Previously: Week 1 — Texas Longhorns vs. Maryland Terrapins Preview
Texas Longhorns football will face two California teams in September, and let’s be honest -- San Jose State isn’t the one ‘Horns fans are most anticipating.
True, Texas’ week three game against USC will be a high-stakes litmus test of how good Tom Herman’s team can be in 2017. The Longhorns, however, need to take two must-win games first.
Burnt Orange Nation’s Cody Daniel has already broken down Texas’ week one match-up against Maryland. No Big 10 team is a cakewalk (okay, except maybe Rutgers), but the ‘Horns should be able to take the Terrapins down with some ease.
San Jose State should be even more of a tune-up game for Texas, as the Spartans finished only 4-8 last year.
Like Texas, San Jose State has hired a new young coach to take the reigns for the football program. Brent Brennan, former wide receivers coach at Oregon State, will enter his first season as a head coach at any level.
Look for SJSU to play an uptempo style of offense under new offensive coordinator Andrew Sowder. Even last year, the Spartans had the ability to light up the scoreboard, as the team put up 66 points against Portland State.
If the Spartans are going to test the ‘Horns, it will likely be through the ground. San Jose State will return leading rusher Malik Johnson, who averaged 5.1 yards-per-carry in 99 attempts. The junior notched 508 yards and two touchdowns on the year.
The Spartans are also bringing back redshirt sophomore Zamore Zigler. Zigler gained 423 yards on 5.4 yards-per-carry in his first season in 2016.
The quarterback situation for the Mountain West program is a little murkier.
The Spartans are losing senior Kenny Potter, who threw for 2,273 yards and 16 touchdowns with a 59.6% completion percentage in 2016.
In 2017, San Jose State will likely roll with redshirt sophomore Josh Love. Love appeared in all 12 games for SJSU last season, but did not enjoy the same success that Potter did. Love, a former walk-on, was 31-of-60 passing and threw for two touchdowns and five interceptions.
Don’t be surprised if redshirt freshman Montel Aaron is the starting signal caller against the Longhorns. Aaron is currently in a position battle with Love and was 6-13 with 202 yards in the spring game. He also added four rushes for 30 yards in the game.
Even though the quarterback situation is less than ideal, the Spartans will return solid receivers from 2016. SJSU is losing leading graduated receiver Tim Crawley, who notched team highs in receptions (55) and yards (648).
The Spartans will, however, have a playmaker at receiver in redshirt junior Justin Holmes. Holmes amassed 613 yards in 39 receptions in 2016, and also added three touchdowns.
Fellow redshirt junior Tre Hartley should also be a go-to option for San Jose State. Hartley notched 572 yards in 33 receptions and scored a team-high four touchdowns in 2016.
This game could be crucial for helping the confidence of Texas’ somewhat inexperienced defensive line leading up to USC. San Jose State gave up a nation worst 50 sacks a season ago (Maryland was second worst in the nation with 49 sacks allowed.)
With some experience returning and a different style of play being implemented, SJSU’s offensive line likely will resemble swiss cheese a little bit less in 2017. Still, look for the ‘Horns to get to the QB early and add to the sack and tackle for loss column in the stat sheet.
The Spartans aren’t bottom dwellers on defense, but the team is far from good. San Jose State was No. 88 in the nation in total defense in 2016, giving up 435.3 yards-per-game and a poor 6.48 yards-per-play.
SJSU has very solid pass defense, and the Trojans will be returning four starters in the secondary. The Spartans were No. 19 in the nation in pass defense, allowing only 188.6 yards-per-game. The secondary also had 10 interceptions.
Though SJSU may test Shane Buechele, the sophomore will be one of the best QBs the Spartans face on the year. With a year of experience under his belt, Buechele should be able to overpower the Spartans by getting it to his variety of weapons at receiver.
Additionally, Chris Warren and the Texas running back corps should be able to pick apart San Jose State’s porous rush defense. The Spartans were No. 122 in the nation in rushing yards allowed a season ago, giving up an average of 246.7 yards-per-game.
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With a new coach, San Jose State could be in rebuild mode or could improve off of a 4-8 record with some experience returning on both sides of the ball.
The ‘Horns may be able to learn about SJSU’s ceiling after scouting the Spartans’ first two games. Brennan’s club will be facing Charlie Strong’s USF team in week one, and will then face Cal Poly before taking on Texas.
San Jose State has a strong secondary and a formidable rushing attack, but neither strength should make up for the team’s weak rushing defense and horrendous offensive line.
Texas has too many weapons for this one to be close — SJSU may be able to hang with the ‘Horns for a quarter at most, but Texas’ starters should be out of the game by half time in this one.
Texas will host San Jose State on September 9 at 2:30 pm CST at Darrel K. Royal-Memorial Stadium.