San Jose State (1-1) at Minnesota (2-1) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: TCF Bank Stadium (50,805) -- Minneapolis, Minnesota. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: SJSU 1-0, Minnesota 2-0. Away Record: SJSU 0-1, Minnesota 0-1. Neutral Record: SJSU 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Conference Record: SJSU 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Series Record: Minnesota leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: Following an early break in the 2014 schedule, the San Jose State Spartans head back to the football field this weekend as they clash with the Minnesota Golden Gophers in non-conference action at TCF Bank Stadium.
San Jose State made a splash during the first week of the campaign with a 42-10 romp over North Dakota at home, but then had to head out on the road to face fifth-ranked Auburn. As expected, the Spartans more than had their hands full as they suffered the 59-13 setback. Luckily, SJSU had some extra time built into the schedule to get over the shock and regroup.
As for the Golden Gophers, they were served up a couple of softballs in the first two weeks of the season and used the opportunity to tackle both Eastern Illinois (42-20) and Middle Tennessee (35-24) at home. However, last weekend the team hit the road for the first time and was promptly crushed by TCU in Texas, 30-7.
Last year, the Gophers captured a 43-24 victory at home over San Jose State, which means Minnesota has now won two of three meetings in the series.
Against the Tigers in their last outing, the Spartans actually tied the score in the first quarter with a 75-yards touchdown pass from Blake Jurich to Tyler Ervin, but from there the hosts ripped off four consecutive touchdowns and never looked back. While under center, Jurich hit 16-of-27 passes for 218 yards, but was picked off twice and sacked four times. The quarterback did manage to place third on the team with 20 rushing yards, but as a group SJSU finished with a mere 65 yards on 45 attempts.
Giving up touchdowns on five straight possessions early in the game and a total of eight times overall, it was clear that the SJSU defense was nowhere near up to the task of trying to hold down the Tigers. The Spartans did manage to come away with a couple of fumble recoveries, one by Simon Connette who was also credited with a forced fumble during the rout. Christian Tago logged a game-high 11 tackles.
The sample size for the Spartans is still a bit sparse, but after two games Jurich is carrying the group with 234.0 ypg through the air, leading to four scores and just two INTs on 52 attempts. He has converted 73.1 percent of his throws, with Tyler Winston being his favorite target with 15 catches for 146 yards and two TDs.
On the ground, the SJSU offense is ailing. The group, led by Thomas Tucker who ran for 81 yards on 20 carries in one game, is averaging just 107.5 ypg and is being held to a paltry 2.5 yards per attempt.
On the other side of the ball, the run defense is giving up 238.0 ypg, mostly due to effort against Auburn. While the Spartans rank ninth in the country with only 130.5 ypg allowed through the air, it is clear that there are other holes that need to be filled before they can begin to even think about tooting their own horns in that department.
Worth noting, SJSU is averaging only 24.3 yards per punt, ranking the squad 125th in the FBS, yet with 36.5 yards per punt return, the Spartans are at the other end of the spectrum, sitting first in the country at the moment.
After giving up a combined 44 points in the first two games, the Minnesota defense was caught off guard by TCU which put up 30, and at the same time limited the Gophers to only a single touchdown during their meeting in Fort Worth last weekend.
Minnesota was shut out until the 10:56 mark of the fourth quarter when Chris Streveler hit Maxx Williams with a 12-yard TD pass, capping an 11-play, 70- yard drive that took close to six minutes off the clock. Streveler, who came on in relief of Mitch Leidner (151 yards and three interceptions), converted 2-of-3 passes for 18 yards and the lone score for the visitors. Streveler also carried the ball seven times to account for 33 net yards, second-most for the Gophers.
Defensively, the Gophers allowed the hosts just 25:35 possession time and limited TCU to a mere 2-of-12 success on third down, but at the same time Minnesota was just 3-of-16 in similar situations.
The bad news for the Golden Gophers has Leidner, who also lost a fumble at TCU, listed as questionable for the game this weekend due to a knee injury. Should Leidner be on the sidelines, even more pressure will be placed on running back David Cobb who is one of the nation's top ground gainers with 332 yards on 58 attempts, although he has scored just two times.
Even if Leidner is able to return, the Spartans are more than aware of the fact that the Gophers are not much of a passing team these days, averaging only 130.7 ypg to rank 117th in the country. Unfortunately for SJSU, that may work against it since the Spartans can't seem to slow down opposing runners right now.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Minnesota 27, San Jose State 21Game Date and Time
Saturday, September 20, 4 p.m. (ET).