The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. We’ll take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Today at No. 76: San Jose State
Coach: Mike MacIntyre (6-19, entering third season)
2011 record: 5-7 (4-4 in Western Athletic Conference, tied for fourth in WAC)
Look back: San Jose State opened the 2011 season with three losses, including a 57-3 loss at Andrew Luck-led Stanford, a 27-17 loss at UCLA and a 17-14 loss to Nevada. The team bounced back to win three of its next four games, beating New Mexico state 34-24, beating Colorado State 38-31 on the road, losing 29-16 at BYU and beating Hawai’i 28-27.
The team would lose three of its final five games, falling 38-28 at Louisiana Tech, 32-29 against Idaho and 34-33 at Utah State. The final two narrow losses were especially painful and prevented San Jose State from earning six wins and becoming bowl eligible.
San Jose State claimed a 22-10 halftime lead against Idaho, but the Vandals scored 22 points in the fourth quarter to claim the win. San Jose State QB Matt Faulkner connected with TE Ryan Otten for a touchdown that made the score 32-29 with 1:49 left in the game. However, the Spartans couldn’t recover an on-side kick and Idaho ran out the clock.
The next week, San Jose State had a 20-7 halftime lead over Utah State and pushed their advantage to 33-21 with 8:21 left in the fourth quarter. However, Utah State scored a pair of quick touchdowns in the final 5:19 of the game. San Jose State got hte ball back with 47 seconds remaining. The Aztecs’ offense stalled midfield and Harrison Waid’s 67-yard field goal attempt as time expired was blocked at the line of scrimmage.
Depsite being assured of a losing season, San Jose State closed out the regular season with two wins. The Spartans earned a 27-24 win over Navy and a 27-24 win at Fresno State.
Offensive starters lost/returning: 5/6
Defensive starters lost/returning: 7/4
Key losses: DB Duke Ihenacho, RB Brandon Rutley, OL Fred Koloto, CB Peyton Thompson, FB/DE Mohamed Marah, CB Brandon Driver, QB Matt Faulkner.
Top returnees: TE Ryan Otten, DL Travis Johnson, WR Noel Grigsby, OL David Quessenberry, LB Keith Smith, RB De’Leon Eskridge, OL Nicholas Kaspar, WR Jabari Carr, DT Anthony Larceval, CB Ronnie Yell.
Strengths: The team returns strong leaders on both sides of the ball, including tight end Ryan Otten, receiver Noel Grigsby, offensive line David Quessenberry and defensive lineman Travis Johnson. Otten and Grisby contribute to a strong rotation of receiving threats. Grisby ranked 12th nationally with 7.42 receptions per game. San Jose State ranked No. 23 naitonally in passing offense, with the team averaging 276.83 yard per game. Johnson was a playmaker for the San Jose State defense, tying for No. 10 nationally with 0.79 sacks per game and No. 29 with 1.29 tackles for a loss.
The team got some positive news off the field. San Jose State accepted an invitation to join the Mountain West Conference, a huge step for the program away from the struggling Western Athletic Conference. The Spartans should be able to use the platform to recruit talent and earn more television revenue. More important, San Jose State has stability that teams still stuck in the WAC, including New Mexico State and Idaho, envy right now.
Weaknesses: Former Michigan QB Tate Forcier was enrolled at San Jose State and expected to compete for the starting quarterback job. Forcier withdrew from school and will not be leading he Spartans’ offense. San Jose State boasts a talented group of receivers and Forcier had the skills to lead an explosive offense. However, coach Mike MacIntyre insists the other quarterbacks on the roster are capable of putting up big numbers. Dasmen Stewart, Blake Jurich and David Fales all competed for the starting job during spring practice. Fales, a junior college transfer, shined in the spring game and will likely earn the starting job. While he’s probably a solid starter, he will still be in his first season leading the San Jose State offense and those sorts of transitions don’t always go smoothly.
San Jose State loses most of its defensive line. While the the defense didn’t exactly put up dazzling numbers – ranking No. 93 out of 120 teams in scoring defense by allowing 425.67 yards of total offense per game – experience on the field is invaluable.
Outlook: San Jose State has to fill some holes at key positions, including quarterback, and close out games better defensively to finish the 2012 season bowl eligible.
Sept. 1 At Stanford
Sept. 8 UC-Davis
Sept. 15 Colorado State
Sept. 22 At San Diego State
Sept. 29 At Navy
Oct. 13 Utah State
Oct. 20 At UTSA
Oct. 27 Texas State
Nov. 3 At Idaho
Nov. 10 At New Mexico State
Nov. 17 BYU
Nov. 24 Louisiana Tech
Rest of the countdown: