Time, Place and [Radio Waves in] Space • Utah’s second home game of the season at Rice-Eccles Stadium gets going at 8 p.m. Saturday. You can watch on ESPN2 or listen on ESPN 700 AM, Sirius 134/XM 200.
Line • Utah was a 26-point favorite as of Friday.
Opposing coach • Brent Brennan is in his first season as San Jose State’s head coach. Brennan served as a Spartans assistant from 2005-10, and was Oregon State’s wide receivers coach from 2011-16, coaching All-American wide receivers Brandin Cooks, Markus Wheaton and James Rodgers. His other coaching experience in the Pac-12 include having served as a graduate assistant at Washington (1999) and Arizona (2000).
Utah ties • San Jose State’s defensive coordinator Derrick Odum is a former two-sport athlete for Utah as well as a former assistant under Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. Odum graduated from Utah in 1993 after having played both football and baseball. Odum served as a graduate assistant at Utah in 1996 and coached safeties from 2005-07. Utes star Eric Weddle was among the safeties Odum coached during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. He coached with Brennan on Oregon State’s staff under former Utah assistant Gary Andersen.
Former Utah coach Ron McBride lettered as an offensive lineman at San Jose State from 1960-1962. McBride spent 13 seasons as Utah’s head coach from 1990-2002, and ranks third on the school’s all-time wins list.
Pregame quotable • Sophomore running back Zack Moss said of the Utes’ offensive performance, “We’ve just go to cut down the penalties. I think that’s the number one thing for this offense. I mean, we’re still putting up almost 500 yards per game with the penalties. I think we’re real close to like 700 without the penalties, so we’ve just got to cut down the penalties and continue to get better in every phase of our games.”
Media guide nugget • San Jose State running backs coach Alonzo Carter, an Oakland native, once toured as a backup dancer with MC Hammer in the 1990s. Not only has Carter won multiple championships as highly-decorated high school and junior college coach in California, but he was also awarded a platinum record for his contributions on the album “Please Hammer Don’t Hurt Em.”
Telling stat • San Jose State’s defense has allowed an average of 305.7 rushing yards per game through three games. The Utes will be looking for more production from its running backs this week.
Spartans offensive outlook • Three quarterbacks have already seen action through the first three games of the season. Redshirt freshman Montel Aaron started last week against Texas. Aaron went 12-for-23 passing for 103 yards and one interception at Texas. He does have the fourth-highest passer efficiency rating among freshman FBS quarterbacks. Wide receiver Tre Hartley has seven receptions so far, including a touchdown catch against Cal Poly. He led the team with an average of 17.3 yards per catch in 2016, and he had 11 receptions of 20 yards or more. Running back Zamore Zigler leads the team in rushing with 149 yards, and he has averaged 5.4 yards per carry for his career (12 games) and 5.7 per carry this season. The Spartans starting offensive line has the more starts under its belt than any other FBS. Tackles Troy Kowalski and Nate Velichko, guards Jeremiah Kolone and Chris Gonzalez and center Kevin Cummings have a combined 137 starts.
Spartans defensive outlook • Frank Ginda, a 6-foot, 245-pound junior linebacker, comes into this weekend leading the nation in tackles with 42 in three games. Ginda has started 24 games in his career, and he led the team with 99 tackles (11.5 for a loss) in 2016. Cornerback Andre Chachere was a First Team All-Mountain West selection in 2016. He ranked fourth nationally in passes defended last season, and he also had four interceptions. He racked up 117 return yards on his four interceptions. In 38 career games, Chachere has six interceptions and 23 pass breakups. Defensive end Owen Roberts ranked third among Mountain West defensive linemen in tackles (56), and he’s the only returner who started in all 12 games last season. So far this season, the Spartans have held opposing passers to a completion percentage of 50.8. Through three games, the Spartans defense has faced more snaps (259) than any other in FBS.
Spartans special teams outlook • Punter Michael Carrizosa was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award in 2015. This season, he’s averaging 44 yards per punt, and he has a long of 68 yards. Only four of his punts have been returned for a net of minus 1 yard. Place kicker Bryce Crawford extended his consecutive field goal streak to 12, the second-longest in program history, earlier this season. He has not attempted a field goal in the past two games. Crawford ranked 12th in FBS in field goal percentage (86.7) in 2016.
Injury report • The Utes could be without starting strong safety Chase Hansen. Hansen was not on the field for the final possession of the BYU game, and he was not present for the media observation of practice on Tuesday. Hansen’s status was uncertain leading up to the season opener against North Dakota, but Hansen started that game.
Three Big Questions
1. Will the Utes running back run game get back on track?
Quarterback Tyler Huntley has been the team’s leading rusher through two games (159 yards). Running back Zack Moss rushed for a season-high 128 yards in the opener, but he followed that with 21 yards on 11 carries last week against BYU. Troy McCormick Jr. got his first career start last week and has rushed for 66 yards on six carries this season. McCormick also has seven catches for 32 yards. He has been moved up on the two-deep depth chart.
2. Can the Utes clean up the penalties?
Through two games, the Utes have been called for 22 penalties (232 yards). Against North Dakota, penalties helped sustain scoring drives for the visitors. Last week at BYU, the Utes had a pair of red zone possessions marred by penalties which wiped away touchdown passes. A large chunk of the offensive penalties have been holding penalties which have come on the perimeter from wide receivers block on running plays.
3. How will the Utes defense adjust to facing a fast-paced spread offense?
Neither North Dakota nor BYU ran an exclusively no-huddle offense, but San Jose State will use an up-tempo attack against the Utah defense which has been breaking in a bevy of new starters in the secondary. Neither of the Utes’ previous opponents rushed more than they passed, but San Jose State ran 50 pass plays against South Florida in its season opener, the program’s most attempts in a single game since November 2014.