No one expects much from the San Jose State Spartans during the 2011 football season. After going 1-12 in 2010 (including 0-8 in WAC conference play), the Spartans look to break in a new quarterback, senior Matt Faulkner.
Earlier this week, we mentioned his relationship to the chain restaurant Chili's. This Saturday, we find out if he is ready for the big time as the Spartans take on the 7th-ranked Stanford Cardinal in Palo Alto.
This matchup has the potential to get out of hand quickly, as Stanford has the best quarterback in the country, Andrew Luck. The running game is more than adequate in the hands of Stepfan Taylor, and defensively the Cardinal are going to be very tough on the pass with an experienced secondary.
San Jose State must look to exploit the weaknesses that Stanford has to account for -- the loss of Owen Marecic, the departure of Sione Fua at nose tackle, and the questions surrounding the dependability of the offensive line, which lost three of their five starters from 2010.
Looking for a blueprint to beat Stanford? SJSU must look no further than the tough road game Stanford played against Arizona State back on November 13, 2010.
Despite an efficient game from Andrew Luck, the Sun Devils held the Heisman candidate to zero passing touchdowns and only 292 passing yards. On 42 rushing attempts, the Cardinal managed only 128 yards on the ground (3 yards per carry). Stanford won 17-13 in their second-closest victory of the season.
How did ASU keep the game so close? They extinguished the running game. San Jose State has a lot of experience on both sides of the ball and will have to clog the running lanes to stop Taylor from setting up the pass attack.
Turning the Cardinal offense into a one-dimensional attack sounds risky, as Luck is the finest passer in the college game. Yet still, you have to pick your poison, and forcing the pass allows for an opportunity for interceptions, clock stoppages and ineffective drives.
In the end, confidence is the first step to defeating the Cardinal. While the Spartans likely won't pose any threat to Luck or Stanford on Saturday, they must learn to relentlessly execute the gameplan to help for the rest of their 2011 schedule. A good performance in Palo Alto could give this team the boost they sorely need to improve their win-loss record moving forward.