2012 Record: 11-2 (5-1 in WAC)
Head Coach: Ron Caragher (first year at SJSU, 44-22 at San Diego)
Last Bowl Game: 2012 Military Bowl: beat Bowling Green 29-20
Stadium: Spartan Stadium in San Jose, CA (capacity = 30,456)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 26th out of 55 mid-major teams
Conference Affiliation: moves to MWC for 2013 season
2013 Schedule Link
Out of Conference: 8/29 vs Sacramento State, 9/7 at Stanford, 9/21 at Minnesota, 11/22 vs Navy
Toughest Conference Home Games: 9/27 vs Utah State, 11/9 vs SDSU, 11/29 vs Fresno St
Toughest Conference Road Games: 11/16 at Nevada
2012 Statistics Link
Stat to Fear: lost 15 fumbles in 2012
Stat to Cheer: caused 32 turnovers in 2012 (1st in WAC), held opponents to 33.86% on third downs (2nd in WAC), had 42 sacks in 2012 (1st in WAC)
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 38th out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 7, Defense: 6, Special Teams: 2
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Keith Smith (97 tackles), LB Vince Buhagiar (89 tackles), DT Travis Raciti (8.5 sacks), CB Bene Benwikere (67 tackles, 7 INT)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB David Fales (4193 yds pass, 72.5% completions, 33 TD, 9 INT), WR Noel Grigsby (82 rec, 9 TD), WR Jabari Carr (62 rec), WR Chandler Jones (54 rec)
CFBZ: Ron Caragher comes to SJSU from the FCS San Diego Toreros where he went 44-22. What are your initial impressions of Caragher now that he's been in position for a few months?
SpartanBlitz.com: I want to avoid comparing Coach Caragher to Coach Mac without having played a down yet, but from what I've seen so far, Coach Caragher has been very aggressive in terms emphasizing the basics, much like Coach Mac did. Coach Caragher has emphasized that the offense starts with the offensive line. Whether you play FCS, FBS, NFL, CFL, or Pop Warner football, the offensive line will make or break your team. In a year where SJSU has the first Heisman Trophy QB candidate in recent memory, Coach Caragher needs to fortify his front five (3 of which are new starters). His players seem to be responding to the off-season workouts and many of them can't wait for the season to start. It reflects well on the coach when the players are excited to get the season started.
CFBZ: What are the biggest areas of opportunity on this team?
SpartanBlitz.com: Did I mention that SJSU has the first Heisman Trophy QB candidate in recent memory? David Fales will have the spotlight on him all season long, most notably at the Stanford game. Last year, he came within 20 yards of pulling off a stunning upset at Stanford, in his first start as a Spartan QB. This year, he must continue his highest in the nation completion percentage (72.8) with the help of his top 3 receivers: Chandler Jones, Noel Grigsby, and Jabarri Carr. Unfortunately, Fales lost his TE, Ryan Otten, to the NFL, but that only means that the TE position needs new leadership.
On the defensive side, Bene Benwikere steps up in his senior season to lead the secondary. Senior Vince Buhagiar leads the linebacking core, replacing NFL-bound Travis Johnson. Up on the front line, Anthony Larceval attempts to come back from a horrendous sickness that knocked him out of the bowl game last year for his final season, along with Travis Raciti, who will be looking to lead a very young DT line.
CFBZ: San Jose State makes the jump from the WAC to the Mountain West. What new conference foes are Spartans fans most looking forward to facing?
SpartanBlitz.com: This is an interesting question because many of the current Mountain West foes were old WAC foes that played SJSU just a couple of years ago. SJSU has always wanted to play Boise St because they currently do not have a single victory against them. The closest they have come was back in 2006 (the same year that Boise went undefeated and shocked Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl), when Boise had to kick a 40+ yard FG with 2 seconds left on the clock to beat SJSU. This year, while Boise isn't on their schedule, there is a chance that SJSU and Boise could meet in the inaugural MWC championship game.
SJSU also has Fresno St back on the schedule. Their natural rivalry has come back in recent years after several Fresno St dominations. Last time these two teams met, SJSU sent Fresno St to the MWC with a loss. The continuation of this rivalry this year will certainly be interesting.
CFBZ: What will make the 2013 season a success in your eyes?
SpartanBlitz.com: For the first time in many years, SJSU fans have high expectations of their team. Now, some might have called an 11-2 season against a watered-down WAC a fluke. The MWC certainly has increased-level competition and the Spartans will be playing much better teams. I believe success in 2013 boils down to three things:
1) Minimal/No injuries. All teams have to be on the lookout for the injury bug, but SJSU has to be careful with it this year, due to the very young defensive side. However, unlike in previous years SJSU has depth, giving the younger guys a chance to step up should the bug appear.
2) Continuation of David Fales' numbers. Fales' numbers last year were so impressive, he ended up getting weekly mentions on ESPN and other national media outlets. Those same media outlets expect him to compete for a Heisman trophy. While not trying to either give "homer" predictions, or dumping on the team, I think if Fales ends up in the Heisman discussion by the time late November comes around, it likely will be a successful season.
3) Competing for the MWC championship. I don't necessarily think they have to win the MWC in order for the season to be called a success, but I do think they have to at least be in the running for the championship game all the way up into the last week. The lowest this team could go without being called a failure is making another bowl game. Anything less than a bowl game, and Spartan fans everywhere will be very disappointed.
The Spartans lost only two games last year and those two teams combined to go 23-4. This year, the Spartans must replace their head coach and are moving to a tougher conference. Last year was no fluke as the Spartans took Stanford to the final bell and they beat some tough opponents like SDSU, BYU, Louisiana Tech and Bowling Green. The Spartans definitely have some positives on their side, such as David Fales and his returning targets at receiver. When you make a coaching change and lose somebody who led the team to such a profound turnaround, it's tough to know what impact that will have on the team when they hit the field in August.
SJSU drew a pretty good schedule in terms of the MWC as it definitely could have been more difficult. The biggest road game for the Spartans will be Nevada. By my count, they should be the sixth best team in the MWC so the Spartans have definitely drawn a favorable schedule. As mentioned in the Q&A they will not face Boise State. They also get Utah State, San Diego State and Fresno State at home. Will that be enough to propel them to the first ever Mountain West Conference Championship? Only time will tell, but I do believe they have a pretty good shot at it.
Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews:
C-USA- ECU, FAU, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulsa, Tulane, UAB, UTEP, UTSA
MAC- Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, EMU, Kent State, Miami (OH), Ohio, Toledo,UMass, WMU