Thursday, November 30, 2006

For the first time this year, I can honestly say I'm disappointed with the coverage local media has so far showed the Spartans heading into what I have called their biggest game of the season.

It's now Thursday, and the Merc has done nothing beyond their normal press-conference style coverage. That's not to say we've been ignored, as they noted Dwight Lowery's selection to the All-America team, but there's been hardly anything written about this week's game.

Maybe I've overplayed the importance, but the normal purveyors of hype, aka columnists, should be on this thing. I'm sure they'll give us a courtesy column in Friday or Saturday's paper, but that won't drive ticket sales or the weeklong attention this game deserves.

Let me reiterate: This is the BIGGEST GAME OF THE YEAR, maybe even bigger than our bowl date with New Mexico. Here's a few reasons why:
1. If for no other reason, it re-energizes our fanbase. An exciting win could very possibly encourage 3,000-5,000 more people to get on the bandwagon and attend the New Mexico game. At the very least, it could translate into a similar number of season tickets for next year.
2. It plays wonders with recruits. Face it, we recruit directly against fresno State more than other school. Right now, Pat Hill and his down's syndrom mustache can walk into a recruits house and just put this on the table: "You can play for us, or get beat every year by us. Which do you prefer?" No one likes those odds.
3. It guarantees us eight wins. Worse-case scenario if we win on Saturday 8-5. 8-5 just has a much better ring to it than 7-6, especially considering one of our wins came against a Division I-AA school.
4. It would guarantee at least one legit victory. As it stands now, this is who we've beat: Stanford (1-10), San Diego State (2-9), Cal-Poly SLO (7-4, but Division I-AA), Utah State (1-11), New Mexico State (3-8), Louisiana Tech (3-9) and Idaho (4-8); not exactly a murder's row. Granted, Fresno State would only be 4-8 if we beat them, but that's a decent team, no matter what their record says. I don't think we can say that about any of these other teams.
5. BRAGGIN RIGHTS. Alumni want to be able to rub football victories in each other's faces and for 16 years, SJSU alums have been unable to do that with their Fresno State co-workers, friends and relatives. We can take the verbal jousting from the likes of Stanford, Cal and maybe even the other UCs, but not from people at Fresno for god's sake. Right now, football is about all they have over us, but they have it in such a way that it almost negates our ability to brag about anything else. THEY WENT TO SCHOOL IN FRESNO! Let's remind them.

First step to victory is not letting this guy break the record.

Oh, and our basketball team is

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

We're going to Albuquerque. I guess I'm excited, although the fact that the Poinsettia Bowl picked Northern Illinois basically tells me we could have gone there even if Boise State was going to the Fiesta Bowl. Still, that means an extra $700,000 in our coffers, so that's not a bad thing.

And the more I think about it, maybe going to New Mexico isn't so bad afterall. For one, that's an extra week of practice, for whatever that's worth. I suppose we also get slightly better exposure, since the New Mexico Bowl is on ESPN, while the Poinsettia is on the Ocho (ESPN2, actually). And there definitely was the potential that a SJSU-TCU game played on Dec. 19 in San Diego would have been close to empty, which would have been a little embarrassing. Plus, I suppose there's a reason this is the first game of the bowl season ...

The New Mexico folk are at least saying they are excited to have us.

Just for fun, here's the Spartan Daily's take on the news.

There's also this little nugget: This means SJSU is playing in a bowl outside of California for the first time in its history. I'm not sure how significant that is, by John Ryan of the Mercury News draws some interesting comparisons between Rutgers and San Jose State. For those who don't know, Rutgers will be playing in its first BCS game one year after playing in its first out-of-state bowl game. The article does a good job of drawing some comparisons.

But the size of the student body and relative lack of success that the two football programs have had is hardly a fair comparison, since I'm sure there are plenty of other public schools with big student populations that have had far more success and others that have continued to stink despite the administrations' best efforts.

One thing that is relatively similar is the conference the two teams play in. While one has a BCS tie-in (the Big East), neither is much of a powerhouse and is really only three or four teams deep. This is huge because it allows the Spartans and Knights to pad their records a bit without having to play soft non-conference schedules, although SJSU certainly did this year.

