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What you need to know: BYU vs San Jose State Preview

BYU will travel to take on a foe that has a winning record against the Cougars.

Tyler Ervin will lead the Spartans rushing attack against the Cougars
Tyler Ervin will lead the Spartans rushing attack against the Cougars
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The History

The series between the BYU Cougars and the San Jose State Spartans goes back to 1946. The teams have met 16 times with the Spartans holding a 10-6 lead in the win column. In fact, the Cougars lost the first eight meetings between the schools but has won six of the last eight. The last two games took place in 2011 and 2012 with the teams splitting the series, each winning in their own stadium. Even though the Cougars are on the short end regarding wins, the Cougars are averaging almost two points more per game over the entire series.

San Jose, CA 2012 (20-14)

The Spartans came out of the gate early against the Cougars and scored on their first three possessions. A 51 yard touchdown pass started the scoring and after a blocked extra point the Spartans led 6-0. BYU would respond with a 16 yard touchdown run by Jamaal Williams and a 7-6 lead. The Spartans would score the next two touchdowns on passes to take a 20-7 lead, and the lead would hold up until late in the fourth quarter. With just under three minutes in the game the Cougars scored on a 20 yard pass from Riley Nelson to David Foote. The Cougars had one last chance to win the game but with just over a minute to go, and at the Spartans 21 yard line, a sack and fumble ended the comeback as San Jose State held on for the 20-14 win.

Provo, UT 2011 (29-16)

In the Cougars 2011 homecoming game, BYU used a balanced attack to beat the Spartans.  The Cougars gained 224 rushing yards to go along with their 219 passing yards. The scoring started with a high snap out of the endzone by the Spartans that gave BYU a 2-0 lead. On the ensuing Cougar drive Nelson found Richard Wilson for a 21 yard touchdown and a 9-0 lead. After a Spartans field goal the Cougars once again found the endzone through the air as Bryan Kariya caught a one yard touchdown pass and a 16-3 lead. After a Kyle Van Noy interception the Cougars scored on a 40 yard deep ball to McKay Jacobson. The Spartans would cut into the lead with another field goal just before the half, giving the Cougars a 23-6 halftime lead. In the third quarter the Spartans drove 96 yards and ended the series with a one yard touchdown run to pull within 10. BYU would tack on two field goals to the Spartans one as the game ended with a 29-16 Cougars win.

The Outlook

The Cougars are coming off a bye week and should be close to full strength for the home stretch of the season. The offense is moving the ball and scoring points while the defense is doing their part to keep the wins coming. With the Spartans sitting at 4-4 on the year, BYU should take control early and end the game with their seventh win of the year.

The Positives

The last time the Cougars played they faced off against an FCS team that was not very good. However, even with less talent on the field the Cougars scored at will and on almost every possession of the game. Of course the only one that complained about that is punter Johnny Linehan as he suited up in order to sit on the bench for three hours. The Cougars looked sharp regardless of who was in the game, giving some young players a chance to see live action.

The Negatives

Perhaps the only negative to come from this game was the collision between Algernon Brown and "George Q" Cannon that sits in the northeast endzone. The cannon won and sent Brown off the field for the rest of the game, but he should be fine for the game on Friday. The Cougars defense did allow one touchdown to the Seahawks, but overall the team accomplished all it needed to in the game.

The Match-up

The key match-up in this game could come down to the Cougars ability to stop the Spartans running game. The Spartans have had at least 100 yards rushing in every game with exception to the SDSU game. Three times this year they have broken the 280 yard mark in rushing, including their last game where they finished with 317 yards on the ground. The Cougars have been a bit susceptible at times to the running game and so the defensive front seven will need to make sure they are up for the challenge and force the Spartans to move away from their offensive strength.

The Keys to Watch

When the Spartans have the ball:

Watch for the Spartans to rely on their senior running back Tyler Ervin. Ervin has carried the ball almost 200 times for a total of 1159 yards on the year. He is averaging six yards a carry and has 12 touchdowns. The next runner on the team is their current quarterback Kenny Potter who has 40 rushes. The quarterback situation has been fluid for the Spartans this year as Potter shared time with Joe Gray to start the year and has taken over the starting role in the last few games. He is hitting his passes at a clip of almost 68 percent but has thrown four interceptions to only five touchdowns. Watch for the Spartans to spread the ball around as they have five players with at least 20 catches on the year, and two with 30 or more. Their leading receiver is Tyler Winston but was lost for the season after an injury so the Spartans will need to find a way to replace his 10 yards per reception average and two touchdowns. Ervin is second in receptions but Billy Freeman leads the receivers now in yards and also has four touchdowns so watch for him to get a few more targets in this game.

Watch for the Cougars to focus on stopping Ervin and making the Spartans throw the ball more than they would like. As the Cougars defensive front stuffs the Spartans run game, the secondary can then mix their coverages in order to confuse Potter and turn rushed throws into turnovers. Watch for the Cougars to mix in a number of blitzes that will put even more pressure on the Spartans and require them to keep the running backs in the backfield to block the likes of Bronson Kaufusi.

When the Cougars have the ball:

Watch for the Cougars to rush the ball as much as they can. With Brown healthy, and a possible Adam Hine ready to play, the Cougars should have no problem running on the 115th ranked rushing defense. Although the Cougars will do damage on the ground, don't expect the Cougars to under utilize Tanner Mangum and his big receivers. With size on the outside, the Cougars should have success through the air as well, and should end up with a balanced offense that could doom the Spartans early.

Watch for the Spartans to do everything they can to cause turnovers. They haven't been effective this year in that area as they have only created eight turnovers this year. If they can get a few balls to bounce their way it may be enough to give the defense the confidence to get to Mangum and throw a hitch in the Cougars offense.

Interesting Tidbit

The Spartans have played in their current stadium, Spartan Stadium, since 1933. Currently the stadium sits just over 30,000 after a stadium upgrade in the 1980's increased the capacity from 18,000. The field was natural grass up until 2009 but is now a FieldTurf surface. The stadium is used for more than just football games as the stadium holds concerts, soccer, high school football games, band competitions, and their annual commencement ceremony. Spartan Stadium is truly a multi-purpose facility for the city of San Jose. For more details on the stadium you can check out the Spartan Media Guide.

Next Meeting

The next scheduled meeting between the Cougars and the Spartans is scheduled for October 28th, 2017.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 9:30 pm MDT

Where: Spartan Stadium-San Jose, CA

TV: CBSSN

Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143

Listen Live via Internet(KSL): Click Here