When San Jose State visits the Rose Bowl Saturday at 7 p.m. for UCLA's home opener, it will mark the first time the teams have ever met on the football field, but it couldn't have come soon enough for the Bruins.
UCLA badly needs a victory to help raise the confidence of the team and the fan base after its heartbreaking 38-34 loss at Houston and San Jose State is as close to a sure thing as the Bruins have on the schedule this season.
The Spartans are coming off of a 57-3 shellacking at Stanford extending their losing streak to 11 games dating to last season. They have lost 26 of their last 29 games going back to 2008 and they haven't defeated a Football Bowl Subdivision team since 2009. Their last road win came on Nov. 1, 2008 against Idaho.
The biggest danger San Jose State presents is being so bad that UCLA overlooks them with Texas looming the following week.
"There can be zero in the way of thinking about that we don’t have a formidable opponent," coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We have to give San Jose State their due respect. The score was lopsided, but if you watch the tape they played Stanford very, very tough."
You can ignore the coachspeak. San Jose State rushed for only 27 yards against Stanford and averaged less than a yard per carry. Sure, that was against one of the Pac-12's elite, but San Jose State didn't present much of a running threat last season either when the Spartans ranked 119th out of 120 FBS teams in rushing offense last season with 78.54 yards per game. They also were 117th in total defense last season, giving up 463.69 yards per game, and gave up 57 points to Stanford, so not so tough on that side of the ball either.
The Spartans run a spread-style offense with some elements of the Pistol and quarterback Matt Faulkner completed 14 of 26 passes for 184 yards without an interception against Stanford. The top offensive player is receiver Noel Grigsby, a 5-11, 170-pound sophomore who had eight catches for 82 yards against Stanford. The Spartans also boast an experienced offensive line with all five starters returning from last year's team.
On defense, the 4-3 scheme is led by linebacker Keith Smith, a 6-1, 229-pound sophomore who lead the team in tackles as a freshman last season with 116 and was named a freshman All-American and the 2010 WAC freshman of the year.
But it could be a long day for the Spartans defensive front four, which averages 266 pounds and will be giving up almost 50 pounds per man to UCLA's offensive line, which averages 314 pounds.