and the Spartans had four net rushing yards. In SJSU’s other loss, to Stanford, it rushed for only 72 yards on 27 carries.
If you go by quality of 2012 opposition, you have to lean BYU here. The Cougars nearly won at Boise State, did beat Utah State, probably should have won at Notre Dame and beat a suddenly surging Georgia Tech team (BYU’s only road win). Still, three of BYU’s wins have come over one-win teams (Hawaii, Weber State and Idaho). SJSU was, of course, routed by Utah State but won at bowl-bound San Diego State and Navy.
I do believe this means a lot more to San Jose State’s program than BYU’s. Offensively it’s a mismatch for the Spartans and they are close enough defensively to the Cougars to make San Jose State the pick. Love the under.
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