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

I spoke with Jeremy Mauss of Mountain West Connection about this weekend's game. You can read my answers to his questions here.

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

1) Last year was SJSU's first trip to Auburn. Did you talk to anyone who went, and if so how did they enjoy the experience? We try to be very welcoming and have fun with OOC foes.

I did not talk to anyone who made the trip out to Auburn for this game. Those fans going had to know a loss was coming but just wanted to make the trip to say they saw a game at Jordan Hare Stadium because a loss was coming. This time around there might be a bit more optimistic on Spartans fans after seeing how both teams seasons have progressed. I just say have fun and chat with the opposing fan base before the game and once it kicks off then start some trash talk.

2) How has Greg Robinson been doing in his first year as the defensive coordinator there at SJSU? Who are his biggest playmakers on the defense?

At first, this hire seemed to be a laughing stock due to his previous stops but he has helped a lot. The Spartans rush defense was overtly laughable last year as they gave up 239 yards per game last year and this year it is basically the same at 236 per game. However, 428 was given up to Air Force and 303 to Oregon State, but there seems to finally be some improvement as they held Fresno State to 88 yards on the ground and they have a very underrated running back in Marteze Waller who they shut down. I expect Auburn to have success on the ground a rack up the yards. The secondary was already very good prior to Robinson but he has enhanced that and the team is giving up only 94.5 yards per game by giving up just 60, 24, 135 and 159 yards this year. The combo of Jimmy Pruitt and Cleveland Wallace III are the stars of the secondary. The two have combined for three interception and six pass breakups. They also have Andre Chachere who also has another three pass breakups, so throwing the ball and successfully will be a challenge for Auburn.

3) I know running back Tyler Ervin is an absolute beast, but who else should we know about on the offense? What style of system do the Spartans run?

The other player to keys in on is wide receivers Tyler Winston and Billy Freeman. Winston has 21 receptions and Freeman has 15. The ball gets spread around from quarterback Joe Gray who has vastly improved his accuracy this year. There is not real deep threat for this offense but they move the ball efficiency and effectively. With the way Ervin moves the ball on the ground and Gray's ability to be accurate and spread the ball around this offense has quite a few weapons and focusing in on one is not an easy task. They run Al Borges' offense which is more of a West Coast style with shorter passes, screens and get the running backs involved in the passing game. They also will run out there with three wide receivers at times which can test a defense.

4) What were the Spartans' expectations going into this season? Last year didn't end very well, but this season is starting out on a decent note at 2-2.

Expectations were low as the rush defense was awful as was the red zone efficiency where they were successful on just 66 percent or red zone chances. Getting in the end zone was worse as they scored within the 20-yard line was even less by converting just 17 of 39. That has improved this year and that is a big reason for them being 2-2 and playing much better. The key pieces on offense are back in Joe Gray, Tyler Ervin and Tyler Winston, because they can now score points as opposed to getting shutout of the end zone and field goals last year. A lot of publications had San Jose State predicted to finish fourth, but now with no team really taking the drivers seat on the West, it would not surprise anyone a bit if the Spartans were to win the division.

5) Auburn is starting a QB in only his second game. How do you expect the Spartans to attack him?

San Jose State should be more concerned with what they do on defense, to be honest. Ideally, the Spartans should attack and make Sean White feel uncomfortable in the pocket. San Jose State has the secondary to allow for the coaches to blitz and send as many as seven defenders at the quarterback. The secondary can handle their own but the front seven need to get in his face and make him throw sooner than expected or knock him around. The big question is if they can do that and so far this year they have not been able to get to the quarterback as they have only three sacks on the year.

6) What's your prediction for this one?

While San Jose State has improved from last year to this year they are still a team that struggles in the passing game and their defense has a long ways to go. They likely will be a pain in Auburn's side for this game and could keep it close, especially if Tyler Ervin has a good game on the ground, but ultimately Auburn will likely win by 10 or more points.