I've always thought that with the right coach, SJSU could be a competitive program. With Tim Bowen and Don Kassing now calling the shots, and Dick Tomey running the football program, this is finally happening.

SJSU won't be going to a BCS bowl next year -- we may never -- but at least we don't have to worry about folding the program up, at least for awhile. What we can do is start building toward something resembling Fresno or Nevada or Boise, which for me is more than I could really expect.

The next step in this process would be giving the Spartans a respectable stadium, and I really believe that could happen just by sinking some money into Spartan Stadium. Just by refurbishing the East (student) stands and installing one (or preferably two) video boards. Do this and suddenly that's a pretty nice stadium.

Back to this week...

One would imagine Fresno State is looking at the game as their bowl game. And while SJSU has used that logic to little avail plenty of times, one imagines it has a better chance of working for the 'Dogs. Pat Hill, for one, at least has some personal reasons to want to win.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

So it's come down to this, Boise or Albuquerque. I honestly don't really care which bowl game we get, but I'm a little worried about going to Boise and getting embarrassed off the field by a low attendance and on the field by Miami. Maybe it's the Spartan in me, but I have a feeling that game doesn't end well.

There's just no way 10,000 SJSU fans go to Boise and brave the cold and, possibly, snow on New Year's Eve. And while Miami is obviously having a down year. And while they may represent a significant upgrade in term's of exposure. And yes, Jon Wilner makes a compelling case why this is a better bowl for the Spartans, I just can't shake the feeling that this will end badly for SJSU.

That being said, I'm sure MPC people know all of this and will probably opt for Nevada, who represents a better liklihood of bringing fans and will probably beat Miami. This just makes too much sense and frankly, I'm surprised there's even a discussion.

So, let's assume we're going to New Mexico, and focus on that. New Mexico is beatable, the game will be played in front of a big crowd (even if they are mostly Lobos fans) and we might be going for an unbelievable nine wins. NINE wins. Think about that. The Spartans didn't win half that many games in any season that I was there (1995-1999) and they didn't win their ninth game until my fourth year. So, I'll argue that winning nine games is bigger than any one win, whether it's over Fresno State or in a bowl game.

Which brings me to my final point: Saturday's game is the biggest of the season. I know I've said this before, but beating Fresno State is THE way to make this season truly historic. Win this game and revive a rivalry, that for all intent and purpose, has been dormant since 1992, the year the Bulldogs left the Big West and joined the WAC. Although we started playing annually four years later, when SJSU also joined the WAC, SJSU has rarely even come close to beating the Bulldogs.

This may come as a surprise, but SJSU actually dominated this rivalry up until 1990, leading the alltime series 32-23-8. Of course, that was the last year we beat them. This can largely be attributed to the fact that SJSU has sucked and Fresno State has become a power during this time. The one year both teams were competitive (2000) SJSU got punked at home with a berth in the Silicon Valley Bowl on the line. Let's hope this isn't a replay of that.

Fresno State is not as bad as its 4-7 record would indicate and this team is not all that different than the one that gave USC all it could handle toward the end of last year. So the last thing the Spartans can avoid to do is look past the Bulldogs and toward a bowl game. Not that I think it will happen, just saying that us fans should not expect the Spartans to roll over the Bulldogs. Hope? Yes.

So here a couple other interesting links:

LA times story on Spartan

Spartans basketball

Saturday, November 25, 2006

It's all but official, we're going bowling. The win over Idaho is huge and lets the Spartans focus solely on beating rival Fresno State without having to worry about impressing bowl officials. Sending Dennis Erickson to defeat was a nice bonus.

I hadn't previously considered this, but if we end up going to New Mexico, which is most likely, we'll have to play ... New Mexico. It's essentially a home game, which is a two-sided coin.

On one hand, it takes a lot of pressure off our administrators in that they won't have to worry about bribing 10,000 fans to make the trip to exciting Albuquerque. On the other, it sucks because there's no way 10,000 SJSU fans WANT to take that trip. I know I don't. This is obviously bad from a player's standpoint.

My hope is that somehow we're able to work something out where the New Mexico and Poinsettia bowls are able to work something out and trade. Don't know if this is possible, but I'll ask good ol' Jon Wilner and see if he has an answer.

