Posted: 4:34 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013
Kickoff time: 7PM PT
Where: San Jose Spartan Stadium
TV:Mountain West Conference Website (I hear that there's no audio to games)
Radio: KLIV (1590 AM, San Jose)
It's so close... the lights! The excitement! The sportsmanship! Yes, the 2013 Men's Croquet Championship has begun! Just kidding (Or am I?), I'm talking about college football which starts tomorrow! And boy, what a start! I cannot think of a more perfect game to start off the Spartan 2013 schedule. Perfect because it'll be a blowout? Perfect because the color coordination between the two teams is cool? Perfect because Spartans are natural enemies of hornets in the wild?
None of the above; it's perfect because the Hornets are a good team, but still from the FCS division.
What that means is that if the Spartans make mistakes that need to be corrected, the Hornets will take advantage of those mistakes because they're a good team. If and when they do take advantage of a mistake, the Spartan players and coaches will hopefully be able to identify and fix those problems before facing a more threatening team. Say, for example... I don't know... Stanford? Sacramento State quarterback Garret Safron and running back Ezekiel Graham were very productive on offense, even against FBS teams like Colorado. They'll be a nice challenge to contain and defend against.
Because they are an FCS team though, they are (hopefully) not able to take as much advantage of a Spartan mistake as Stanford would. Playing a good FCS team will provide the Spartans with competition, but not be so competitive that the new Spartan players will be intimidated. New Head Coach Ron Caragher is installing a new offense and a new defense and it is critical that the players be confident in these new systems. What I'll be watching for in this game is if the running game seems any better than last year and whether the new 3-4 defense gets a decent pass rush going.
The running game in 2012 for the Spartans was mediocre at best, with only a couple of really good games in terms of rushing yards. Part of this lack of production was because the Spartans passing game was good enough to not need a lot of rushing yards. But with the 2013 schedule, the Spartans will need to have a multi-dimensional offense to dominate in the same way or better than last year. What I want to see is the Spartan offensive line opening up some running lanes for Tyler Ervin, Alvin Jelks, Osirius Burke and the rest, and at least one +30 yard home run touch down from one of the running backs.
Losing leading pass rusher Travis Johnson is going to hurt, will the new 3-4 system hurt more? I'm not terribly worried about the secondary, which although is a little dinged up is going to be fine. The returning linemen and linebackers are pretty good, but they are returning from a 4-3 system last year. Will they be able to generate the same amount of pressure this year? The duo of Safron and Graham should prove a good test to the integrity of the new line.