Previewing San Diego State’s Opponents: San Jose State

The San Jose State Spartans are trying to recapture their success in 2006 when they won nine games, because last year was to be a springboard year to be able to compete with the top teams in the WAC only managed five wins. Consistency was a problem last year when San Jose lost their first three games before winning their next three, but ultimately going 2-4 in their final six. Head Coach Dick Tomey has done a great job for a program that was almost dropped a few years back, and to get them to a bowl game in 2006 was amazing. This season the Spartans are looking for more consistent play and try to get back to the 2006 season.

 

 

 

 

Offense: The Spartans return six starters from last years team and other players who had significant playing time. The quarterback situation is somewhat clear, as of spring ball Junior Myles Eden is the number one, but not by much and will see competition from Cal transfer Kyle Reed. Reed had a foot injury that limited his time getting to know the Spartans’ offense. With that injury, coach Tomey is willing to give him a long look in fall camp to see if he emerges as San Jose State’s starter. When Reed was being recruited by Cal he was considered a top 10 QB out of high school, so talent is there.

 The running back situation is even more confusing then the quarterback position if that is possible. The Spartans are hoping that fall camp begins with Yonus Davis back on his team, but when spring ended, the top running back of 2006 had still not been cleared to receive a medical redshirt from his injury. The top returning ball carrier is senior James Callier who is more of a power back, Caller rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns to finish third on the team, but he’s not explosive enough to carry the load. The other potential option is Junior Dominique Hunsucker who averaged only 2.7 yards per carry. Even with the lack of experience Coach Tomey feels they will be fine at running the ball.

The receiving corp is the strong point on this Spartans team, and is loaded with experience in this area. Senior Kevin Jurovich looks to be the go to guy in 2008 and with both returning starters and four of the top five returning the Spartans should be solid. Jurovich was chosen second-team All-WAC last season after catching 85 balls for 1,183 yards and nine touchdowns and has a good chance to be the leagues top wide out.

Defense: This side of the ball needs work, during the 2007 season they gave up 29 points per game and gave up 40 or more in five of their seven loses. The unit does return six starters which should help the Spartan defense to improve, and if they want to get back to bowl eligible the defense must limit those high scoring games. The defensive line is the strength of the team with all four starters returning in that area, but return zero linebackers. The defensive line has two exceptional speed ends in Carl Ihenacho and Justin Cole who had a modest 65 tackles and 9 sacks between the two, have the ability to disrupt the passing game. As for the linebackers they will be bringing in all new starters for this season.

The top returning player at linebacker are junior Ryno Gonzales and in only six games last year he had 26 tackles and has the speed and agility to cover a receiver if needed. The other top returning player is Sophomore Jason Swisher who had with 21 tackles in 12 games. If the defensive line is as good as it should be then they can open up lanes for these linebackers to have good years as well.

In the defensive backfield senior cornerback Christopher Owens had a great year with 75 tackle, led the team with six interceptions, had three pass breakups and 2.5 sacks. There is question if he can keep that up since Owens was the secondary cornerback so teams thought they could go in his direction, but Coach Tomney feels Owens will have another impact year with his playmaking abilities to get sacks and interceptions.

Early Prediction: This game is in San Diego so there is an edge to be given to the Aztecs. Both teams are coming off of disappointing seasons, but the edge goes to the Spartans because of the loss of former San Diego State quarterback Kevin O’Connell to the NFL. The Spartans win by 7 points or less, as of now.

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Previewing San Diego State Opponents: Notre Dame

Notre Dame was nothing special last year going 3-9 and Charlie Weiss is hoping that the lumps the team took last year will help this team this season.  The schedule is eased up this year from last year which should help this team improve.  This is the home opener for Notre Dame, but the Aztecs will have a game under their belt the week prior.  The Irish need improvement at every aspect of the team, especially offensively, and will this be the year that Charlie Weiss is going to prove is amazing coach gloss and able to win with his own players.  With top 10 recruiting classes for the past few years the Irish must be better, but a side note about those classes is that in my opinion recruiting services sometimes over value players if they are being recruited by big name programs.

