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Football: Scouting the Spartans

On Friday, the Fresno State football team will aim to finish the regular season undefeated with its finale against the San Jose State Spartans.

The last time the teams faced off was Nov. 26, 2011. Fresno State, 4-8 at the time, fell victim to the Spartans 27-24.

Since then, both teams have changed head coaches. The Bulldogs fired longtime coach Pat Hill and hired Tim DeRuyter. The Spartans went another year with Mike MacIntyre before he departed for Colorado and was replaced by Ron Caragher.

The Spartans have gone 16-8 since the last matchup. They are currently on a three-game losing streak, their second of the season. The last time they lost four games or more in a row was during the 2010 season, when they finished 1-10.

Record: 5-6 (4-3 Mountain West Conference)

How they got here: Last season’s 2012 Mountain West co-champions started the season with a 24-0 win over Sacramento State. The next matchup was truly a test, as the Spartans visited No. 5 Stanford. After losing 34-13, San Jose State lost at Minnesota (43-24) and Utah State (40-12) before breaking the skid with a 37-27 win over Hawaii.

The Spartans went undefeated in October with victories over Colorado State (34-27), Wyoming (51-44) and UNLV (34-24), but have not won since then. Their most recent defeat was a three-overtime heartbreaker against Navy.

Now, they are looking for a victory over Fresno State to remain bowl-eligible.

Player to watch on offense: David Fales, quarterback.
Fales, currently fourth in the football bowl subdivision (FBS) in passing yards (3,642), is in his junior season at San Jose State. He has 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season. During the current losing streak, he has nine scores and three picks. He posted a 91.9 passer ratting against Navy. Much like the relationship between Derek Carr and Davante Adams, Fales has a target who he will throw to when open: Chandler Jones. Jones has six games this year with 100-plus receiving yards and averages 17 yards per reception.

Player to watch on defense: Bene Benwikere, cornerback.
The 6-foot, 192-pound Benwikere is known for his agility on a team that is not known for its defensive prowess. He has five interceptions this year, and with a pass-heavy quarterback like Carr, Benwikere will be in the backfield (probably defending Adams) most of the time. If Fresno State sticks with a mix of pass and rush, it will be able to keep Benwikere under control. Keep in mind, the team is ranked 108th in the FBS in rush defense.

The wild card: Austin Lopez, kicker.
If given the opportunity, the Spartans will go for the easy three points. Lopez is third in the FBS in field goals (20) and has connected on 80 percent of his attempts. He is also 2-2 in field goals of more than 50 yards.

The weather on Nov. 29 is slated to be 66 degrees with 7 mph winds, perfect weather for a kicker. If the Bulldog defense allows the Spartan offense to get anywhere in Fresno State territory, then chances are Lopez will be out to score.

The game will take place at 12:30 p.m., and it will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

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