Anyway, it's worth feeling good about today's win.

See, I'm not the only one who says the Spartans need another win.

Blah, blah, blah the Idaho seniors want a win.

Oh yeah, our women's b-ball team sucks.

If you want to give it a try, this might be a link to listen to today's game at 2 p.m.


Friday, November 24, 2006

I HATE Dennis Erickson. There, I said it. I may have spoken a little prematurely when I said everyone is not so happy with good ol' Denny yesterday. Apparently, he's practically a god in Idaho. Screw him and the idiot who decided to give him a 5-year contract at $2.5 mil per. That's just crazy money for a dumb old man with no fresh ideas. The fact that Tomey and Erickson are friends is something I'd rather like to forget.

But, I digress.

Saturday's game is huge, as I've said before. This is SJSU's best chance to end this season strong. Lose Saturday and Fresno State on Dec. 2 all of a sudden feels much bigger than it should. And we all know how that tends to go.

For SJSU's bowl bid to have any legitimacy we need seven wins. And on the not-so-off chance Nevada beats Boise State, we really will need seven wins. Not to be the naysayer, but I'm really starting to think Nevada is going to beat Boise and ruin our chance of a backdoor bowl bid. I don't think that's such a bad thing, though.

I'm going to say this one more time: SJSU needs at least seven wins to feel really good about this season.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sorry I haven't posted much (there's gotta at least be two or three of you, right?), but there hasn't been much worth reporting lately.

I did find some interesting stuff in the Idaho rags, and apparently they're at least somewhat excited about the Dennis Erickson era. It is encouraging to see that Erickson might not be enjoying his return to Moscow all that much. Apparently, his offense sucks almost as bad as it did with the 49ers.

Not football, or even men's basketball related, but this caught my attention. Apparently, our new women's coach isn't the most popular in the world. Of course our men's team isn't that great, either.

On the Spartan Daily front, I saw this story's headline and I almost gasped. I thought to myself, is this actually a research driven story? But, of course, it was just reporting that the school is considering suicide barriers on the parking lot. That's it? Gosh, not good times.

Quick non-SJSU rant: John Foggerty is horrible. Halftime show on Thanksgiving was embarrassing - all CCR, all done poorly. The new Mel Gibson picture "Apocolypto" is so nonsensical that Gibson actually explains the story in the preview. Never seen that before.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

In case you missed it, SJSU got served. Maybe there was a little more to that whole hangover thing.

From what I could tell, the Spartans defense did a decent job of hanging in there for a half, but just fell apart during the third quarter. The offense never really moved the ball, although they scored enough points to keep it interesting until midway through the third. Dick Tomey, at least, was very impressed. The pictures are not pretty.

At least the win helped catapult the Warriors into the top 25.

Ultimately, this game doesn't hurt too much. It's a blow to the ego and leaves us clearly no better than the fourth best team in the WAC, but we're still very much in bowl contention. As my new favorite college sports writer Jon Wilner points out, even if SJSU loses out, they're still going bowling as long as Boise State beats Nevada.

But just going bowling just isn't going to make me happy anymore. SJSU has come too far to back into a bowl game. For about a month now I've been saying that as long as we beat Idaho and Fresno, I'd consider this season satisfying, and I'm not backing off that now.

Idaho is not good, and the fact that they just got shut out by Fresno State is further proof. Plus, they're coached by that piece of crap Dennis Erickson, who apparently isn't such a great coach when he's not allowed to recruit criminals.

A win this Saturday at Idaho would essentially guarantee the Spartans a bowl berth, but beating Fresno State is arguably more important than any bowl game. I could be wrong on the exact date here, but I believe the last time SJSU beat Fresno State was in 1992, or put another way, before I cared. And this is our biggest rival? I will argue that more important than a bowl appearance is figuring out how to beat Fresno. Rivalries are maybe the best part about college athletics and when you can NEVER BEAT YOUR RIVAL, that ceases to be a relevant game.

But that's jumping ahead two weeks, something the Spartans can hardly afford to do at this point.

