NCF Nation: San Jose State Spartans

Considering its long history of Polynesian influence, it should come as no surprise that the Pac-12 led the way with 15 players named to the preseason watch list for the inaugural Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award.

Headlining the list is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, USC safety Su'a Cravens, Oregon State center Isaac Seumalo, Washington linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha and BYU linebacker Alani Fua.

The award was established by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class of members in January. That group of seven included Kurt Gouveia (BYU), Olin Kreutz (Washington), Kevin Mawae (LSU), Junior Seau (USC), Jack Thompson (Washington State), Herman Wedemeyer (Saint Mary's College) and Ken Niumatalolo (Navy/Hawaii).

The full breakdown of players on the watch list by conference is as follows: Pac-12 (15), Mountain West (12), Independents (4), American Athletic (1), Big 12 (1) and Sun Belt (1).

Here is the complete list (34 total):
Five finalists will be announced on Nov. 20 with the winner set to be named on Dec. 9.
Looking back at some teams the current group of Pac-12 coaches have led during their respective head-coaching careers turns up an impressive list. All 12 have coached a team to a bowl appearance, 10 have finished a season with double-digit wins and eight have had teams appear in the AP top 10.

Taking it a step further and just looking at each individual coach's best team (in college) also made for an interesting study. Choosing which teams those are is clearly a subjective process so for the purpose of consistency, the teams listed below were chosen based on the final spot in the AP poll.

Here are some notable takeaways:

  • Eight teams ended with bowl victories, but two occurred after the coach left.
  • Seven teams started unranked, but only one finished out of the polls.
  • Half of the coaches did it at their current school, four of which occurred in 2013.
  • Six teams appeared in the top 5 at some point and nine were in the top 15.
  • Three coaches immediately parlayed the success into their current job.
  • Only three of the teams won conference titles, none of which was in the Pac-12.
  • Two teams beat No. 1-ranked squads.
  • Four teams played in BCS bowls, and three were victorious.
We're not going attempt to rank them ourselves, but here they are in reverse order based on each team's final AP ranking:

No. 12 Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech, 2012

Dykes' record: 9-3 (4-2, third in WAC)
Final AP rank: unranked
Highest AP rank: 19
Bowl result: no bowl
The team:
The Bulldogs finished the season as the country's highest scoring team (51.50 ppg) and top-ranked offense (577.9 ypg). They rose to No. 19 in the AP poll before losing their final two games of the season, including one against Mike MacIntyre-coached San Jose State in the season finale. Louisiana Tech was offered a spot in the Independence Bowl, but it was given away while the school unsuccessfully sought other bowl options. Dykes left for Cal after the season.

[+] EnlargeSteve Sarkisian
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesSteve Sarkisian parlayed his successful 2013 season into the head-coaching job at USC.
No. 11 Steve Sarkisian, Washington, 2013

Sarkisian's record: 8-4 (5-4, third in Pac-12 North)
Final AP rank: 25
Highest AP rank: 15
Bowl result: Beat BYU in Fight Hunger Bowl (Sarkisian did not coach)
The team:
The season began with a win against then-No. 19 Boise State, and the season ended with Broncos coach Chris Petersen being hired by the Huskies. Sarkisian departed for USC prior to the bowl. After the win against Boise, Washington debuted in the rankings at No. 19 and rose four spots before a string of three straight losses to Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State.

No. 10 Mike MacIntyre, San Jose State, 2012

MacIntyre's record: 10-2, (5-1, second in WAC)
Final AP rank: 21
Highest AP rank: 21
Bowl result: Beat Bowling Green in Military Bowl (MacIntyre did not coach)
The team:
Two years after coaching San Jose State to a 1-11 record in his first season as head coach, MacIntyre's team became the first in program history to finish in the final AP poll -- although, the Spartans were unranked when MacIntyre accepted the job at Colorado. SJSU didn't beat any ranked teams, but lost just 20-17 to Stanford, which went on to win Pac-12 and Rose Bowl championships. The other loss came to Utah State, which finished No. 16.

No. 9 Todd Graham, Arizona State, 2013

Graham's record: 10-4 (8-1, won Pac-12 South)
Final AP rank: 21
Highest AP rank: 11
Bowl result: Lost to Texas Tech in Holiday Bowl The team: In his eighth season as an FBS head coach, Graham's most recent Arizona State team was his best. The Sun Devils began the season unranked and entered and exited the Top 25 twice before closing the regular season with a seven-game winning streak. It was ranked No. 11 when it hosted Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game, but a second loss to the Cardinal kept ASU out of the Rose Bowl.

No. 8 Mike Riley, Oregon State, 2008

Riley's record: 9-4 (7-2, tied for second in Pac-10)
Final AP rank: 18
Highest AP rank: 17
Bowl result: Beat Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl
The team:
The Beavers started unranked and lost their first two games before winning eight of nine to peak at No. 17. After a 1-2 start, it beat No. 1 USC in Corvallis, but didn't immediately build off the big win. The next week the Beavers lost to Kyle Whittingham's undefeated Utah team (more later). Riley's highest spot in the polls came in 2012, when the Beavers reached No. 7 after a 6-0 start. He was a head coach in the NFL for three years and the Canadian Football League for four, where he won a pair of Grey Cups.

