It has been two weeks since the Mountain West football teams returned, and only four of those twelve teams are still unbeaten.
Two of them meet at Carson Dignity Health Sports Park on Friday night, when the state of San Diego is host to the state of San Jose.
Unsurprisingly, SDSU, selected in a pre-season media poll, ranks first in the West Division.
The Spartans are a different story. You were selected for fifth place in the west. With the teams grouped into a division this season, they would probably have finished 10th at best.
As they say, that’s why they play the games.
SDSU, who have won seven straight wins 19-12-2, is a 9 1/2 point favorite in the game.
About the Spartans
San Jose State started the season with a 17-6 win over Air Force and a 38-21 win over New Mexico.
It is for the Spartans who have the opportunity to open the season with a 3-0 record for the first time since 1982.
San Jose state head coach Brent Brennan was asked to put this in a historical perspective: “I don’t really see it that way. I see what it would mean for our team, this team. …
“(Someone said) The last time you started the season 2-0 (1987), Ronald Reagan was President. I’m sure our players don’t even know who Ronald Reagan is.
“The Berlin Wall? What is it? It’s funny how unique time and relative time are for everyone.”
The state of San Jose, which has won more games than lost in just three of the past 27 years, has had few successful seasons.
The Spartans took just three wins in Brennan’s first two seasons – 1:11 in 2018 and 2:11 in 2017 – but nearly doubled that number with last season’s 5-7 result.
Now they have a shot in history, at least since 1982.
“For us,” said Brennan, “it’s more about having the chance to play against a team that has long been the best in the western half of our conference.”
The state of San Jose had the unenviable job of replacing quarterback Josh Love, Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, but is in the enviable position of having done so with Nick Starkel.
The graduate transfer, who played at Arkansas and Texas A&M, stepped in and made the transition seamless.
Starkel passed for 467 yards and five touchdowns in defeating New Mexico.
It helps that he has one of the more experienced and talented reception corps at the conference.
Senior Tre Walker, who had nine receptions for 107 yards and two touchdowns against the Lobos, is a first-team All-Mountain West returner.
Senior Bailey Gaither, who had 10 receptions for 208 yards and one touchdown, was even more productive than Walker.
The Spartans are looking to get more production out of their running game, which averaged just 2.9 yards per attempt (58 transfers, 166 yards), led by Isaiah Holiness (9-31) and Tyler Nevens (7-24).
“We have to run the ball more effectively,” said Brennan, “especially if you want to win games against good teams and close those games.”
The Spartans finished 10th in the national team with 13.5 points per game (SDSU is number 1 at 6.5 ppg), but it’s too early to say exactly what that means.
Limiting the Air Force’s triple option offense to one touchdown is an achievement. But the Falcons are without quarterback Donald Hammond III (no longer a “good standing” cadet) and other key players who played a red shirt when the season was originally postponed to spring.
They allowed 21 points for a Lobos team that was severely disrupted by the COVID-19 spike in New Mexico that caused health officials to prevent practicing in groups of more than five, forcing the Albuquerque game relocated to San Jose.
The state of San Jose has experience in all of defense. Defenders Cade Hall and Viliami Fehoko, center-backs Kyle Harmon and Tysyn Parker, and defenders Tre Webb, Jay Lenard and Nehemiah Shelton all return.
The D spawned three takeaways in two games – an interception and two fiddly restores.
Stopping the ongoing game by SDSU will be the biggest test of the young, shortened season for a Spartan defense that allows 4.0 yards per carry.
Did you know?
The state of San Jose dominated the first 30 years of this streak – from 1935 to 1964 – setting a 14-2-1 record. Nine of SDSU’s losses were outages. The Aztecs have gone 20-5-1 in the 55 years since then.