Utah will head to San Jose this weekend for the first road game of the season. The Utes will take on Mountain West opponent San Jose State on Saturday at CEFCU Stadium under the lights with an 8:30 MT time start. The Utah offense has shown flashes of potential this season but has yet to put an entire game together. Looking ahead to Saturday's game, San Jose State provides a final opportunity for the Utah offense to get on track before the rigors of the Pac-12 slate.
The Spartans are coached by Ron Caragher now in his fourth season with SJSU. He came to San Jose in 2012, helping lead the program through its transition into the Mountain West and a bowl victory last season. Caragher is an offensive guy however, so the majority of defensive decisions fall to San Jose State defensive coordinator Ron English.
English is in his first season at SJSU, having last served as head coach at Eastern Michigan in 2013. English has a history as a great defensive coordinator having served in the position at Michigan under Lloyd Carr and then again at Louisville. He was a hot coaching commodity for a while, before Eastern Michigan fired him abruptly for a video that came out of him berating his players with expletives. San Jose State is English's opportunity to get back into football and the SJSU defense could really use his help.
The Spartan defense was awful last season ranking 102nd out of 128 teams. Despite this, the team still managed to sneak into a bowl game and win, mostly on the prowess of their offense. English has installed a 3-4 defensive scheme for 2016, but through two games this season, the defense hasn't performed particularily well, giving up 45 points to Tulsa in an opening season loss and 35 points to FCS opponent Portland State last week.
There is some talent on the defensive side of the ball. On the defensive line, senior defensive end Nick Oreglia has a forced fumble and a sack this year, while sophomore defensive tackles Owen Roberts and Bryson Bridges have combined for 21 tackles through two games. The matchup against a veteran Utah offensive line will be tough however as the defensive front has struggled through two games to provide much pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
At linebacker, sophomore Frank Ginda leads team with 21 tackles and has two sacks. He will be the main concern for Utah on the Spartans defensive front. Freshman Trevon Bierria also brings promise and athleticism with eight tackles and two TFLs and a forced fumble through the first two games this season.
The Spartan secondary has three interceptions on the season, all of them coming last week against Portland State. Starting cornerback Andree Chachere grabbed two of them and safety Dominic Barnes had one. The San Jose State secondary is not as ball hawking as BYU's from last week, but Troy Williams will need to improve on some of his throwing decisions or the Spartans will pick him off.
Overall this match up might be just what the doctor ordered for a Utah offense still finding themselves. Troy McCormick, Troy Williams and Tim Patrick have the potential to lead this year's offense to great things, but they need to put together a complete game where everything goes right and build some confidence heading into the conference schedule. The Spartan defense might be the worst defense Utah will see all season, so now is the time to iron out the kinks. The advantage Utah's offense line has against the SJSU defensive front should open lanes for Zack Moss and Troy McCormick to run through and give Williams time to make good decisions throwing the ball. Utah has an edge in overall talent and coaching in this match up, which should result in the Utah offense being able to put together a complete game.
Later this week we will take a look at San Jose State's talented quarterback Kenny Potter and the Spartan offense.