No. 7 Jim Mora, UCLA, 2013

Mora's record: 10-3 (6-3, second in Pac-12 South)
Final AP rank: 16
Highest AP rank: 9
Bowl result: Beat Virginia Tech in Sun Bowl
The team:
The Bruins spent the entire season in the polls after starting at No. 21. They began 5-0 and rose to No. 9 before road losses to No. 13 Stanford and No. 3 Oregon. Mora's best coaching job came in the NFL in 2004 when he guided the Atlanta Falcons to an NFC South title and an appearance in the NFC Championship.

No. 6 Mike Leach, Texas Tech, 2008

Leach's record: 11-2 (7-1, tied for first in Big 12 South)
Final AP rank: 12
Highest AP rank: 2
Bowl result: Lost to Ole Miss in Cotton Bowl
The team:
The Red Raiders started the year at No. 12 and moved up to No. 6 after an 8-0 start. They rose to No. 2 after Michael Crabtree's memorable touchdown catch secured a win vs. No. 1 Texas. After two weeks at No. 2, the Red Raiders lost to No. 5 Oklahoma in a game that propelled Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford to the Heisman Trophy. Leach arrived at WSU in 2012.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
AP Photo/Kevin ReeceDavid Shaw's best team at Stanford didn't win the Pac-12 title.
No. 5 Mark Helfrich, Oregon, 2013

Helfrich's record: 11-2 (7-2, tied for first in Pac-12 North)
Final AP rank: 9
Highest AP rank: 2
Bowl result: Beat Texas in Alamo Bowl The team: Of all the teams on the list, none started higher than the Ducks in Helfrich's head-coaching debut at No. 3. Oregon spent eight weeks at No. 2 before losses to Stanford and Arizona in a three-game span ended any hopes of a conference or national title. The team finished ranked No. 2 in the country in both total offense (565.0 ypg) and scoring (45.5 ppg). Quarterback Marcus Mariota dealt with some late-season injury problems, but, when healthy, he was as good as any player in college football.

No. 4 David Shaw, Stanford, 2011

Shaw's record: 11-2 (8-1, second in Pac-12 North)
Final AP rank: 7
Highest AP rank: 3
Bowl result: Lost to No. 3 Oklahoma State in Fiesta Bowl The team: In three seasons as head coach, Shaw has won a pair of Pac-12 titles. But in 2011, when Oregon won the Pac-12 title, he probably had his best team. The Rose Bowl championship team the following year also finished No. 7 and has more hardware, but it didn't have Andrew Luck. Stanford started the year at No. 7, moved up to No. 3 after winning its first nine games, but then lost 53-30 at home to No. 6 Oregon. Stanford received a second consecutive BCS at-large bid, but suffered an overtime loss to No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl. In addition to Luck, 10 other players landed on 53-man NFL rosters from the team's departing class. Stanford's low ranking of No. 8 was the best among teams on this list.

No. 3 Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia, 2005

Rodriguez's record: 11-1, (7-0 Big East champion)
Final AP rank: 5
Highest AP rank: 5 Bowl result: Beat No. 8 Georgia in Sugar Bowl The team: Freshmen QB Pat White and RB Steve Slaton were the names of note for the current Arizona coach. West Virginia started the year unranked and its lone loss came to then-No. 3 Virginia Tech. It was the first of three consecutive double-digit win seasons for the Mountaineers, who were undefeated in Big East play and capped the season with a win over No. 8 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. A strong case can be made that West Virginia had a better team in 2007, when Rodriguez left following the regular-season finale to become head coach at Michigan. The Mountaineers were ranked No. 2 (No. 1 in the coaches poll) going into Rodriguez's final game, but lost to a 4-7 Pittsburgh team in the 100th Backyard Brawl, which cost them a chance to play for the national title. They finished No. 6.

No. 2 Chris Petersen, Boise State, 2009

Petersen's record: 14-0 (8-0, WAC champions)
Final AP rank: 4
Highest AP rank: 4
Bowl result: Beat No. 4 TCU in the Fiesta Bowl The team: Washington's new coach has quite the résumé. Many consider Boise State's undefeated 2006 team that beat Oklahoma in that's year memorable Fiesta Bowl as the school's best, but three years later the Broncos finished 14-0 and finished a spot higher in the final AP poll. They opened the season at No. 14 and started with a win against No. 16 Oregon in Chip Kelly's first game as head coach. Boise capped the season with a win against undefeated TCU in the Fiesta Bowl. The team's offensive coordinator, Bryan Harsin, is now the head coach and its defensive coordinator, Justin Wilcox, spent last season with Sarkisian at Washington and followed him to USC in the same capacity.

No. 1 Kyle Whittingham, Utah, 2008

Whittingham's record: 13-0 (8-0, Mountain West champions)
Final AP rank: 2
Highest AP rank: 2
Bowl result: Beat No. 4 Alabama in Sugar Bowl The team: In Whittingham's fourth season as head coach, the Utes finished as the nation's lone undefeated team after starting unranked. Utah opened with a win at Michigan -- Rodriguez's first game as the Wolverines' coach -- and went on to beat four teams that finished in the final AP poll, including Alabama (6), TCU (7), Oregon State (18) and BYU (25). Quarterback Brian Johnson threw for 336 yards in a convincing 31-17 win against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Want to swap out one team for another or switch the order? Email me at

All dressed up, no place to bowl

December, 10, 2013
Sometimes you can do everything right and reach that six-win trigger point to become bowl eligible. But sometimes it’s not enough.

