San Jose Spartans (3-7 SU, 3-7 ATS) vs. Utah State Aggies (8-3 SU, 5-6 ATS)
College Football Week 13
Date and Time: Friday, November 21, 2014 at 9:30PM EST
Where: Romney Stadium, Logan, Utah
by Scott, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SJSU +11.5/USU -11.5
Over/Under Total: Off
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In a big Mountain West game on Friday, the San Jose Spartans will take on the Utah State Aggies. Both teams played on Saturday, with Utah State beating New Mexico, 28-21. It was their 4th win a row to go to 8-3 on the season. San Jose State, however, was shut out at home by Hawaii, 13-0, in what certainly ranks as their worst loss of the season.
San Jose State isnt very good. At 3-7, both straight-up and against-the-spread, the Spartans are squarely in the midst of a rebuilding process that followed a small renaissance period. Their offensive line was left in tatters by offseason departures and hasnt really ever found its footing. QB Joe Gray has a big arm and has been productive in certain spots, but this is a San Jose team that hopefully uses this season as a growing experience to build on for upcoming seasons.
Utah State has hung in there very well after having to start 4 different quarterbacks. Chuckie Keeton was first. Then Darell Garretson also went down and now the team is in the hands of true freshman Kent Myers, who is 3-0 as a starter and completing over 3/4 of his throws. Hes not as explosive as either Keeton or Garretson, but considering how we was thrown to the lions way sooner than he ever thought he would, hes been doing a pretty remarkable job keeping this train moving down the track.
Utah States offense is decent. They have pretty good balance. The run-game features a committee approach, with 7 different rushers having scored a touchdown so far this season. With 878 yards receiving, Hunter Sharp is a key weapon on offense, as are ball-catchers JoJo Natson and Ronald Butler. Where the Aggies really thrive is on defense. They havent been all that robust against the pass in certain spots, but they generally do very well against the run. With an average of 19.4 points allowed per game, they rank 12th in the country.
One of the more remarkable stats from this game is that the San Jose State pass-defense is ranked first nationally. Now that could be due to the teams they have been playing, which are largely running-oriented squads. Or maybe its because its so easy to run against San Jose State, that opponents dont air it out as much. And most teams have gotten ahead of SJSU pretty quick, meaning theyd opt more for the run once way ahead. But allowing under 28 points and being stingy at times, the defense is likely the strong suit of this 3-7 team.
This season in particular, relying on a teams last game can be a misleading factor. The urge on the part of many bettors will be to take Utah State with a big part of that reason stemming from San Jose States shutout loss to Hawaii to last week. While there is hardly anything surprising about a 3-7 team losing, the Spartans losing at home and not managing a single point against a team that held one lone win against an FBS opponent was truly startling, even for San Jose State. Other than a massive loss to Auburn where they were out of their element, no one has really pounded San Jose State this season, with their other 6 losses all being by 17 or fewer points.
San Jose States Joe Gray is a decent quarterback and he has a few nice tools to work with, including Tyler Erwin, who is averaging nearly 6 yards per scamper. WR Tyler Winston has 68 catches and Tim Crawley, Hansell Wilson, and Jabari Carr fill out a good receiving package. But turnovers and a shaky line continue to hamper the offense. On Saturday, they nearly doubled Hawaii in total yardage. Gray threw for over 300 yards. But a few key turnovers and drops, in addition to continued problems in converting field goal,s kept the Spartans off the board. One should expect a little better luck this week.
Utah State is unbeaten at home, having won all five of their games. They have won by an average of 16 points when at home, so its easy to understand how some people will jump on the Aggies here, favored by 11.5 against a lackluster San Jose State team. But lets keep in mind that a similarly-inept New Mexico team came within 7 points of Utah State on Saturday.
This is Utah States last league-game before playing Boise State the following week and they still have an outside shot at winning their division in the Mountain West. A 10-win season is still within reach for a resurgent Utah State team that continues to thrive despite offseason losses in personnel and massive injuries during the season. With the light now clearly visible at the end of the tunnel, will Utah State be a bit more energized than weve seen in the last few games? I think they will be, enabling them to get the clearcut win and cover against the slip-sliding Spartans.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Utah State Aggies minus 11.5 points.