In a long year that has lacked light at the end of the tunnel, one unlikely hope for the world emerged. Yes, I am talking about 3-0 San Jose State (sorry, #10 Indiana). The Spartans are 3-0 for the first time since 1982 and with that, here is your obligatory back in 1982 subsection.
Price of Gas: $1.22
President: Ronald Reagan
NFL MVP That Season: MARK MOSLEY (!)
#1 Song the Week of September 25, 1982: Abracadabra by the Steve Miller Band
Those 1982 Spartans started 3-0 on the strength of wins over Oregon, Stanford, and Oregon State. They had a strong year, going 8-3, but missing out on a bowl as Fresno State went 10-1 to win the Pacific Coast Athletic Association title and the coveted California Raisin Bowl birth.
A Streak-Breaking Year
In only three games, San Jose State has done more than several recent Spartan teams. In their opening game against Air Force, the Spartans beat Air Force for the first time since 1997 with a 17-6 win. The Spartans allowed their fewest points against Air Force in the six game series, besting their previous low of 22 in the 1997 game.
Following a relatively easy win over New Mexico, the Spartans ended another drought, this time their seven-game losing streak to San Diego State, with a 28-17 win over the Aztecs. The win was their first against their division foe since their miracle 2012 run.
So What’s The Ceiling?
With their fast start, San Jose State is in position for one of their most successful seasons in the past thirty years. At the lowest level, the Spartans have a chance for their first conference title since 1991, when they shared the Big West crown with Fresno State.
It’s not an exaggeration to say they have a solid chance at winning their division. Contenders Hawaii, Fresno State, and San Diego State have all showed vulnerabilities in only three games. Nevada looks to be the other frontrunner in the Western division, but their wins came against weak Utah State and UNLV teams and an overtime win over Wyoming. The Mountain West Western Division race could be one of the more exciting races with its competitiveness and story lines.
Outside of their intra-divisional games, the Spartans have a road date against Boise State on November 28th. The matchup could be one of the biggest games San Jose State has played this millennium, or ever, if the Spartans come in to Boise with an undefeated record. While Boise State showed some serious flaws, injuries and all, in their 51-17 loss to BYU this past Friday, they still have the biggest brand name recognition in the Mountain West and are a frontrunner in the Mountain Division.
Add in the fact that the Spartans have never beat the Broncos in 14 meetings and the stakes are at an all-time high. The Spartans can atone for the close calls of 2006, when they nearly spoiled Boise State’s undefeated season, or 2019, when they held a 34-31 4th quarter lead, only to lose 52-42 at home. Simply put, San Jose State has demons to exorcise on November 28th.
Bowl Season Outlook?
Well the New Year’s Six is always a possibility, but this year the Group of Five is stacked with contenders. Cincinnati looks like a Playoff team, while SMU could easily gain the New Year’s Six bid with a win in the AAC title game.
In Conference USA, Marshall will likely end the regular season undefeated with an 8-0 record and a non-conference win over a strong App State team.
Even the Sun Belt looks loaded, as both Coastal Carolina AND Louisiana are ranked with wins over Big 12 teams, with the Chanticleers holding an undefeated record.
With all that in mind, the Spartans are unlikely to crack the New Year’s Six as it stands. That is unless pandemonium happens. After all, it is 2020, cliché intended. Even without the New Year’s Six bid, the Spartans can still achieve much during bowl season.
The Spartans have never played a Power Five in a bowl, and it is possible, but unclear how it could happen. The Mountain West only has up to two primary bowl matchups against the Power Five, the Los Angeles Bowl vs the Pac-12, and either the Armed Forces Bowl vs the Big 12 or the First Responder Bowl vs the ACC. The latter two bowls are part of a pool of three Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex bowls along with the Frisco Bowl, in which the Mountain West can send one team to.
With the Los Angeles Bowl still up in the air, after their fellow debutante bowl, the Fenway Bowl canceled this year, the options dwindle to two.
While in a pandemic, it may not be optimal to bring San Jose State to Texas, but the chance still exists. Especially if San Jose State wins the Western division or Mountain West, the Spartans could be an attractive mid-tier bowl option.
Historically, the Big 12 and ACC are two conferences the Spartans rarely play. San Jose State is 4-8 against current Big 12 teams and 4-10 when you add in two losses to Nebraska. Their last win against a current Big 12 school was a win over Baylor in 1980. Their last matchup was a 2017 blowout 56-0 loss to Texas. The Spartans have only played four games against current ACC schools, going 0-3-1, with no games since a 1998 loss to Virginia.
The sky is the limit for San Jose State three games into the season. Even without a Mountain West title or even division title, the Spartans have a great chance for a program-defining season. At the very best, they can become yet another crazy turn in the 2020 world of sports. So, do the right thing and root for the Spartans this year.