For nine teams this year, six wins (or more) didn’t get the job done. And while 70 other teams are preparing to play an extra game, snag some swag and -- most importantly -- getting extra practice time, these nine are on the outside looking in.

While a snub is a snub, it’s always fun to rank things. Here’s a snapshot of the “Jilted 9” from the most snubbed to the least snubbed.

Toledo (7-5, 5-3)
League: MAC
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 5
Notable: Seven wins feels like it should have been enough for the Rockets -- especially with victories over Navy, Bowling Green and Buffalo -- which are all going bowling. But a limping finish that included losses to Northern Illinois and a two-point loss to Akron snaps Toledo’s streak of three-straight bowl appearances.

San Jose State (6-6, 5-3)
League: Mountain West
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 6
Notable: A top 25-finish last year and a returning standout quarterback in David Fales wasn’t enough to get the Spartans -- who were looking for back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 1986-1987 -- into the postseason. Prior to their signature win over No. 16 Fresno State to close out the year, the Spartans dropped three straight to San Diego State, Nevada and Navy (3 OT).

Western Kentucky (8-4, 4-3)
League: Sun Belt
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 2
Notable: Despite closing the year with four wins and beating Arkansas State (which has a better conference record at 5-2, but a worse overall record at 7-5), Bobby Petrino and the Hilltoppers are left out. The Sun Belt has only two tie-ins (R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and GoDaddy Bowl), so they were the league that took the brunt of the snubbing. Last year -- a loss in the Little Caesars Bowl -- was the school’s first bowl appearance. Their eight wins are the most since moving to FBS ball in 2009.

Central Michigan (6-6, 5-3)
League: MAC
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 5
Notable: The Chippewas closed the year strong with three wins after dropping six of their first nine. But they failed to beat a ranked team, dropping the season opener to No. 17 Michigan 59-9 and falling to No. 23 Northern Illinois 38-17. Central Michigan had gone to five bowl games the past eight years.

Florida Atlantic (6-6, 4-4)
League: Conference USA
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 6 (Note: UTSA, though 7-5, is still in transition to NCAA Division I and won't be eligible for bowl games until next year.)
Notable: After starting the year 2-6 (coach Carl Pelini was fired, but other factors contributed to his dismissal), the Owls closed out the year with four straight wins. Their last appearance was the 2008 Motor City Bowl.

Louisiana-Monroe (6-6, 4-3)
League: Sun Belt
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 2
Notable: One of five Sun Belt teams staying home for the holidays, the Warhawks made their only appearance in the postseason last year when they lost in the Independence Bowl to Ohio, 45-14. They dropped both games against ranked teams (Oklahoma, Baylor) and dropped two of their final three to close out the season. There was some hope that the season-finale win over Louisiana-Lafayette (headed to R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl) might have been enough of a statement for inclusion.

South Alabama (6-6, 4-3)
League: Sun Belt
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 2
Notable: This was the fifth season of football for the Jaguars, who were bowl eligible for the first time since moving up from FCS. Like Louisiana-Monroe, they closed out the year with a win over Louisiana-Lafayette. But despite finishing the season with three straight wins and no games against ranked opponents, there wasn’t enough on the resume.

Troy (6-6, 4-3)
League: Sun Belt
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 2
Notable: Another one of those three-conference loss Sun Belt teams on the outside, the Trojans were 5-3 at one point during the year, but closed out the season losing three of their last four. They played the Blue Devils tough at Duke, losing 38-31 in September, but didn’t have much of a resume. Their last postseason appearance was winning the New Orleans Bowl in 2010.

Texas State (6-6, 2-5)
League: Sun Belt
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 2
Notable: In their first year of bowl eligibility after moving up from FCS, the Bobcats struggled in the Sun Belt and dropped three in a row to Arkansas State, Western Kentucky and Troy to close out the year. They lost their only game to a ranked team, Texas Tech, back in September, 33-7.

San Jose State season preview

August, 14, 2013
San Jose State

Coach: Ron Caragher (0-0, first year)

2012 record: 11-2 (5-1, WAC)

Key losses: OT David Quessenberry, RB De’Leon Eskridge, DE Travis Johnson, DE David Tuitupou, CB Ronnie Yell, TE Ryan Otten.

[+] EnlargeDavid Fales
Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY SportsAfter throwing 33 TDs last season, what does David Fales have in store for this fall?
Key returnees: QB David Fales, WR Noel Grigsby, DT Travis Raciti, LB Keith Smith, DB Bené Benwikere, WR Chandler Jones.

Newcomer to watch: Linebacker Christian Tago -- a redshirt freshman -- had a strong enough spring that the new coaching staff feels confident enough to move Vince Buhagiar from the middle to outside linebacker in the new defensive system.

Biggest games in 2013: The Bill Walsh Legacy game at Stanford (Sept. 7) is always big for the Bay Area, and with a top-five Stanford team, it adds to the excitement. The Spartans Boise State this season, but showdowns against San Diego State (Nov. 9) and the season finale against Fresno State could go a long way toward determining the Mountain West crown.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: The most obvious question is how the Spartans will fare without Mike MacIntyre, who turned them into a Top 25 team before leaving for another reclamation project at Colorado. Ron Caragher is seasoned at the FCS level, leading non-scholarship San Diego to a 44-22 record as the guy who replaced Jim Harbaugh. The Bay Area native wanted the job three years ago when it went to MacIntyre, so the Spartans are getting someone who isn’t necessarily looking for a stepping stone job. What remains to be seen is if his recruiting and schemes translate to the FBS level.

