2006 Look Ahead: San Jose State

They have been the pesky redheaded stepbrother on Stanford's schedule for years, but after being away last season, San Jose State is back on the slate this year. To bring you back up to speed on the Cardinal's South Bay neighbors, we look at their prospects on offense and defense for 2006. On paper, the Spartans look slim. But maybe Dick Tomey will find a way.

San Jose State Spartans

First Down: Quick Hitters

Stanford @ San Jose State – September 9

Last Meeting: Stanford 43, San Jose State 3 ('04)

Side-by-Side Stats: (San Jose State/Stanford)
Returning Offensive Starters: 7/10
2005 Yards Per Point: 15.3/12.9
2005 Rushing Yards Per Game: 145/92
2005 Yards Per Carry: 4.1/2.6
2005 Passing Yards Per Game: 201/224
2005 Pass Completion Rate: 47.5/61.4
Returning Defensive Starters: 2/6
2005 Yards Per Point Allowed: 13.6/14.4
2005 Rushing Yards Per Game Allowed: 145/156
2005 Yards Per Carry Allowed: 3.5/4.0
2005 Passing Yards Per Game Allowed: 296/286
2005 Pass Completion Percentage Allowed: 62.9/60.8
2005 Record: 3-8/5-6

Second Down: Offense

In head man Dick Tomey's second year at the reins, and with plenty of returning starters, look for the squad to improve on last year's abysmal season, yet still be a national bottom feeder.

Such is reality when you come off a season with just 47.5% passing accuracy and 22.5 points per game against a watered-down slate.  So the return of junior quarterback Adam Tafralis is a mixed bag – his 164.5 yards per game and 108.5 efficiency rating were the lowest of any starting WAC quarterback last year.  The worse news is his 49.7% accuracy was better than the other three quarterbacks who saw playing time.  So Tafralis can only get better with a year of starts under his belt, but he still has miles to go to reach respectability.

Adding to the bad news, the receiving corps loses its two top receivers from last year, wideout Rufus Skillern and tight end Bryan Watje.  Watje was the only First Team WAC player on San Jose State last year.  A crew of four seniors step to the forefront of the depth chart now, and while improved quarterbacking should improve the numbers here, the unit is still a downgrade from last year.

On the one hand, tailback Yonus Davis is the best offensive talent on the squad, as a returning Second Team All-WAC Player with an average of nearly seven yards per touch in 2005.  On the other, at 5'7" 180, he is the same height and weight as my dad, who happens to look almost exactly like Eugene Levy (the well-intentioned but comically uncool father from American Pie).  And I do not think my dad (or Levy, for that matter) would do too well against the Udofias and Egbohs of this world.  In fact, I imagine it would look something like this.

Back to Xs and Os, San Jose State's line returns four starters, with right tackle Bradis McGriff, an Arizona State transfer, the only new face.  With Davis' backup Jacob French a highly-regarded junior college transfer, the running back stable is strong and with the experience on this line the running game could carry San Jose State as the aerial attack works out the kinks.

Third Down: Defense

This will be one of the worst defenses in college football and easily the worst unit Stanford will face this season.  Just two starters return off a team that allowed one of the easiest schedules in the country 32.5 points per game and 63% passing accuracy last year.

In the past 11 years, the front seven has yielded over five yards per carry more seasons than not, which goes a long way toward explaining the Spartans' lack of success this past decade.  This year, all four starters on the line are new, and among the losses are Second Team All-WAC tackle Kinji Green and end Justin James, who notched eight sacks.  The best hope for the line, and the defense as a whole is that they make drastic improvement in the second year of Tomey's system.  Realistically though, after allowing "just" 32.5 points per game and 145 ground yards per game on 3.5 yards per carry, I would expect San Jose State's defensive numbers to balloon to their 2004 levels: 42.6 points per game, and 252 ground yards per game on 5.1 yards per carry.

The loss of two starting linebackers, the team's number one and three tacklers, compounds the Spartans' problems.  Ezekiel Staples and Eric Wilson combined for 193 stuffs last season, and with junior Matthew Castelo the only returning starter, look for wide-open rushing lanes this season.

The picture in the secondary is bleaker yet.  The unit loses three starters, including Second Team all-conference corner Trestin George, from a backfield that allowed opposing passing attacks 296 yards per game on 63% accuracy.  The only returner is strong safety Christopher Vedder, and so pressing are the needs in the secondary that Tomey moved senior J.P. Greco from reserve quarterback to free safety to shore up the unit.  And Greco, who started two games at quarterback last season, is projected as the starting free safety.

Usually, fans should resist the temptation to read too much into the first game or two of the season, but if Stanford's offense cannot put up monstrous numbers against this shell of a defense, we might have to find a new fall team to support and start the countdown to basketball season.

Fourth Down: Extra Points

- San Jose State has not been to a bowl since 1990.  From 1981 through that 1990 season they went to the California Raisin bowl four times and went 2-2 against MAC teams.

- The Spartans averaged just 12,506 in attendance last year, well below the proposed Division I-A cutoff of 15,000.  The provision does not have any teeth to it yet, so the Spartans will remain in Division I-A for now, but stay tuned.

- Better yet, go watch your Cardinal in person, because I imagine the Stanford crowd will be San Jose State's biggest of the season, and may push them north of a 15,000 average this season.

- Spartan coach Dick Tomey has 161 career wins after lengthy stints at Hawaii and Arizona.  That is nearly double any other coach Stanford will face this season.  (Mike Bellotti takes second with 90.)

2006 Regular Season Prediction: 3-9, 1-7 WAC

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