Six things to know about Utah State’s football matchup with San Jose State – Cache Valley Daily

Photo by Lorene Hale

LOGAN – The end of the year is nigh, although the Aggies are desperate to extend it by one game. With a win on Saturday, Utah State could turn what is looking like a 12-game season into a 13-game one. USU IS mathematically out of the race for any Mountain West division title or even a share of it. So all of the focus now turns to reaching a bowl game. The Aggies will get two shots at a sixth win. Can they get it?

Game Info

  • Kickoff: 7:45 p.m. MT
  • Location: Merlin Olsen Field | Logan, Utah
  • TV Broadcast: FS1
  • Aggie GameDay Coverage on KVNU (102.1 FM/610 AM & KVNU mobile app) & simulcast on 106.9 The FAN (106.9 FM / 1390 AM & 106.9 The FAN mobile app): 6:15 p.m. MT
  • KVNU Aggie Call (102.1 FM/610 AM, KVNU mobile app + 106.9 FM / 1390 AM The FAN, 106.9 The FAN mobile app): Immediately after game ends

Senior day for 10 players

Eligibility and just exactly who is a senior can be complicated with COVID years still available for plenty of players. But according to Utah State there are 10 players who will be honored on senior day as playing their final game on Merlin Olsen Field – quarterback Logan Bonner; running back Calvin Tyler Jr.; wide receivers Brian Cobbs and Justin McGriff; offensive linemen Chandler Dolphin, Alfred Edwards and Jacob South; defensive backs Andre Grayson and Hunter Reynolds; and, placekicker Connor Coles.

There are 20 total players listed as either seniors or graduates, but only those 10 are set to end their careers. Some have truly exhausted their eligibility, such as Logan Bonner who’s spent seven seasons playing college ball. Others, such as Jacob South, do have eligibility but have elected to move on with their new families and post-playing careers.

“They’ve been phenomenal,” USU head coach Blake Anderson said. “They helped us win a championship a year ago. They fought through 1-4 to put us in a position here down the stretch to be bowl eligible. They’ve been through a lot. Some of these guys have been through two other head coaches including myself. To have three head coaches in your collegiate career, that’s not easy. That’s a lot of transition. A lot of new. A lot of new personalities. And they’ve just continued to come to work every day.”

Statistically the best shot at bowl eligibility

Don’t ever tell a team the odds but this is essentially the best shot Utah State has of becoming bowl eligible this season and extending USU’s run of bowl appearances to 10 times in the last 12 seasons. Utah State opened as three-point underdogs to San Jose State in the sports books and ESPN’s matchup predictor has the Spartans as 61.0 percent favorites. The final regular season game features even lower odds. Sportsbooks haven’t posted betting spreads, but ESPN’s matchup predictor currently has Boise State as a 90.9 percent favorite to win the Nov. 25 matchup.

The team has been very open about what it would mean to make a bowl game in this season given all that’s happened. But right now the odds are against them and few seem to believe it will happen. Out of 10 college football bowl projections from outlets including ESPN, CBS Sports, Athlon Sports and more, only one projects Utah State among the 41 bowls games this upcoming bowl season.

Luckily for Utah State, all it takes is one win to flip that number completely on its head.

The SJSU offense goes through Cordeiro

Quarterbacks touch the ball on every play, but that doesn’t always mean the offense rolls exclusively through them. But the Spartans are a team that ranks 31st in passing offense and 128th in rushing offense. San Jose State passes the ball a lot and runs the ball fairly little, ranking 130th in total rush attempts and 31st in pass attempts. SJSU quarterback Chevan Cordeiro is naturally the most important offensive player on the team.

“They’ve got a quarterback who’s extremely mobile,” Anderson said. “Very gifted at creating and it’s hard to get a bead on him and get to him.”

Cordeiro leads the Mountain West with 2,420 passing yards, has completed 59.9 percent of his passes and has 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions. And if you think 14 passing TDs is low for an exclusively passing team, well Cordeiro has proven perfectly comfortable scrambling for touchdowns. He has eight rushing scores on the season.

Rushing the ball is actually another way that shows how much Cordeiro is the engine of the offense. Raw stats have him at just 181 rushing yards on the season, but negative yards on sacks have brought his rushing total way down. Exclude the 254 yards he’s lost via sacks and Cordeiro’s net rushing total is 435, nearly as much as the team’s rushing leader, Kairee Robinson.

Utah State needs to be at its best in pass protection

As touched on earlier, San Jose State allows a lot of sacks and it’s hurt its offense, in particular Cordeiro’s rushing stats. But its not just SJSU’s quarterback that goes down during Spartan games. The other QB usually gets the same treatment. Cordeiro may go down 3.8 times per game but the opposing quarterback goes down 3.6 times per game. SJSU ranks third in the nation at getting sacks.

“They’re really, really good up on the front,” Anderson said. “Their defensive front creates all kind of chaos in the backfield.”

Utah State just came off a game where it allowed four sacks to Hawaii. Prior to last Saturday, the Rainbow Warriors ranked 129th in team sacks (0.9 per game) so the fact the Aggies gave up so many is a big red flag. And it wasn’t just the offensive line playing poorly at times. Both Anderson and Legas noted that several of those sacks were Legas’ fault.

“Honestly, I think probably more than half the sacks for Hawaii were my fault. Just holding the ball too long or pulling it when I shouldn’t have,” Legas said. “I think it was a good learning opportunity for me just knowing when I need to hit the check down or when I have to hit the hot route. Just being more aware of the pressure.”

“He had two flat-out mistakes on his part where he’s got to get rid of the ball,” Anderson said. “Those are things that (are) experience for him. He’s gonna learn from those mistakes.”

Tale of turnovers

A huge factor in Utah State’s previous two wins was not turning the ball over. The Aggies had 17 turnovers in a six-game stretch (2.8 per game) and they unsurprisingly went 2-4 in those games. Against New Mexico and Hawaii, USU had zero turnovers. At all. Not only that, but the Aggies forced six combined turnovers. So it’s unsurprising that they went 2-0 in those matchups.

San Jose State hasn’t had an issue all year when it comes to turnovers with just five giveaways all year. The only issue you could say the Spartans have is they’ve had at least one turnover in each of the last four games. But they’ve never had more than one in a single game (the Aggies have had five games with two or more giveaways).

“We cannot turn the ball over and expect to win against these guys,” Anderson said. “We’ve seen that in the past, earlier this year where it killed us. We can’t have that. Proud that we’ve done better but the job’s not done yet.”

Milestone watch for Tyler Jr. and Cobbs

Calvin Tyler Jr. is back on track to becoming the first Aggie since Darwin Thompson in 2018 to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in a season. He stumbled slightly in this race with the mere 23 yards against New Mexico (granted he was taken out of that game in the second quarter so it’s not like it was his entirely his fault) but he’s very much still on pace. With 853 yards – which ranks 33rd in the country – and an average of 85.3 per game, Tyler should reach 1,000 yards sometime during the Boise State game. If he got 147 yards against San Jose State he’d cross that mark this Saturday.

Brian Cobbs leads the Aggie pass-catchers with 53 receptions, 647 yards and four touchdowns. If he stays on his current per-game pace, he’d join Deven Thompkins, Hunter Sharp, Siaosi Mariner, Aaron Jones and Kevin Curtis as the only Aggies since 2000 to have at least 50 catches and 750-plus receiving yards.

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