Outlook: In the season opener in 2012, when the Spartans played Stanford to a tight 20-17 loss, everyone was wondering what was wrong with Stanford. Turns out San Jose State was that good. Fales is one of the nation’s elite quarterbacks, and he and Grigsby make up one of the most feared pitch-and-catch tandems in the nation.

There are some holes to fill -- specifically on the defensive line where Johnson and Tuitupou and depart after combining for 30.5 tackles for a loss and 18.5 sacks between them. However, the Spartans are also moving from the 4-3 to the 3-4 under Caragher, and Raciti should again be one of the league’s premier defensive linemen. The secondary is also being reconstructed. Damon Ogburn made the move from corner to safety in the spring, which opens things up for Simon Connette at safety. DB Jimmy Pruitt also saw a lot of playing time at the end of 2012.

There are also a few hot position battles to consider throughout camp -- starting with the left tackle spot to replace Quessenberry. Wes Schweitzer and Evan Sarver will be fighting for the lone opening as the Spartans return four starters on the line. Tight end Billy Freeman should be in the hunt for the starting tight end spot after Ryan Otten and Peter Tuitupou used up their eligibility and were signed as undrafted free agents.

Missing Boise State in the regular season helps as San Jose State begins anew in the Mountain West Conference. But the West Division won’t be easy. The Spartans have to travel to Reno to face Nevada, but get San Diego State and Fresno State at home. The Spartans were 5-1 on the road last season and are 13-2 in their past 15 games -- including a 6-1 mark on the road.

MacIntyre laid a solid foundation. We’ll see if Caragher can keep it rolling.
Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre skillfully sidestepped the question like a quarterback feeling the pressure from the backside -- which seems ironic -- since the team he inherits gave up 50 sacks last season.

Asked to compare the rebuilding project at Colorado to the one he undertook at San Jose State -- where he took a dreadful Spartans' program and turned it into an 11-win team in 2012 -- MacIntyre gave a pretty stock answer.

"I think they're both big challenges," he said. "Every school has a little bit different intricacies and a little different history. A little bit different pressure, so to speak. And I think that San Jose State was a wonderful place and we were able to do really well there and they'll keep doing well. Colorado is a phenomenal place that has had great history and it's our job to get it back to that. I think they are similar in ways, but there are different intricacies at both schools."

[+] EnlargeMike MacIntyre
AP Photo/Brennan Linsley"I saw that as spring went along how our attitude changed from just grudgingly doing practice and meetings to enjoying practice and meetings," new Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said.
In other words, San Jose State was bad when I got there. Now it's not. Colorado is bad now. Hopefully in three years it won't be.

MacIntyre's Spartans won just one game in 2010 -- his first year as a head coach. But they improved to 5-7 in 2011 to 10-2 in 2012 under his guidance (note, MacIntyre didn't coach their bowl game, which they won, giving them 11 wins).

The statistical improvements were almost as dramatic as the overall record. Before he got there, the Spartans ranked 115th nationally in total offense, 118th in scoring offense, 109th in total defense, 109th in scoring defense, 80th in sacks and 103rd in tackles for a loss. By the time he left last year, San Jose State was a top 30 program in all those categories, including sixth nationally in sacks.

That's empirical evidence of a system that works on both sides of the ball. Remember back in the season opener of 2012? Everyone wanted to know what the heck was wrong with Stanford. After all, they only beat lowly San Jose State 20-17. Meanwhile the Stanford coaches were screaming at anyone who would listen that San Jose State was a good team. Turns out they were right.

SJSU's '09 numbers should sound familiar to Colorado fans, because they are strikingly similar. Last year Colorado was 116th in total offense, 117th in scoring offense, 117th in total defense, 120th in scoring defense, 87th in sacks and 60th in tackles for a loss.

Colorado fans are, naturally, cautiously optimistic. MacIntyre's first go-around as a head coach was outstanding. But with that optimism comes a need for patience -- something that wasn't granted to MacIntyre's predecessor, Jon Embree.

MacIntyre's first spring at Colorado was less about Xs and Os and more about finding out what's left in the cupboard. And he noted that from a personnel standpoint, things didn't look particularly crisp early in the process of transitioning to the pistol.

"The first part of it looked ugly, the first few practices and the first scrimmage and all of the different concepts that we're doing on offense and defense," he said. "We didn't put everything in, of course. You have to take it in stages. But I feel like at the end of the spring that we had understood the concepts that we wanted to get in and the kids felt comfortable with them on both sides of the ball and we started to see improvement.

"Then you're able to start coaching all the little fundamentals and intricacies that make the whole thing work. That's what we're in the process of doing. Hopefully they won't forget it all this summer and be able to do it when we crank it up back in August."

Like every team, the Buffs have on-going position battles and more than a little tweaking is needed to improve on last year's 1-11 season. But the new coach hinted at maybe the most important progress of all -- that his players are starting to enjoy football again. Something they probably weren't doing while being outscored, on average, 46-18 in 2012.

"I saw that as spring went along how our attitude changed from just grudgingly doing practice and meetings to enjoying practice and meetings and having fun with it," MacIntyre said. "I think if you don't have a passion for what you're doing, you don't have a chance to be successful. I think we built that building block this spring to have a little bit of a passion about what our kids are doing.

