San Jose State returns 43 letterwinners, 17 of whom started at least six games in 2009. The Spartans have three wide receivers that caught over 35 passes last season and a go-to tight end in sophomore Ryan Otten. That is where the comparisons stop for a SJSU team that finished 2-10 last season.
Just like the Running Rebels, the Spartans are adjusting to a new coach, hiring Mike MacIntyre to a five-year contract in December. The 2009 American Football Coaches Association FBS Assistant Coach of the Year and former Duke University defensive coordinator, MacIntyre has some pieces in place to turn the ship forward.
After scoring only 13.8 points per game last season (second-to-last in Division 1) and registering just 284 total yards per game (115 out of 120) and 76.7 rushing yards (117th), the Spartans will rely on senior Jordan La Secla (1,926 yards, 10 TDs, 11 INTs) to become more reliable.
If La Selca falters, Dasmen Stewart could step into the mix. Finishing 8-of-12 for 83 yards and a touchdown in the Spartans' spring game, Stewart could apply the necessary pressure to have La Selca increase his production. Whoever is throwing passes though will be glad to have Otten running routes, as the 6-foot-5 target recorded 92 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game.
Senior Lamon Muldrow was the team's leading rusher, but rushed for just 592 yards, three touchdowns and 49.3 yards per game. At just 5-foot-9 and 210 pounds, it will be like the Badgers tackling a smaller, speedy James White out of the backfield.
The defense for San Jose State was only marginally better than the offense last season. Although that isn't saying much, the Spartans do have some playmakers that could pose problems for UW. It will be interesting to see which way sophomore tight end Keenan Brown plays for MacIntyre. Brown played defensive end in the scrimmage, batted a ball at the line of scrimmage, caught it and raced 45 yards untouched for the score.
San Jose State is certainly pushing the envelope this season, playing three potentially ranked opponents in a month after opening at Alabama under the lights and playing at Utah two weeks after playing Wisconsin. On the flip side, Wisconsin has never played a ranked non-conference opponent at home under Head Coach Bret Bielema.
More importantly, Bielema has never lost to a non-conference opponent in five years. That trend should continue here.
If you go
Date/Time - Saturday, September 11 at 11 a.m. CT
Arena – Camp Randall, Madison
Series – Wisconsin Leads 1-0
Last Meeting - Wisconsin won, 56-10, on Sept. 13, 1997 in San Jose
Prediction - Wisconsin 41, San Jose State 17