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Auburn vs San Jose State: Q&A with Mountain West Connection

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Jeremy Mauss from Mountain West Connection joins us for a Q&A.

Mike Zarrilli

1) Who are the play-makers on offense that Auburn really needs to watch out for? Will having the running back suspended for this game affect SJSU much?

The quarterback situation was up in the air ever since David Fales left campus last year and the race was down to the wire, but Blake Jurich won the job and played very well against North Dakota completing 22 of 25 passes and three touchdowns., but again that is a FCS school. Being accurate in his first career sign is promising even with the lackluster defense he faced. Jurich's favorite target was Tyler Winston who caught 10 passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Winston is right on track after an amazing freshman year where he caught 58 passes last year. He is the go to receiver that Auburn will want to focus on.

Missing out on Jarrod Lawson against North Dakota was not a big deal, but not having him on the road against Auburn is a cause for concern. Thomas Tucker did fine in his start last week with 81 yards on 20 carries but it will be extra tough on him to replicate those numbers against Auburn. Lawson would have provided depth to the position and an equally of good running back, but now the backups behind Tucker are less than promising.

2) What are SJSU's defensive strengths and struggles?

Their strengths are its front seven which brings back all but two starting linebackers from last year's team, but they also get back star linebacker Vince Buhagiar who missed all of the 2013 season with a shoulder injury. The issue this team had last year was stopping the run. They were one of the worst teams in the country in doing so and when they faced any team with a resemblance of a ground attack things got ugly. That should be improved with the experience back and also Greg Robinson being hired this past offseason to run the defense. Too early to tell but they did hold North Dakota to just 118 yards last week.

The secondary is a weak spot since the team lost Bene Benwikere to the NFL Draft last year and he was an all-league safety who had 14 career interceptions and 12 in his final two years as a full-time starter. Without him the secondary will take a step back.

3) What would SJSU need to do to pull off the upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday night?

They would need to have long sustained offensive drives so that the defense does not get worn down by Auburn's uptempo attack. Having long drives means being able to run the ball but missing Jarrod Lawson could hinder that, and make the passing game an area of emphasis. Quarterback Blake Jurich needs to find not only Tyler Winston but get a lot of receivers involved so that the Tigers can't just focus on that. Protecting Jurich probably supersedes the prior because if there is no protection then passing the ball around will not be an option.

Even if the offense can move the ball reasonably well, this Auburn offense is very good and the Spartans will need to limit big plays, stop on third-and-longs -- or at least attempt to force those -- and not let Nick Marshall scramble and get big plays. Not sure if the Spartans can do that but they need to disrupt this offense and create some turnovers and easy points.

In short, it will take a lot to pull off the upset.

4) How many fans do you anticipate will make the trip to our little village on the rolling plains of eastern Alabama?

The San Jose State fan base is not large and outside of the past few years which include a bowl game and a 6-6 record there has not been too much to be positive about on this team. I'd expect a maximum of maybe 2,000 or so. San Jose State has a tough time selling out home games against decent teams, so not sure why many would travel outside of wanting to see a game in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

5) Since Auburn has never played SJSU, what are some interesting traditions/facts, etc, that Auburn fans might like to know about them?

Bill Walsh did attend San Jose State and that is part of the reason why Stanford and San Jose State play nearly every year in a game called the Bill Walsh Legacy Game. With this team not being very good, pretty much ever, and with football nearly being dropped in the 1990s there is not much. Their football program is actually one of the oldest in the country as they first fielded a team in 1893 and played their first season was played in 1898.

However, one cool thing they have on campus is part of a pep rally with a fire show. It is one of those where people spit fire and twirl large batons with fire at each end.

6) Final Score prediction and general thoughts on how the game will play out?

After watching how Auburn did pretty much what they wanted to against Arkansas this past week, my assumption is that this game could follow the same path. San Jose State will probably make a few decent plays in the passing game but they will not be able to hold on to any momentum they get from said plays. This game, hopefully, will be close throughout part of the first half, but Auburn has too much and will walk away in the second half with a big win. As for a score, I'll say Auburn 41, San Jose State 17.