"I think we definitely have some players that can make plays. They've been improving daily. I feel good about the team. It's all relative until you get out there in a Pac-12 football game and see exactly where you stack up. But I feel that we do have some talent and that we need to utilize it correctly and make the most of it."
Nothing so represents the bravado of football than a team running out of the stadium tunnel to a pregame eruption of cheers or -- on the road -- boos and catcalls. It's a moment of machismo and chest pounding, as two groups of young men attempt to exude confidence and swagger under a scoreboard reading 0-0.

So just imagine what it was like for Colorado over the final third of the 2012 season.

[+] EnlargeMike MacIntyre
AP Photo/Brennan LinsleyCoach Mike MacIntyre has re-built programs before, and Colorado proves to be no different in 2013.
The Buffaloes would sprint onto the field ... and ... and ... be a punchline. It was impossible for them not to know this. They'd take the field and know they were terrible and about to get pushed around.

Not exactly why an athlete dedicates so much time and sweat to an enterprise.

The Buffs ranked 120th -- last -- in the nation in scoring defense in 2012. They were 117th in scoring offense. They "led" the nation with a negative-28.17 scoring differential, despite playing four games decided by a touchdown or less, one of which was a loss to FSC Sacramento State.

This is the mess new coach Mike MacIntyre inherited. It will not fix itself overnight.

"It's a process -- daily," he said. "It's not waving a magic wand. It's an all-the-time thing."

Part of the reason MacIntyre was hired after Jon Embree was controversially fired after just two seasons -- albeit miserable ones -- is that he's coached a team wallowing in the mire before. He took over a San Jose State squad that went 2-10 in 2009 and, well, he went 1-12 in 2010.

But then he went 5-7. This past fall, the Spartans were one of the season's feel-good stories, going 11-2 and winning a bowl game, while only losing to Stanford and Utah State.

He has a blueprint for how to rebuild a program, though obviously he's in the Pac-12 now, where there won't be as many Texas-San Antonios, Texas States and New Mexico States propping up the win-loss record.

It starts with small goals -- weight lifting totals, body fat percentages and running times. Then it moves onto the field, as it will when spring practices start on March 7. The Buffs have a lot of questions, a lot to work on and a few supporters who believe much good is going to happen in 2013.

Ah, but that's where MacIntyre's blueprint comes in. He's going to bang a relentless drum of positivity, while trying to push a team to reach his expectations.

Positive, mind you, isn't soft. Nor is it easy. MacIntyre wants to convince his players that focus, intensity, attention to detail and the daily exhaustion their pursuit demands are a sweet nectar worth seeking at every moment. Or something like that.

"I think it's positive and firm at the same time," he said. "Some people think when you say, 'Positive,' that you're saying that we're just going to look at everything and be happy and everything is going to be OK. It's positive and firm. And what I mean by firm is if you're supposed to do it a certain way, you do it that way. You don't demean them. You keep pushing them. And all the sudden the light goes on."

While there are questions all over the field, including a lack of overall team speed and massive issues with the defensive front seven, quarterback will be front-and-center for most fans. MacIntyre will bring in a new pistol offense for what figures to be a wide-open competition.

Spring practices will be wrapped around spring break, so it basically works out to two sessions. MacIntyre said the first session will be basic in terms of implementing his offense. He wants to see what each of his six QBs has to offer. They will be evaluated during the break, and the coaches will make a depth chart, with the intention of narrowing the race to three candidates.

"Then we're going to let them compete the last half of spring," he said.

And the true freshman Sefo Liufau arrives in the fall to perhaps thicken the plot.

As for the rest of the team, MacIntyre makes no secret that he's a bit of a mad scientist in terms of evaluations. He'll see a guy playing receiver and say, "tight end." He'll see a tight end and go "offensive tackle." Or he'll switch defensive backs to receiver. And vice versa. He likes to move guys around, particularly when the switch improves the athleticism at the new position. For example, he already plans to move junior D.D. Goodson from running back to receiver this spring.

But, really, the new Xs and Os and present talent aren't going to make things easy. As MacIntyre said, there's no magic wand on hand. While a new coach typically brings an uptick in enthusiasm for a program, the reality is the nattering nabobs of negativism aren't going to say or write many nice things about the Buffs this offseason. MacIntyre's biggest challenge is rebuilding his team's confidence and psyche.

"We can let the outside affect us," he said. "But that's hard because they get bombarded when things aren't going as well."

The offseason question will be how much legitimate belief can MacIntyre instill in advance of Colorado running out of the tunnel on Aug. 31 against a Colorado State team that established for the Buffs a pitiful trajectory for the 2012 season.

Instant Analysis: SJSU 29, BGSU 20

December, 27, 2012

San Jose State capped one of the best seasons in school history with a 29-20 win over Bowling Green in the Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Here’s a closer look at how the Spartans improved to 11-2:

It was over when: SJSU running back De'Leon Eskridge scored on a 1-yard run with 2:34 left in the game. The senior’s touchdown run made it a two-possession game, essentially cementing the win for the Spartans.

How the game was won: As Bowling Green tried to mount a game-winning drive, SJSU defensive end Travis Johnson, the 2012 WAC Defensive Player of the Year, used a terrific speed rush to force a fumble, which Keith Smith recovered. Eskridge scored four plays later to put the game away.

Turning point: After Bowling Green scored to take the 20-19 lead early in the fourth quarter, SJSU quarterback David Fales led his squad right down the field with an 11-play, 68-yard drive to regain the lead with a 27-yard field goal from Austin Lopez. The Spartans never trailed again.