For this season to take on any serious relevance, the Spartans need to head into their bowl game feeling good. At this point, the Spartans could lose their final five games of the season and I don't care where the last game is played, but THAT is a disappointment. So getting the season back on track starts on Saturday and a nine-win season remains within reach.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I guess I had heard this before, but the top QB in the country came pretty close to being a Spartan. His first cousin is our recruiting coordinator and we were one of the only school's to offer him a scholarship after he was arrested. I'm all for second chances, but the visiting crowds must have a field day with this guy, not that it seems to bother him.

The attendance picture at Hawaii, apparently isn't as rosey as you might think. They still draw decent, but days of 50,000 plus are apparently a thing of the past.

I guess Hawaii will wear silver helmets tonight. Not sure what that means.

Good to see the Chron is still giving us some ink.

Anyway, big game tonight, supposedly you can listen to it here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

So here's Merc college writer Jon Wilner's response to my question:
How about those bowl-bound SJSU Spartans
freesanjose: I noticed you left out the possibility of the Spartans winning out. … Is a national ranking pure pipe dream? Just curious.
My thought: There were so many permutations, I tried to stay with the most realistic ones. I don’t think SJSU will beat Hawaii, but if it does, then I’ll include a nine-win season in the bowl scenarios next week. As for a top-25 ranking, if the Spartans win out, then maybe…but I doubt it. They just don’t have enough quality wins to get on the radar.

Anyway, winning this week will be the biggest obstacle, obviously, but I just don't buy Hawaii scoring 45 so easily, although Wilner disagrees.

Here are my keys to success for the Spartans:
1. Shrink the field: They key to Hawaii's defense is that they, maybe more than any other team in football, really use the entire field. They have receivers all over the place and there never seems to be more than one defender near the ball. This is a huge advantage and not easily defensed. One way you can do that is by jamming receivers and resisting the urge to play dime defense the entire game. The Spartans seem to have decent speed at LB and really need to make sure the middle of the field is as crowded as possible. Which leads us into key No. 2...
2. Don't let the Hawaii running game hurt you. Keeping your LBs in the game will also help slow down the running game. If Hawaii rushes for 150 yards, they win. If they throw for 350, you still have a chance. Which leads to...
3. Don't let the stats scare you. Hawaii is going to put up numbers. They'll probably gain 500 yards of offense and maybe even 600. Obviously, the key is how many of those yards come inside the 20.
4. Don't let early deficits make you one-dimensional. If Hawaii jumps out to a 10-0 lead or even 17-0, keeping running the ball. That's what the Spartans do best and they're just as likely to get a big running play as a big passing one.

Obviously, this is an oversimplification of the task facing the Spartans. But Hawaii is beatable, they always are.

Wilner points out that this game is really not that big for SJSU, and he's probably right for a postseason point of view. But it would just do wonders for this program to actually beat somebody this year.

One aside on Wilner's blog, as much as I would just be happy for SJSU to make ANY bowl, my preference would be the Poinsettia in San Diego, rather than the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque. This is problematic in the sense that there are no guarantees attached to San Diego, while winning just one more game almost assures us of New Mexico. Also making New Mexico also means Boise probably made the BCS and will be depositing about $750,000 in our coffers. But I digress.

Maybe even more important than the money is the lasting image our appearance makes on future bowl reps. If we make New Mexico and have a poor attendance (less than 10,000), reps may never want to invite us again. However, if we go to San Diego and bring a sizable crowd, future reps will look more kindly upon us. I'm just working under the assumption that more fans, like me, would rather go to San Diego than Albuquerque. Maybe I'm wrong.

In other news, the Merc does a better version of the 'Tomey returns to Hawaii' angle. It's amazing how much SJSU has gotten on the Merc's front page lately. I guess they don't hate us.

I had forgotten that Jerry Glanville is the defensive coordinator at Hawaii, apparently the one-time NFL maverick is being considered for the North Texas head coaching job. Ouch.

Stopping this Colt Brennan kid, may be tougher than I thought. Apparently, he's 11 TDs away from breaking David Klingler's single-season record.

