Best Mountain West Newcomer: San Jose State vs. Utah State
Any time there’s a new kid in school, everybody has to size up the new guy. Is this the type of kid that is going to get pushed around and stuffed into lockers? Or is it the guy that’s going to beat me up, take my milk money and steal my girlfriend?
The Mountain West has two new kids in school this year with San Jose State and Utah State coming over as refugees from the WAC. Unfortunately for the rest of the conference, the Spartans and Aggies both look like the milk-money-taking, girlfriend-stealing variety of new kid.
But what if the new kids decided to pick on each other? Who would win that fight?
Last year, USU traveled to San Jose and walked away with a convincing 49-27 victory. That head-to-head matchup decided the final WAC championship.
But that was last year, and with both teams adjusting to new head coaches, there are plenty of reasons to believe it will be anybody’s game when they meet Sept. 27.
The Case For San Jose State
If football truly has become a game of quarterbacks, San Jose State has a strong case. Senior David Fales has made it onto some of the early Heisman watch lists after throwing for more than 4,000 yards and leading the nation in completion percentage (72.5) in 2012. To say he’s one of the best players in the country isn’t hyperbole.
Fales can carry the team with his arm, which is good news, because the Spartans had a tough time running the ball last year, averaging only 113 yards per game. It will help that leading WR Noel Grigsby, who had 82 receptions for more than 1,300 yards last year, will be returning as well.
Defensively, the Spartans are solid. They return All-WAC defenders Bene Benwikere and Vince Buhagiar, both of whom have NFL talent.
New head coach Ron Caragher switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 alignment this season, but the defensive unit looked more than comfortable in their new scheme during spring ball.
The Case For Utah State
The only reason people haven’t thrown Chuckie Keeton into the discussion for best quarterback in the MWC is probably because he’s only entering his junior year. That being said, his sophomore campaign was impressive. Keeton threw for more than 3,300 yards with 27 touchdowns to only nine interceptions.
Unlike Fales, Keeton is a legitimate double threat. He was second on the team with 619 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in 2012. That kind of athleticism can ruin a day for an opposing defense.
The Aggies lost their leading rusher from last season in Kerwynn Williams, but junior Joey DeMartino looked ready to fill the role this spring, going for 100 yards on 16 carries in the annual scrimmage.
Even with all of its offensive talent, USU’s strength was its defense, which ranked seventh in the country in points allowed (15.4 per game).
Utah State wins all the milk money, but only because continuity is king when it comes to football. The Aggies have more returning starters and have fewer scheme changes to make with last year's offensive coordinator Matt Wells taking over the head coaching position.
Fales threw for 467 yards and no interceptions against the Aggies last season, so the blowout score is misleading, but for right now, Utah State gets the slight edge in the battle of the new kids.