There are many "keys" to this game for Idaho, and chief among them is for the team to continue the intensity and sense of urgency displayed last Saturday against NMSU. The team displayed an impressive degree of confidence last weekend as the game progressed, particularly defensively as the Vandals shutout the Aggies in the second half.
But for any of the keys to have an impact, the Vandals will need another solid performane out of the offensive line. This is one of the only units on the team that can point to senior leadership, as the group boasts four starters with at least two years of starting experience under their belts.
Working from left tackle to right tackle, the likely starting unit will be:
Billy Bates, (6-5.5, 280, Sr) - Joined the Vandals in 2005 as the No.6 prospect out of the state of Oregon, and earned starting duties as a true freshman before a hand injury ended his season. He worked as a backup in '06, and has been a starter since 2007. He started last season at right tackle, and moved to left tackle this year when projected starter, redshirt freshman Matt Cleveland, went down with an injury in fall camp.Also getting significant playing time this season is junior guard/center Irvin Stevens and redshirt freshman tackle/guard Tyrone Novikoff. Both Novikoff and Stevens have earned starts this season, and will factor huge in the rotation next season.
Mike Iupati, (6-5.5, 343, Sr) - Offered by Arizona and UTEP out of high school, Iupati became a fulltime starter last fall for Idaho and has a reputation as one of the hardest hitting linemen on the team. He missed the first four weeks of this season with an injury, and has battled back to make the left side of the line a strength for the Vandals.
Adam Korby (6-2, 292, Sr) - Hasn't missed a single game in four years as Idaho's starting center. Last year he earned Second Team All-WAC honors, and has been named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List each of the last three years.
Kris Anderson (6-3, 285, Sr) - Signed with Idaho in '04, redshirted, and has been a starter on the Vandal line each of the last four years. He is the only lineman that has started at every position except center in his career in Moscow. FUN FACT: Korby and Anderson joke that Anderson has started every position but center, although Anderson's position in high school was center, and Korby has started every game at center although he did not play center in high school.
Bryce Sinclair (6-5.5, 326, Jr) - The "pup" of the unit, "Big Nasty" was heralded by Akey and his staff as having a tremendous off-season last summer. The work paid off and Sinclair has earned the starting nod the last few weeks after splitting starting duties earlier this season.
But focusing on this weekend, the five tasked with starting Saturday will face a tremendous Spartan defensive line - a group with outstanding size and agility. The Vandals currently rank fifth in the WAC in rushing yards per game, ahead of Utah State, San Jose State, Hawaii, and New Mexico State. They rank 68th in the nation at 136.11 yards rushing per game, just behind Boise State at 62nd (142.86 yards rushing per game).
San Jose State, on the other hand, rank 11th in the nation and second in the WAC (behind Nevada) at stopping the run, yielding 94.5 yards per game rushing.
We'll go into more detail about the Spartan defense with our game preview, but suffice it to say that the battle in the trenches will likely dictate the outcome of this game.