SpartanTombo from Mountain West Connection joins us this week to answer some questions about the Spartans. He has the distinction of being the first rival blogger of the season to pick his own team over the Gophers. Let me be the first to say that I hope our Gophers crush SpartanTombo's hopes and dreams.
As a sidenote, I answered some of ST's questions about this game for MWConnection, and you can find that piece of brilliance here.
JDMill: There is no question that 2012 was a successful year for the Spartans, finishing with an 11-2 record and a win in the Military Bowl over Bowling Green. After finishing a season like that, what were the expectations of SJSU heading into 2013?
SpartanTombo: Well, to be honest expectations were a little mixed. Even with that season, most poeple predicted a step back this year because the coaching turnover. New head coach Ron Caragher stated before the season that he wanted to make changes in the offense and the defense which many fans and analysts very uneasy.
JD: QB David Fales was just a monster in 2012. He completed 72% of his passes, threw for nearly 4200 yards and had 33 TD's (that's over 300 yards & 2.5 TD's per game) against just 9 interceptions. Are. You. F'ing. Kidding. Me? (That's my question. Or how about this... was that kind of, sort of, fun to watch?)
ST: Oh man you have no idea... in 2010 the Spartans went 1-12. In 2011, our starting QB threw as many interceptions as touchdowns (13 of each). Then David Fales appeared on the field, angelic choirs sang, fireworks exploded, many wept openly. From mid-season onward, any time he had the ball he was almost certain to make a big play, 10+ passes ALL THE TIME. It was beautiful. For the first time in a long while, teams were intimidated by the Spartans and mostly because of David Fales.
JD: Your leading rusher from 2012 (1025 yards) is a guy Gopher fans are familiar with: De'Leon Eskridge. Give us a brief rundown of De'Leon's time at SJSU.
ST: A little bit understated, actually. The run game wasn't exactly abandoned, but it wasn't featured heavily except in a few games. Despite an O-line focused more on protecting Fales then opening lanes, De'Leon Eskridge managed to grab over 1000 yards. Overall, Spartan fans were happy with his performance.
JD: Okay, on to 2013. I'm not sure what to make of what I'm seeing from the Spartans so far this year. SJSU beat Sacramento State (an FCS school) 24-0 and then lost pretty handily to a very good Stanford team. What do you make of the Spartans through 2 games?
ST: It's hard to say. The Spartans are settling into Ron Caragher's new "west coast style" offense and switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. A lot of people 'round these parts are looking to this game against the Gophers to see what a more developed Spartan team will look like under Ron Caragher.
JD: Fales is back this season and so far his numbers are good, but not out of this world like they were in 2013. There's still plenty of season left, but do you expect Fales to have a year like he did last year, or was 2012 lightning in a bottle?
ST: I expect him to have an even better year actually. In the first game against Sacramento there were quite a few egregious drops by the receivers. For Fales, 225 yards with no interceptions and 2 touchdowns is a bad day. In the next game, even though he was facing a better Stanford team, he still got equivalent yardage to last year and his one interception was a fluke (he tried to throw it away to the sideline and a Stanford CB made a tremendous catch right at the edge).
JD: It would be easy to assume that the Spartans are going to be heavy on the pass in 2013 with Fales back. Is that the case, or am I making an ass out of you (and me)?
ST: Way to make an ass out of me. Nice. This was a cordial Q. and A. till this. THANKS. In point of fact, Ron Caragher is attempting to build up the run game which has been near to last in FBS rankings for the past 3 years. He's gone as far to shift around a pretty good offensive line in order to get better better push on running plays.
JD: What does the Spartans rushing attack look like with Eskridge gone? Do you expect them to be closer to the team that put up 140+ yards on the ground against Sacramento State, or the team that managed just 35 yards against Standford?
ST: Closer to the 140+ game. Stanford's front 7 are among the best in the nation, if not the best. Even so, 5th year Jason Simpson managed to average 3.9 yards a carry on 11 attempts. Even if it's not very effective, the rushing attack will be much more emphasized this year than last year.
JD: Through 3 games the Gophers are giving up 213 passing yards and 121 rushing yards/game. What kind of offensive game plan do you expect from the Spartans against the Gophers D?
ST: I'm expecting a lot of running, see above. I think the Spartans are going to try and take away time of possession from the Gophers so they can't grind down the Spartan defense. Anytime the Spartans cross midfield, they're going to take shots towards the end-zone with 30 yard spiral bombs. When they did this against Sacramento, the Spartan receivers were more at fault for the incompletions then Fales. Hopefully (for the Spartans) they will have cleaned this up over the bye-week.
JD: The San Jose State defense gave up 278 yards against Sacramento State then followed that up giving up 404 yards to Standford. Again, I have no clue what to make of this, so tell us a little bit about the Spartans defense. What is the strength of the defense supposed to be?
ST: The pass rush and CB Bene Benewikere are the main strengths of the Spartan Defense. In the Spartans ranked in the top ten in sacks with 42 over the course of last season. This year the DL and LB groups are really deep so I expect them to resist a little of the effects of the Gophers rushing attack by rotating players in and out. Their tackling against Stanford was a little suspect though, and Kevin Hogan made them pay for that.
CB Bene Benewikere is a monster in the secondary. Last year he got 7 interceptions and he's already got one this season. He's good at tackling and defending passes too, so I'm expecting his name to be mangled by the ESPN 2 announcing team a few times this Saturday.
JD: With this game being played at 11am local time in Minneapolis, that's a 9am PT start for the Spartans. I tend to think that gametime start is something that is overblown, but we've seen a lot of B1G teams that have struggled with late start times out west. Do you see the start time of the game as a potential problem for the Spartans?
ST: It's hard to say. The weather Minneapolis right now looks almost exactly like San Jose weather in the early summer so climatically speaking that shouldn't be an issue. The Spartans also hold morning practices, which again might alleviate some of the issues with early starts. I don't think it's going to be that hard for the Spartans to adjust.
JD: Prediction time. Who wins, how do they do it, and what's the score?
ST: The Spartan rushing game gets enough yards to take pressure off of David Fales, giving him time to connect with receivers with lots of 10-15 yard passes. The Gophers try to grind down the Spartan defense,17 points are grabbed by Gophers in second half, but they do not manage to catch up to early Spartan scoring.
34-27 Spartans win.
What do you think TDG Community? What is your prediction?
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