Game ball goes to: Fales. SJSU’s junior quarterback was 33-of-43 for 395 yards with two touchdowns as the Spartans offense came up with key plays when it needed them. Three different Spartan receivers caught six passes or more as Fales spread the ball around to attack BGU’s defense. The Spartans, who finished with minus-17 rushing yards, put the game on Fales' shoulders. And he delivered.

Unsung hero: Noel Grigsby. The Spartans junior receiver was tough to cover throughout the game, finishing with nine receptions for 134 yards. He’ll join Fales to give SJSU a terrific quarterback-receiver duo to build its offense around in 2013.

Stat of the game: 3.4. While Fales will get plenty of praise for his performance, the Spartans defense was outstanding. They allowed just 3.4 yards per play to Bowling Green, who finished with 238 total yards on 71 plays.

What both teams learned: Maybe they should have spent more time working on special teams during their Military Bowl preparation. Each team blocked a punt, Bowling Green punter Brian Schmiedebusch had two punts of fewer than 20 yards and San Jose State punter Harrison Waid ended up in the hospital before the game was over after taking a hit on his first punt attempt. "Special" is not a word that should be used to describe either squad’s punt team.

What it means: San Jose State secures a Top 25 ranking and its first 11-win season since 1940 and heads into the offseason with plenty of momentum. The Spartans will join the Mountain West Conference in 2013 and play their first season under new head coach Ron Caragher, who replaces Mike MacIntyre after the former SJSU coach left for Colorado earlier this month.
Three keys for today's matchup between San Jose State and Bowling Green in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman.

1. Fales' safety: Quarterback David Fales makes San Jose State's offense go, completing more than 72 percent of his passes and regularly eclipsing 300 pass yards. But the Spartans must protect Fales from a ferocious Bowling Green pass rush led by defensive tackle Chris Jones, the MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Jones averages more than a sack a game, tying for fourth nationally, and Bowling Green ranks ninth nationally in sacks (3.08 per game). San Jose State has faced some top pass-rushing teams like Stanford and Utah State, which recorded an astonishing 13 sacks against Fales in a 49-27 win. If the Spartans suffer similar breakdowns against Jones and the Falcons, they'll have a hard time keeping Fales on the field.

2. On the run: Both teams boast elite pass-rushers -- Bowling Green's Jones, San Jose State's Travis Johnson -- and quarterbacks who can put up big passing totals. The game could come down to which team runs the ball better. Falcons freshman Anthon Samuel ranks 44th nationally in rushing (87.8 ypg) but faces a Spartans defense ranked 19th nationally against the run (123.7 ypg). San Jose State received a big boost from running back De'Leon Eskridge in the regular-season finale against Louisiana Tech (217 rush yards, 3 TDs). Anything resembling that performance will help against a Bowling Green defense ranked 14th nationally against the run (116.7 ypg).

3. Measuring up: Bowling Green has made strides under coach Dave Clawson, improving its wins total from two to five to eight. But the Falcons are looking for a signature victory after dropping their first five games against ranked opponents during Clawson's tenure. They gave Florida a good test in the opener and enter the game on a hot streak, winning seven of eight to close the regular season. Bowling Green has dropped its past two bowl games, including a heartbreaker to Idaho in the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl. The MAC is improving as a league and Bowling Green has a chance to be in that elite mix, but it needs to punctuate the season by playing its best game against a good team on a bowl stage. Bowling Green needs an efficient performance from the offense (no turnovers or penalties) and a stout effort from the defense.
San Jose State (10-2, 5-1 WAC) vs. Bowling Green (8-4, 6-2 MAC)

WHO TO WATCH: San Jose State quarterback David Fales. His debut season for the Spartans has been nothing short of spectacular. The junior-college transfer who began his career at Nevada leads the nation in completion percentage (72.1), ranks third in pass efficiency (170.9 rating) and has racked up 3,798 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He owns several team records, including single-season passing yards (3,798), passing touchdowns (31) and total offense (3,669). Fales has put himself on the NFL draft radar and sparked a San Jose State pass offense that ranks 11th nationally (327.5 ypg). He has two dynamic receivers in Noel Grigsby and Jabari Carr. Fales has eclipsed 200 pass yards in all 12 games and has eclipsed 300 pass yards six times.

WHAT TO WATCH: Bowling Green's pass rush against Fales and the San Jose State offense. The Falcons got here because of their pressuring defense, which ranks seventh nationally in yards allowed (289.7 ypg) and eighth in points allowed (15.75 ppg). Led by defensive tackle Chris Jones, the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Bowling Green ranks ninth nationally in sacks (3.08 per game) and 26th in tackles for loss (6.83 per game). Jones, who had 12.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss this season, is one of three first-team All-MAC selections for the Falcons, along with linebacker Gabe Martin and defensive back Jerry "BooBoo" Gates. San Jose State is just so-so at protecting Fales (72nd nationally in sacks allowed), so this is an area Bowling Green could exploit.

WHY TO WATCH: San Jose State boasts victories against Louisiana Tech, BYU and San Diego State and claimed its final six games to record 10 victories for the first time in a quarter-century. But the Spartans lost their coach, Mike MacIntyre, to Colorado, and defensive coordinator Kent Baer will coach the team in the bowl. San Jose State aims for its first 11-win season since 1940. Bowling Green is looking to legitimize itself and its league, which has struggled early in bowl season. The Falcons are 0-5 against ranked opponents under coach Dave Clawson. Like San Jose State, Bowling Green finished the season strong, winning seven of its final eight games after starting 1-3. And while San Jose State's offense receives more attention, the Falcons boast some weapons, too, including dynamic freshman running back Anthon Samuel (966 rush yards, 10 TDs).