I also stumbled across this piece of outstanding journalism. I really don't want to be too harsh on either the subject or the writer here, but as great of a story as Neil Parry is, he is a HORRIBLE analyst. He sounds like a high school kid up there. And Chisholm isn't much better, although he's far more polished, even if he's way too cheerleader-y for me. Still, anything to get John Ralston off the air.

As for the writer, can someone please inform her and the legions of others that "irony" is not the same thing as "coincidence."

And again, not to put too fine a point on this, but this preview of Saturday's game waits until the second page of the web to actually get to the Hawaii game. Who's editing this crap?

So our basketball team lost again, and this one was ugly. The article talks about new faces getting used to each other and that maybe they came in overconfident. I'm hoping that's true, because I like this Nessman guy and would hate to see him flop.

In better news, the Spartans are getting ready to take on Hawaii, a school at which Dick Tomey is practically a folk hero. Not only did he guide them from Division-IAA into the bigtime, but he was also one of their most popular TV analysts. Oh, how I miss the days of watching the Warriors play at 10 p.m. on Saturday night when I was in SoCal. Tomey and his broadcast partner were a lot of fun. This story doesn't real do his time on the Island due justice, but I know he is still very popular there.

One of the things that really made me start rooting for Hawaii (as long as they weren't playing SJSU) was the way the whole state seemed to rally around the team. They are by far the biggest sports story there and the fans seemed to really have a good time. If I could make a dream conference, I would definitely want them playing State as much as possible. I'm also a big fan of having Fresno State and Nevada in our conference. Today's Honolulu Advertiser had a story that just about perfectly illustrates what I love about UH athletics. But I've gotten off topic.

Really, I can't explain why I find myself rooting for UH. Recently, it's been that I love the way they play. June Jones' offense is so fun to watch. For god's sake, their beat writer actually tells us how many points their leading scorer is averaging per game. It's like they are playing a different kind of game.

Still, I think SJSU has a great chance of beating them on Saturday. It appears many, including the Merc's Jon Wilner disagrees. He does, however, like our chances to make the New Mexico Bowl. Yuck! While, I'd rather lock up any bowl appearance, I'm really hoping to get to play somewhere closer to home and more attractive. There's just no way I'm going to New Mexico. San Diego? Yes. Wilner maps out all the possibilities here, although he does leave out the possibility of winning out. Seriously, I'm curious if that would garner any real attention. Anyway, I posted the question, we'll see if I get a response.

That's all for now.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

So, I guess our basketball team still has a ways to go. The Spartans got served by Stanford last night, but there's really no shame in that. On a brighter note, it does hopefully a signal a normalizing of relationships between the two programs. For whatever reason, we hadn't played in like 10 years.

The Merc's gamer makes it pretty clear we were just outclassed. Still, George Nessman at least seems to have us headed in the right direction after the Chuck Bell-induced drunken-boys network did its best to resurrect then ruin the program.

One particularily nice thing about playing Stanford is that we do get added media exposure. The Chron even managed to write a few Stanford-centric words.

Just for fun, I thought I'd include this nugget from the Spartan Daily, you know, the paper, Jon, Aaron and I saved from extinction a few years back. Goddamn it, they have fallen hard. Not to focus too much on this, but do they ever write live stories that are culled from press-releases anymore? It's insane.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Somthing I had considered, but had chosen to ignore prior to today was brough up in today's Mercury News. That's the possible similarities of Saturday's game to Fresno State's near upset of USC last year. Namely, the hangover effect such a game can have.

Now, I happen to think Fresno State coach Pat Hill is a buffoon who has an almost unhealthy preoccupation with national recognition, and that Dick Tomey is far more focused on just making SJSU competitive, but that doesn't mean they are totally unrealistic comparisons. Saturday's near upset of Boise State could ruin the Spartans' season, sending us to three straight losses, no bowl and leave us right back where we started.

I just don't think that will happen. Could SJSU lose on Saturday to a very good Hawaii team? Of course. Could that spiral out of control? Doubtful.

Tomey is a veteran coach that understands players and how to motivate them. This isn't Dave Baldwin, worrying more about getting a contract extension than finishing the season strong. This is a coach that should be able to turn this into a positive, and I think probably will.

Ultimately, I just don't see SJSU losing their final three games. That should mean a bowl game and worse-case scenario a 7-6 overall record. I'll take that. Of course, I'd much rather go 10-3.

