However, on the collegiate level, in the midst of a rebuilding project, that's not always the case.
San Jose State finished last season 3-8 overall and 2-6 in the WAC. The Spartans have only won more than three games once in the last five seasons. But coming off five victories in two seasons, it was clear progress was made in 2005.
Under first-year coach Dick Tomey, the Spartans were competitive, losing to Nevada, Utah State and Hawaii by a touchdown. And they finished the season by gaining a little momentum, too, defeating New Mexico State and Idaho.
A minor victory, perhaps, but the last time SJS ended with consecutive wins was nine years ago.
The team is optimistic about carrying some of that momentum into this season.
"Everybody knows the system now," senior WR James Jones told the San Jose Mercury News. "It's like when you study real hard for a test and you know everything that's going to be on it. You feel like it's going to be an easy A."
The No. 1 question entering fall camp was the QB position.
Junior Adam Tafralis started nine games last season, including the back-to-back wins, but struggled overall. Tafralis completed less than 50 percent of his passes for 1,810 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His adjustment to Tomey's offense was a year-long struggle.
The starter, by the slimmest of margins, leaving spring camp was Juco transfer Sean Flynn, a southpaw with some moxie in the pocket.
"They're the same in terms of their competitiveness and their work ethic," Tomey said. "They work as hard as any two quarterbacks I've ever seen. It's going to be a very competitive situation. Sean probably had a little better of it in the spring, but you don't scrimmage enough in the spring to really have an opportunity to evaluate the position well.
"And, frankly, you don't scrimmage enough in the fall. It could be both of them will get an opportunity to play when we start (the season)."
KEY EARLY-SEASON GAME: vs. Stanford, Sept. 9 -- Few Pac-10 teams visit the likes of San Jose State. While it's a huge boost for the program (Spartan Stadium should be sold out) don't be surprised if San Jose State makes a game of this one. Talk about a signature win for a rebuilding program -- this one would more than fill that description.
THE SPARTANS WILL SUCCEED IF: After allowing nearly 43 points a game in 2004, the defense improved in 2005, allowing 32.5 per contest.
Even if San Jose State doesn't show significant improvement this year, the Spartans cannot take a step backward. Even with just two starters back, the defense can't be a turnstile and expect to win in this league.
THE SPARTANS WILL FAIL IF: Only 12 Division I teams didn't complete 50 percent of their pass attempts last season. Whether it's Juco recruit Sean Flynn, or another quarterback, the Spartans need to increase their completion percentage significantly.
As Tomey told the San Jose Mercury News, "You can't have a functional offense completing 47 percent of your passes."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're better. We're very young. Defensively, we've only got two starters back. I'll be shocked if we're not a much better team.
We've been doing the same thing for 18 months rather than six months and coached by pretty much the same guys. We're much more familiar with one another both player-to-player and coach-to-player. I think that will pay dividends." -- San Jose State coach Dick Tomey on the upcoming season.
HEAD COACH: Dick Tomey, second year at San Jose State, 3-8 with the Spartans (161-118-3 overall, 26th season as head coach)
MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER: LB Matt Castelo -- The conference's leading returning tackler (91), Castelo also had three sacks in 2005. He should vie for All-WAC honors.
"Matt Castelo is our best football player. I don't care what he is. He was our best football player last year as a sophomore," Tomey said. "He's a terrific player and a better worker and a better person. He's better in the middle because you can't run away from him. And, he can have more of an impact on what's happening. I'm excited about having him in the middle. He's the leader of our defense, one of the leaders of our team and he's also gained as much muscle mass and strength in our offseason as anybody on our team."
BREAKOUT STAR: RB Yonus Davis --While he isn't big enough for 20-25 carries a week, the 5-6, 180-pounder is elusive. At times, he can look like the most explosive back in the WAC. He averaged 6.7 yards per carry last season, which ranked first in the conference and seventh nationally. He finished with 638 yards and four scores, including two 100-yard efforts. Tomey needs to find a way to get the ball in his hands 15 times a week.
NEWCOMER TO WATCH: QB Sean Flynn -- A junior college transfer from Los Angeles Harbor College, he was impressive enough this spring to vault over incumbent Adam Tafralis as the starter. He's more accurate than Tafralis and even has a little mobility in the pocket, rushing for 331 yards and six scores last season.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: Offense -- QB Sean Flynn, RB Yonus Davis, FB James T. Callier, WR James Jones, WR John Broussard, TE Jason Cain, LT Matt Cantu, LG Marcel Burrough, C Justin Paysinger, RG John Booker, RT Bradis McGriff.
Defense -- DE Justin Cole, DT Freddy McCutcheon, DT Josh Pulu, DE Jarron Gilbert, OLB Chris Reese, MLB Matt Castelo, OLB Dimitrous Chattman, CB Trae Jackson, CB Christopher Owens, FS Jason Evans, SS Chris Vedder.
ROSTER REPORT: On July 27, CB Ellis Jones, a 5-11, 190-pound sophomore, was arrested and charged with 13 felony counts stemming from robberies in which he allegedly used a stun gun or handgun to force victims to turn over cash or other items. He was expected to challenge for a starting position, and was actually listed No. 1 on the depth chart departing spring camp, but he has been suspended from the team.
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