PREDICTION: San Jose State 27, Bowling Green 21. It's tempting to go with defense over offense, and San Jose State is making the longer trip to Washington, D.C., but Fales will be the difference. Bowling Green defends the pass very well but didn't face the best quarterback in the MAC this year (Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch). San Jose State's underrated defense performs well against the run (19th nationally) and will limit Samuel and the Falcons. Fales and his receivers turn in a big second half as the Spartans record win No. 11.

3-point stance: ND's Kelly seeks balance

December, 26, 2012
1. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly captured the debate that is both eternal and internal in the bowl season. The coaching staff tries to determine how much hitting to do during bowl practice to keep a team sharp without getting anyone hurt. “I know how important it is. I know you need to do it,” Kelly said. “But ask any coach that’s sitting in this chair, and they’re going, ‘I really don’t want to lose Manti (Te'o, the All-America linebacker) to a practice tackling drill indoors in December.’”

2. The Mid-American Conference might have had its best season ever, what with Northern Illinois doing some BCS busting and six other MAC teams playing in the postseason. However, the league has begun the postseason as if it’s stretched too thin. Toledo and Ball State have been routed by fellow non-AQs Utah State and Central Florida, respectively -- both underrated teams. Maybe it’s just bad matchups. In the Military Bowl on Thursday afternoon, Bowling Green (8-4) plays a San Jose State (10-2) team that nearly upset No. 6 Stanford.

3. Happy 88th birthday to Arkansas legend Frank Broyles, who retired from coaching 36 years ago with a record of 149-62-6 (.700) but served as athletic director for more than three decades. Broyles’ former assistants included former Razorbacks players Barry Switzer and Jimmy Johnson, who won four national championships between them. But he was best known for his friendship with Darrell Royal, the coach of his then-archrival, Texas. They retired together in 1976, played golf together often and never discussed their 1969 showdown, when the No. 1 Longhorns defeated the No. 2 Hogs, 15-14.
1. The NCAA released the 2012 Consensus All-America team Monday. That’s the official compilation as recorded in the annual NCAA guide dating to 1889. Alabama had four players, giving the Crimson Tide 16 in the last five seasons. How good is that? Oklahoma is second in that time frame with seven players. The SEC put 10 players on the 25-man team; the Pac-12, seven. The Mountain West, Conference USA, WAC, MAC and, yes, the Big Ten, had one apiece.

2. Former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese tried to take the blame for the way that the conference has fallen apart. Tranghese told Brett McMurphy that the football league never found an anchor team to make the league a national presence. But that’s the strategy Tranghese tried to deploy when he brought Miami into the league in 1991. Maybe it comes down to the league’s 1982 decision not to offer Penn State membership. Would Penn State have been happy enough to stay and not go to the Big Ten?

3. Here’s two reasons to think that Ron Caragher will build upon the success of Mike MacIntyre at San Jose State. One, Caragher came in after Jim Harbaugh went 29-6 at San Diego from 2004-06 and went 44-22 in the last six seasons. Two, San Jose State athletic director Gene Bleymaier, who did the hiring, is the guy who hired Chris Petersen, Dan Hawkins, Dirk Koetter and Houston Nutt at Boise State. Bleymaier can spot a good coach.

3-point stance: Shaw talks Alavarez

December, 11, 2012
1. Stanford coach David Shaw said on the recruiting trail this weekend that he doesn’t foresee Wisconsin being much different with head coach Barry Alvarez in charge instead of the departed Bret Bielema. He has no plans to dig up Alvarez’s coaching tendencies from a decade ago. “He actually spoke at a couple of events I went to early in my career,” Shaw said. “I just know he’s going to make sure they make smart, sound decisions. He’s a veteran coach. He knows what he’s doing.”

2. Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said Monday that the best benefit of practicing at a fast pace is the mental acuity his defense develops. “Football is such a communication sport now,” O’Brien said. “Guys have to communicate quickly. They have to communicate under pressure and in loud stadiums, with either verbal communication or hand signals or eye contact. Practicing that way really helps your football team.”

3. The miracles that Mike MacIntyre performed in taking San Jose State from 1-12 in 2010, his first season, to 10-2 this year, pale before the task he agreed to undertake at Colorado. The Buffs haven’t had a winning record in since 2005. But MacIntyre will have resources (read: money) in Boulder that he never had in San Jose. He also can recruit to the Pac-12 Conference. Another big selling point for Colorado: The Spartans had an Academic Progress Rate of 981. MacIntyre, who came to San Jose State from Duke, coaches academics, too.

Colorado taps Mike MacIntyre

December, 10, 2012

It might be a blessing in disguise that Butch Jones spurned Colorado last week and then emerged at Tennessee.

Colorado has hired San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre, sources told on Monday, and that feels like a better fit.

MacIntyre, 47, transformed a moribund program into a 10-2 bowl team this season, one that is ranked 24th in the BCS standings.

After San Jose State went 2-10 in 2009, MacIntyre took over and went 1-10 his first season. The Spartans jumped to 5-7 in 2011 and now will play in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27 in Washington, D.C.

