The San Jose State Spartans surprised the college football world with the best season in team. The Spartans went from a two win team in 2009 to a two loss team in 2012. The team earned their highest ever ranking in the post-season polls, as they ranked 21st in the AP Top-25 and 24th in the final Bowl Championship Series standings. Can they build on last season’s success and challenge for a Mountain West Conference championship in their first season in the conference?
The Spartans’ success last season came on the back of a highly explosive offense and a vastly underrated defense. San Jose State ranked 30th in the nation in yards per game with an average of 446.2 yards per game. A large part of that was due to the passing attack, which was the sixth best in the nation averaging 332.7 yards per game. The running game was anemic with an 113.5 yards per game average. Their offensive production was highly efficient, as they averaged 34.8 points per game to rank as the 28th best in the nation.
The Spartans have built this virtual overnight success story on the hire of an excellent coach. Mike MacIntyre came to San Jose with an impressive credentials as an assistant coach. The Spartans won just a single game in his first season, as they transitioned between the Dick Tomey regime to MacIntyre’s. In his second season, the young Spartans played over their heads with a five win season, but they were tested week after week with 10 of their 12 games being decided by 10 points or less and six of those 10 were decided by three points or less. It was a major factor in building the confidence in his team, as they felt they could compete with anyone.
That confidence paid off huge in 2012. It also helped that MacIntyre had invigorated the program with talented players and did a great job at added talent from the talent rich Norther California area. MacIntyre was rewarded for turning around the program with a job offer from the Pac-12 at the University of Colorado to turn their program around. Leaving the Spartans with a major question mark at the head coach position.
The Spartans are following in the footsteps of one of their Bay Area rivals, the Stanford Cardinal, as they reached in the FCS during their coach search. They also dug into the exact same school. The Spartans selected Jim Harbaugh’s successor at the University of San Diego in Ron Caragher.
Caragher, a San Jose native, has found success at the FBS level with assistant coaching stints at UCLA and Kentucky. He took over at San Diego when Harbaugh left for Stanford. Caragher amassed an overall record of 44 – 22 and a conference record of 34 – 13. He also led the Toreros to three Pioneer League Conference championships. Now he will take over with a talented roster left behind by MacIntyre and can he repeat his success, much like his predecessor.
The Spartans have a much tougher schedule and the have several question marks on both sides of the ball. They have experience at key positions and most important that have the most talented roster that they have had in awhile. They might have a step back from last years’ 11 wins, but they should be in the competition for the MWC conference championship.