San Jose State may have turned a corner last season, finishing 5-7 after three wins in Brent Brennan’s first two years in charge.
This job was always going to take a few years and it looks like Brennan is edging closer to a bowl. The Spartans had an early over/under of 5 wins with +3300 odds to win the MWC, near the bottom of the standings.
In order to reach a bowl game, SJSU needs to find its new quarterback after the departure of Josh Love, who tossed for almost 4,000 yards last season.
The expected starter is Texas A&M and Arkansas transfer Nick Starkel. He threw seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions at Arkansas last season, but the SEC is a bit different than the MWC. No matter who is at quarterback, there are decent pieces to keep the offense moving after averaging 427.4 yards and 30.1 points per game.
The line returns three starters from a group that gave up just 14 sacks, but the receiving corps is the biggest highlight of the offense. Tre Walker (1,161 yards, 2 TDs), Bailey Gaither (812 yards, 6 TDs) and Isaiah Hamilton (718 yards, 4 TDs) form one of the best receiving trios in the conference, while tight end Derrick Deese Jr. is also a viable target.
The question is if the ground game can do anything after averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and those hopes may fall to freshman Shamar Garrett, who is expected to start out of the gates.
Similar to the offense, the defense hit another level last season and that’s why the Spartans managed five wins, seen in the season-ending 17-16 win against Fresno State. With starters back at every level, eight in all, there’s a chance they perform better than last year’s 443.8 yards and 31.9 points allowed.
SJSU hopes a couple juco transfers shore up the run defense, while ends Cade Hall and Viliami Fehoko return to their roles. Linebacker is mostly set with Kyle Harmon (89 tackles) and Tysyn Parker manning the middle.
That said, the secondary may be the best unit of the defense with safesties Tre Webb and Jay Lenard starting for the third-straight season together. This defense won’t be elite, but they could be more consistent in 2020.
The main reason San Jose State won’t reach a bowl is because of the early schedule that features three of four games on the road. If they can rebound from expected losses, there will be hope for a bowl.
The downside is that the Spartans get two of the better teams from the Mountain division (Boise State, Air Force) to go with a trip to SDSU. However, if the new quarterback figures things out and the defense gradually improves, the second half of the season features a lot of possible wins.
In fact, there’s a chance they close the campaign with five-straight wins if all goes well. That may be asking for a lot, but Brennan has this team pointed in the right direction.
2020 San Jose State Spartans Schedule
Sept. 5 at Central Michigan
Sept. 12 vs. UC Davis
Sept. 19 at Penn State
Oct. 3 at Boise State
Oct. 10 vs. Air Force
Oct. 17 vs. UNLV
Oct. 24 at San Diego State
Oct. 31 at New Mexico
Nov. 7 vs. Nevada
Nov. 14 vs. Connecticut
Nov. 21 vs. Hawai’i
Nov. 28 at Fresno State