So MacIntyre won't be surprised by what he is getting into. Colorado hasn't posted a winning record since 2005. It has won three or fewer games four times since 2006.

[+] EnlargeMike MacIntyre
AP Photo/Tony AvelarCan Mike MacIntyre bring smiles to Colorado's struggling football program?
Terms of MacIntyre's contract were not available. Last week, Colorado offered Jones, then the coach at Cincinnati, a five-year deal worth $13.5 million, according to multiple reports. MacIntyre's deal figures to be less than that.

MacIntyre will replace Jon Embree, who was fired after going 4-21 in two seasons.

MacIntyre was born in Miami, the son of a coach, George MacIntyre, who was Vanderbilt's head coach from 1979-85. He's also a defensive guy whose specialty is the secondary. From 2003-07, he coached defensive backs in the NFL (Dallas and New York Jets). NFL experience gives a guy credibility on the recruiting trail. He was Duke's defensive coordinator for two years before coming to San Jose State.

This is a great profile from Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News of MacIntyre. It's notable how MacIntyre turned his focus to conditioning and recruiting.
MacIntrye, meanwhile, organized a plan to have he or one of his assistant coaches meet and personally shake the hand of every single high school football coach in California. MacIntyre also organized "traveling San Jose State camps" at high school fields in San Diego, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Ontario and Sacramento. They were one-day clinics that cost $40 for players to attend -- but also served as evaluation sessions. The high school coaches were encouraged to send along any player they thought had college potential.

"California is like four states in one," MacIntyre said. "It was a way for us to spread the word about San Jose State. If we sign 20 players in a recruiting season, at least 17 or 20 of them have been at our camps."

The new recruiting effort, plus the conditioning ramp-up, made the Spartans far more competitive in 2011. MacIntyre was also able to keep his coaching staff stable. Although San Jose State finished with a 5-7 record, late season victories over Navy and Fresno State created momentum moving forward.

San Jose State's two losses came to Pac-12 champion Stanford, 20-17, and 20th-ranked Utah State, 49-27. It finished the season with strong wins over BYU and Louisiana Tech.

California just hired now former Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes.

MacIntrye not only has experience as a head coach, he has the right experience that matches Colorado's needs.

He knows what a desperate program looks like. It doesn't frighten him. And based on what he did at San Jose State, he just might have the cure.


Military Bowl

December, 2, 2012
San Jose State Spartans (10-2) vs. Bowling Green Falcons (8-4)

Dec. 27, 3 p.m., Washington, D.C. (ESPN)

San Jose State take by SoonerNation's Brandon Chatmon: SJSU has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, going 10-2 with losses at Stanford and Utah State. The Spartans opened eyes with their 20-17 season-opening loss to the Cardinal and won six straight games to end the season.

The Spartans bring a lethal passing attack to Washington, D.C., led by receiver Noel Grigsby, who finished with 73 receptions for 1,173 yards and nine touchdowns. He had back-to-back 100-yard games in wins over BYU and Louisiana Tech to end the regular season.

Worried about SJSU on the East Coast? The Spartans have a road win in all four time zones this season, including a 12-0 shutout of Navy in Annapolis, Md., on Sept. 29. It’s been a record-setting season for SJSU, which finished the regular season ranked No. 24 in the coaches and AP polls.

Bowling Green take by WolverineNation's Chantel Jennings: Bowling Green wasn’t the most effective offensive team in the MAC this season. The Falcons finished 10th in scoring offense and 11th in total offense and were led by a quarterback that somehow accounted for nearly 2,500 yards in the air despite a 56 percent completion mark and 12 interceptions.

But the Falcons got it done on defense.

They finished seventh in the FBS in total defense (289.7 yards per game) and ninth in the FBS in scoring defense (15.8 points per game). The mid-major quietly worked its way through the MAC, finishing second in the East Division.

Defensive tackle Chris Jones led the way for BGSU, recording 19 tackles for a loss and he accounted for a conference-high 12.5 sacks. The senior was named the MAC’s defensive player of the year, the fourth player in program history to be given the award.

3-point stance: Top coaching candidates

November, 26, 2012
1. The two most intriguing names thus far to fill coaching vacancies are San Jose State head coach Mike MacIntyre and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. MacIntyre has coached back east, and California, which fired Jeff Tedford, is less than an hour up I-880. Smart, as Tide head coach Nick Saban’s right-hand man, has learned defense and organization from the master and is a terrific recruiter. By the way, the man who built the modern-day Auburn program, Pat Dye, was a protégé of Bear Bryant at Alabama.

2. Colorado’s decision to fire Jon Embree after two seasons came as the biggest surprise of Black Sunday. The school took a flyer on Embree, a long-time NFL assistant and a former Buff star, because he provided a connection to the glory days of Bill McCartney. Embree began his tenure in the hole dug by his predecessor, Dan Hawkins, and found himself starting freshmen in the Pac-12. McCartney couldn’t have won with freshmen. Neither could Saban, Bryant or any other coach.

3. Recent Heisman winners have demanded the trophy with their play (Cam Newton in 2010, Troy Smith in 2006) or as the bellcow of the best regular-season team (Mark Ingram in 2009, Sam Bradford in 2008). This season, Notre Dame’s best player is linebacker Manti Te’o, whose skills aren’t entirely captured by numbers. Neither Alabama nor Georgia has a viable candidate. The fact that only one top candidate, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, is still playing only adds to the mystery.