Offense: Where to begin here?  The offense last year was just plain awful, they played multiple different quarterbacks with very little success if you want to even call it that.  The Irish return nine offensive starters and with hopes that number recruit Jimmy Clausen will live up to that hype after struggling to adjust to the college game last year.  The difference from last year to this year for Clausen is that he took all the reps with the number one offense and he added 18 pounds of muscle. 

The running back trio of Junior James Aldridge, sophomores Armando Allen, and Robert Hughes are neck-and-neck-and-neck in the race to be the Fighting Irish’s starting tailback, not because they all shined during the spring, but rather none emerged from the pack.  This is the same scenario as last year where a few showed signs of greatness, but then looked clueless at times.  The running game does not actually need a true starter or superstar, but good play and consistency.  However for the Irish to be really successful they need at least one back to emerge somewhat from the pack.  Hughes could be the darkhorse to gain the most of the reps, because he was the first Notre Dame true Freshman to rush for 100 yards in back to back games since 1982.

Wide outs are another of promise for Notre Dame starting with sophomores Duval Kamara lived up to the hype as a Freshman by setting school freshman records for receptions with 32 and touchdowns in four.  Kamara looks to improve off of those numbers last year and will look to be the go to guy for Clausen.  David Grimes and Robby Parris will round out the starting wide outs and could be a potential good set of triplets.

Defense:  The Irish were negative 12 in points allowed, and gave up 29 points per game, and needs to improve by light years to get to 6 wins.  They return six starters on defense in an effort to shore up that area in order to compete.  The schedule helps out this year and the stats should improve over last years nightmare season.  The best player on defense is Senior cornerback David Bruton a Nagurski National Defensive Player-of-the-Year Award candidate, who really turned it on from last year to this years spring game by winning defensive MVP honors.  The defensive line is another area that needs to improve and be able to get pressure to the quarterback and create turnovers which is something the Irish struggled with last year.

Early Prediction: 99.99% will pick the Irish to win this game, which is where I stand, but Irish fans should not be too confident.  With what happened last year Irish fans should be a more humble group, but the Irish should win but this game will be competitive.

Previewing San Diego State Opponents: Cal Poly

More exciting FCS (I-AA) football for the league.  The Mustangs are a pretty solid FCS team who went 7-4 last year in the Great West Conference.  Wide receiver Ramses Barden and offensive lineman Stephen Field, both seniors, have earned preseason All-America honors and the Cal Poly football team is ranked as high as sixth in preseason Football Championship Subdivision national polls.  This team is one of the better FCS teams which the Aztecs can not take lightly.

Offense: The offense is potent for the Mustangs by averaging 39 points per game, with returning all of their key skill position players.  The leader of the offense is quarterback Jonathan Dally who had 29 touchdowns to five picks, and the leading target for Dally is Ramses Barden who accumulated the most amazing stats by catching 51 pass for an amazing 1,467 yards which is 25 yards per catch, plus he had 18 touchdowns.  The only other receiver of note on the team is Tredale Tolver who had 31 receptions and five touchdowns.

The running game is also potent since the Mustangs run the triple option so many players get a chance to run the ball and pile up yards.  Jonathan Dally is the top of the list at the running game with 763 yards and 12 touchdowns, while the team scored 25 total touchdowns on the road. 

The offense overall should actually put up better numbers from last year, because the Mustangs only lose one player who is an offensive lineman.

Defense: The defense is where Cal Poly is vulnerable, because they return five defensive starters.  The defensive unit gave up 25 points and hoped that the offense would just out score the other team, while the defense would try to limit big time plays.  The defense will do the same this year by trying to defend the big plays.

