Auburn vs San Jose State Game Day Prediction


Aug 30, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Jeremy Johnson (6) and Auburn Tigers wide receiver Melvin Ray (82) celebrate after their first touchdown against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

After a long off-season, the Auburn Tigers finally kicked off their defense of the 2013 SEC Championship with a 45-21 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks. Two days earlier across the country, the San Jose State Spartans began their quest for bowl eligibility with an easy 42-10 win at home against North Dakota.

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Auburn and San Jose State are very different programs. The Tigers played for the national championship last season, and are on the short list of candidates expected to debut in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

The Spartans, an 11-2 co-champion of the WAC in 2012, won six games last season. The final contest was a dramatic 62-52 victory over a previously undefeated Fresno State Bulldogs team, which broke a streak of 21 straight losses to ranked opponents. However, it wasn’t enough to impress bowl game executives to send SJSU to the tenth post-season appearance in school history.

Head coach Ron Caragher is in his second season in charge at SJSU. Caragher was hired away from the University of San Diego following a six-year stint as the head coach of the Toreros (he followed Jim Harbaugh when the current San Francisco 49ers head coach left for Stanford).

At USD, Caragher had a 44-22 record, including a 34-13 mark in the Pioneer Football League. He guided the Toreros to a share of the conference championship in 2007, 2011 and 2012. Prior to his time at San Diego, Caragher was an assistant coach at Kentucky from 2003-2006, and at UCLA (his alma mater) from 1994-2002. As a player at UCLA, Caragher was a backup quarterback to NFL Hall of Famer Troy Aikman.

Caragher’s offensive coordinator is Jimmie Daugherty, who helped guide the Spartans to a top-15 ranking in total offense in 2013. San Jose State averaged 355.9 passing yards per game last season, which was sixth in the FBS, and the Spartans scored an average of 32.4 points per game with Daugherty calling the plays.

August 28, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose State Spartans head coach Ron Caragher celebrates against the North Dakota Fighting Sioux during the fourth quarter at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Fighting Sioux 42-10. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, quarterback David Fales completed 312 of 487 passes for 4,189 yards and 33 touchdowns and had 13 interceptions. Unfortunately for SJSU, Fales is now a member of the Chicago Bears after setting the school’s career passing record in just two seasons.

His replacement, Blake Jurich, attempted only six passes all season. However, Jurich shined in his first career start last week. The fifth year senior was 22-of-25 passing for 250 yards and three scores.

Jurich’s top target was sophomore receiver Tyler Winston, who caught ten passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Winston earned the 2013 Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year Award last season for his 58 receptions, 858 and five scores.

Expect Jurich and Winston to give the Spartans a chance on offense, along with tight end Billy Freeman, receiver Tyler Ervin and running back Thomas Tucker. However, a young offensive line that returns only two 2013 starters with a combined 23 career starts prior to last week’s season opener, will have its hands full with a hungry Auburn defense.

Longtime NFL and college defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, who was also the head coach at Syracuse, is in his first season at San Jose State. Robinson won two Super Bowl rings with the Denver Broncos, and led the defenses of the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Texas Longhorns and Michigan Wolverines. He has implemented a 4-3 defense this season after the Spartans played a 3-4 base in 2013.

That 3-4 defense was a major issue for San Jose State last season, and a prime reason that SJSU lost six games a year ago. The Spartans allowed 35.1 points per game last season, as well as 459 yards of total offense and 215 rushing yards per contest.

There is talent on the San Jose State defense. Defensive tackle Travis Raciti may have a professional career awaiting him after this season, and Christian Tago and Vince Buhagiar are very active linebackers. The switch to the 4-3 and the veteran presence of Robinson should help SJSU improve. But, it won’t matter against Auburn.

The Tigers enter the game as one of the most explosive offensive teams in all of college football. Quarterback Nick Marshall is a Heisman Trophy candidate and will be on the field at the beginning of the game this week after seeing action only during the second half against Arkansas.

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  • Marshall is a true dual threat, and along with senior running backs Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne, gives the Tigers one of the nation’s top rushing attacks. But, of course, Auburn is no one trick pony. Receiver Sammie Coates led the country in yards per catch in 2013, and D’haquille Williams proved last week why he was considered to be the best junior college prospect in the land.

    Head coach Gus Malzahn directed the offense to 595 total yards against Arkansas last week, and the Hogs are team with much more talent on defense than San Jose State. Auburn even milked the clock in the fourth quarter.

    Against the Spartans, the Auburn offensive line holds a 40-pound weight advantage over the starters on the D-Line, and simply put, they are much more talented. The Spartans lack SEC depth up front and will struggle to stay fresh against Malzahn’s hurry up no huddle attack. Among our bold predictions this week is that Auburn will score 60 points and set a new single-game rushing record.

    Auburn’s defense also holds a huge talent edge over the Spartans, particularly up front. The Tigers gained confidence in the second half last week in a dominating shutout performance against the Razorbacks.

    When the dust settles, the scoreboard will read something in the neighborhood of “a lot to a little.” Auburn is too big, too strong and too Auburn fast for the Spartans. The Tigers will make a statement tonight.

    Auburn 62, San Jose State 17

    Staff Predictions:

    Nathan Deal: This game shouldn’t prove too difficult for the Tigers. SJSU QB Blake Jurich is making his first road start in college football. The game’s in (a shockingly sold-out) Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn’s offense has way too many weapons for the Spartans defense and the Tigers’ defense should have a solid day. Auburn gains over 650 yards of offense (including 400 on the ground) and rolls to an easy win.

    Auburn 63, San Jose State 14

    Read Nathan’s full preview here.

    Todd Duvall: I think Gus will take it easy on them since they don’t need the points like they did in the BCS. Besides, it’s a little early for the Homecoming game isn’t it? Ha.

    Auburn 49, San Jose State 6

    Read Todd’s first Fly War Eagle column here.