Here are some other SJSU links:
Men's basketball
Boise State player released from hospital
ESPN tribute to alum Krazy George
Not really SJSU, but Earthquakes related (more on that later)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Without question, yesterday's game was the best I've ever personally witnessed at Spartan Stadium. I'm not going to say it was better than either of the two times I saw the Spartans beat Stanford in Palo Alto, but this game was about as fun as I'm allowed to have anymore.

And the best part? I really believe this is a sign of things to come.

The Spartans have pulled off upsets before, but they usually involve some quirky plays or lucky breaks that you can't really count on. Just look at this year's other big game, the victory over Stanford. That game included several lucky breaks and, let's not forget this, Stanford is horrible.

Saturday's game included none of that. In fact, I'd argue all the breaks actually went AGAINST us, and we STILL should have won. We were flagged three more times than they were -- one was declined -- and I'm here to tell you that if that game is called down the middle, we win. But that's an excuse, and it doesn't mean we are better or deserved to win.

Still, our guys controlled this game in the sense that a couple of mistakes on our part cost us this game. The first was James Jones' bogus block in the back that erased Yonus Davis' 72-yard score. Even though I don't think it was a penalty, he probably shouldn't have touched him in the first place, since the defender already looked to be falling. The next was Adam Trafalis stupidly trying for a touchdown, rather than running for the first down on the Spartans' second-to-last drive. A first down there would have kept the clock running and at the very least likely led to worse starting field position for the Broncos on their game-tying drive. The last big mistake was Jones' third-down drop on the final drive that again would have resulted in a first down, run more clock and likely prevented the Broncos from needing to drive just 12 yards on their game-winning drive.

Ironically, I believe these are all reasons for Spartans fans to take heart in this loss. Rather than possibly becoming enamored with themselves after the victory, the Spartans are now probably hungrier than ever to win out. While they aren't going to win the WAC, going 9-3 during the regular season and maybe even going 10-3 with a bowl victory would leave this is maybe the most successful season in school history. It would also put us in great position for a preseason ranking next year and be a great boon for Tomey in offseason recruiting.

Of coure, that's wishful thinking. But you've gotta believe the Spartans will be confident heading to Honolulu this week. If they can even win two more games, this team is pretty much guaranteed a bowl berth and is in great position for next year.

So, that's what I'm choosing to focus on after a depressing loss. So shoot me.

Here's the links of the day:

Kawakami liked us in loss
Merc's gamer
Really awesome audio slideshow
Merc's notes
Idaho Statesman gamer
Statesman notes
Statesman column
Chron's gamer

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Merc had a very interesting story that brought back some horrible memories for me: the 2000 season. The link

That was my first year away from San Jose and I had been following the season with great interst. I remember being particularily bummed when I was unable to attend the TCU game. I also remember getting pissed at head coach Dave Baldwin when he basically demanded a contract extension during his postgame remarks. Very bad form, and probably a contributing factor to the Spartans' collapse.

Here's some more reading:

SF Chronicle

Thursday, November 09, 2006

With San Jose State athletics finally approaching respectability, I decided it was high time we get a blog that does the same. Without aiming too high, I just hope to create a place where we can have civilized discourse and easily find stories various media is writing about our beloved Spartans.

Now I realize there are other sites out there, but if you've visited them, you know how frustratingly bad they can be. This site will probably not gain too much acclaim, but if we can at least create someplace where we can enhance our enjoyment of Spartan athletics my goal will have been accomplished.

I do not pretend to have any great insider info and truth be told, I probably won't even be able to post on a daily basis. But I will do my best to link to all pertinent stories from the major Bay Area publications, but since they so rarely cover our Spartans, that shouldn't be too hard.

In the name of good faith, I'm going to include several links from today's newspapers, since our upcoming game with Boise State is drawing an usually high amount of attention. Enjoy.

Registration may be required:
Should we tank on Saturday?
Kawakami's picks
Stanford kid transferring to SJSU
Are we for Real?
On an Island
Make Purdy a believer
ESPN gives us no respect
SJSU needs You
WAC info
TSN seems to like our chances