Early Prediction: San Diego State should be able to win since this is an FCS team, but with NFL calliber wide receiver Ramses Barden who will be tough to cover.   Expect this game to come close and be an exciting game which could could go either way, but I am not picking a FCS team to defeat a FBS team.  I would not be surprised if Cal Poly were to get the win.

Previewing New Mexico Opponents: New Mexico State Aggies

New Mexico State is coming off of two straight four win seasons and have not had a winning season since 2002. The Aggies have had success on the offensive side of the ball with QB Chase Holbrook and their offense, but wins are hard to come by for this team. New Mexico State finished 107th nationally in scoring defense, yielding a staggering 36.2 points per game. The pass defense came in at 105th and 114th in pass efficiency. The WAC does have teams that put up good passing numbers just look at Hawai’i, Boise State, and Fresno State do each year but that defense must improve to try to get to a winning season. They do return 15 starters with seven returning on defense which should help the Aggies improve upon that defense. Below is a photo taken from a website promoting QB Chase Holbrook for Heisman just wishful thinking for Aggie fans.

Offense: The high powered offense led by Holbrook who is considered a highly touted NFL prospect can not do it all. Holbrook had very good numbers last year despite missing two games and ended up with 3,866 yards, 26 touchdowns, but also threw 18 picks as well.  Holbrook has a high risk high reward with his style of play that either pays off huge with big plays or the ill advised pass that leads to an interception.  If he can limit those mistakes New Mexico should be much improved from last year.

With all of the passing that goes on New Mexico State gets the ball to many receivers and the Ags have three returning starters back.  The receiving corp is lead by Chris Williams who despite missing the last five games with an injured shoulder still accumulated 56 catches, 772 yards, and 11 touchdowns.  Williams also is an excellent kick returning with play making abilities and was chosen a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award which is for the best receiver in college despite missing those five games.  A.J. Harris and Wes Newman are the other two returning starters and Harris in just three years has the school record for receptions at 191 and Newman as a redshirt Sophomore last year he caught 44 passes and three scores.  The passing game is their strength, but a running game is very important to have some balance.

Tonny Glynn is their top returning runner who had 456 yards and a team-high four rushing touchdowns not that great.  The rest of the running will come from junior college transfers and three freshman vying for crries.  No specific person needs to step up but there needs to be consistency in the running game even if it is with two or three backs.  The Ags just need a counter their pass game to keep teams honest.

Defense: Well this needs a lot of work and even with seven returning and multiple junior college transfers coming in but with the defense they run, the 3-5-3, it is tough to pick up.  Being ranked lower then 100 in all major categories and being -1.15 in turnover margin never gave the team those extra possessions.  If the defense can move up to the 70’s in ranking then they have a decent shot of wining more games through the offense outscoring.

Early Prediction:

This is a rivalry game, but New Mexico is so much better then New Mexico State, so look for the Lobos to win by at least 10.

Utah finalzies deal to play Notre Dame in 2010

This game is finally finalized for Utah to play at Notre Dame on November 13, 2010.  The Utes will have to postopone their series with Utah State for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.  The Utes typically try to schedule home and home series with opponents and Utah Director of Athletics Dr. Chris Hill said, ” but when something like this presents itself, we want to take advantage of it. What a great opportunity this offers for not only our team, but for our fans.”

The most recent times where Utah has played a one and done game is both against Michigan in 2002 and this year in 2008.  This is great news for Utah and the conference for the exposure of playing a high named profile opponent.

Ranking the Mountain West Basketball Programs Nationally

ESPN.com has a pretty nice article during the college basketball offseason, and ranked every program with at least 15 years of division one play since 1984-85 season when the NCAA tournament expanded to 65 teams.  It is amazing where some of the teams in the MWC landed, and what is most surprising is that the Mountain West ranked 6th in average position per team in a conference ahead of the Pac-10 with an average 113th ranking compared to 118th, not too bad.  Only the top 50 goes into details of their score rankings.  Very interesting article, and I was very surprised where a few teams ended up.

Here are the scoring rules that determined the rankings:

We let the numbers do the talking by assigning the following point values for certain successes and failures.

 

• National title … 25
• Title game loss … 20
• National semifinal loss … 15
• Elite Eight loss … 10
• Best W-L record in conference’s regular season … 5
• 30-plus wins in a season … 5
• Sweet 16 loss … 5
• Conference tournament title … 3
• AP first-team All-American … 3
• Losing in NCAA second round … 3
• Player in Top 10 of NBA draft … 2
• NCAA first-round win as a 12-16 seed … 2
• NIT title … 2
• AP second-team All-American … 2
• 20-29 wins in a season … 1
• NCAA tournament berth … 1
• Postseason NIT berth … 1
• AP third-team All-American … 1
• NCAA first-round loss to a 12-16 seed … -2
• Losing season … -3
• Ban from NCAA tournament … -3
>> Minimum 15 seasons in Division I
** Ties are broken by overall winning percentage since the 1984-85 season
^^ Teams are listed with their current conferences
!! In conferences without postseason tournament champions, the points were awarded to the regular-season champ.

T-260. Air Force 

T-208. San Diego State

T-148. Colorado State

T-138. TCU

T-111. Wyoming

T-70. New Mexico

46. BRIGHAM YOUNG COUGARS, Mountain West
Positives: 14 20-win seasons; 12 NCAA berths
Negatives: 5 losing seasons; 3 NCAA wins
Total points: 81
Did you know? Quietly, the Cougars have been racking up 20-win seasons in pretty solid conferences (the WAC and MWC). Holding them back is the fact that they haven’t played in a Sweet 16 since the days of Danny Ainge.

24. UTAH UTES, Mountain West
Positives: 14 20-win seasons; 11 conference regular-season titles; 13 NCAA berths; 5 Sweet 16s; 1998 Final Four
Negatives: 4 losing seasons
Total points: 171
Did you know? The Utes have cleaned up in the regular season, winning 11 conference championships. They were one half away from beating Kentucky for the national title in 1998. They are also helped by having three first-team All-Americans and three top-10 picks in the NBA draft (Keith Van Horn, Andre Miller and Andrew Bogut).

8. UNLV REBELS, Mountain West
Positives: 19 conference titles (9 regular-season, 10 tourney); 5 30-win seasons; 18 postseasons (11 NCAA, 7 NIT); 3 No. 1 seeds; 6 Sweet 16s; 3 Final Fours; 1990 national title; 24 NCAA tourney wins; 5 All-Americans; 5 NBA top-10 picks
Negatives: 2 losing seasons; 2 NCAA sanctions; 10 coaches since 1984-85; 0 NCAA tourney wins between 1992 and 2007
Total points: 239
Did you know? One of the most scandal-plagued programs in the history of the sport still cracks the Top 10. It’s all thanks to the glory days of Jerry Tarkanian, when the Rebels dominated the Big West while racking up five 30-win seasons. Between 1987 and 1991, UNLV made three Final Fours, including a dominating national title in 1990.

5th Bowl game in the works for the Mountain West

At Mountain West Conference media day in Las Vegas, Commissioner Craig Thompson, mentioned the possibility of the league adding a fifth bowl game as early as this year, but 2009 would be more realistic. The bowl game is the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho and would match up the Mountain West against the Western Athletic Conference. The previous opponent was the ACC who would travel to Boise and take on either Boise State or a top three WAC team.

A fifth team from the Mountain West sounds pretty bold, even though last year the team did get five in, and the opponent is another WAC team which the league all ready has with the New Mexico Bowl. Cold weather is an issue by playing in Boise, so the only good things out of this possibility is geographical location to most schools, exposure, and the money the league would receive.

The way a Mountain West team would be considered this year would be if an ACC can not provide a 6-6 team to travel to Boise. An extra bowl game has positives, but the league needs to try to get into a better bowl game.