Spartan football will play the biggest game of its season on Saturday against Brigham-Young University. A win could set up a potential and even more monumental final-week showdown between SJSU and Louisiana Tech for a share of the conference title seven days later.BYU (6-4), however, will also be the toughest opponent SJSU (8-2, 4-1 WAC) has faced in 2012. To fit the occasion, the scene has been set for this Saturday and next ESPN2 has picked up both contests and head coach Mike MacIntyre said the teams goal is still to win the Western Athletic Conference.The first step toward a WAC championship for the Spartans is defeating the Cougars on national television Saturday.Its a big game. Its exciting to have two important, meaningful two weeks in November, MacIntyre said. Our kids understand that weve kind of gone to another level and we need to stay there.You always like to play against the best and Saturday well get to play against truly one of the very best defenses in America.Should Louisiana Tech defeat Utah State this weekend, the Spartans would have a chance to claim a three-way conference title with both schools by beating Louisiana Tech the following week. It would be SJSUs first football WAC title in school history.But before the Spartans can have a chance to call themselves the best in their conference, they need to get through, like MacIntyre said, one of the best defenses in collegiate football. The Cougars rank seventh in the country by allowing just 14.2 points per game.Quarterback David Fales, who ranks first in the nation in completion percentage and fourth in passer rating, said he is not really worried about scoring on the stout BYU defense.Were just going to take it a play at a time and execute what we got, he said. Weve been putting a game plan together for them so it should be good.MacIntyre said the success of his offense will come down to execution.If we execute then well be able to move the ball, he said. Yes, theyre good. We probably wont move the ball as well as we have against other teams because theye good; theyre big; theyre strong; theyre fast.The BYU defense has allowed the team to play tough against every one of its opponents this season. The 42 points it allowed to then-No. 10 Oregon State is the most allowed all season. The other two top-25 opponents BYU has faced have been competitive match-ups because of the effort from the Cougars defense.On Sept. 20, BYU lost to Boise State, the 24th-best team in the nation at the time, by a final score of 7-6. Three weeks ago, BYU took Notre Dame, the second-best team in the country, down to the final minutes before losing 17-14. The Cougars led the Fighting Irish 14-7 late in the second quarter.They should have beat Notre Dame, MacIntyre said. Notre Dame was really lucky to beat them. To me, BYU outplayed them.MacIntyre said he will run a balanced offense of both run and pass plays to throw off BYUs ability to sack the quarterback. The passing game, however, will surely take over for SJSU as the team ranks 108th in the nation in yards per game on the ground and lost back-up running back David Freeman to suspension. They have great outside linebackers that rush the passer so if we pass on every down they can just tee off and that wont be good for us, he said. BYU knows that, we know that and well need to have balance.Offensively, the Cougars are led by quarterback Riley Nelson, who has completed 60 percent of his passes this season for 1,676 yards and 12 touchdowns. MacIntyre said Nelsons ability to get it to the Cougars tall and lanky wide receivers is what makes him successful.He is a playmaker and a competitor, MacIntyre said about Nelson. He can run. He can throw and he has done very well.With that said, though, MacIntyre added that he has had the luxury of being able to say every Saturday that he has the best quarterback on the field in Fales.David is our steady guy, he said. When hes out there, hes hard to stop.Thus, Saturday begins a two-week quest to share the WAC title with Utah State and Louisiana Tech. Lose and the Spartans are out of WAC championship bid.
INDIANAPOLIS -- More and more college coaches are putting their starters and even their stars on special teams as they seek to pile up every possible point in an era of pedal-to-the-metal shootouts and never-safe leads.
Fading fast are the days when superstars would catch their breath on the sideline when the kicker or punter trotted onto the field with the scrubs.
NFL teams love it.
Watching how players handle themselves as a blocker, gunner or returner provides a glimpse into a prospect's range, selflessness and versatility. It also delivers a sneak peek into how coachable he'll be, says Phil Savage, the SiriusXM NFL Radio host who spent two decades as an NFL coach, scout and executive and now oversees the Senior Bowl.
"I think because of the landscape of college football where scoring is at a premium, you've got to figure out a way to put points on the board not only on offense but through your special teams and defensively, as well," Savage says. "These coaches want to get these young players on the field as soon as possible, and a way to do that is utilize them on special teams."
These tapes provide a bonus to pro scouts.
"Now you have a vision of what that player might forecast to in the NFL as a young player and, specifically, as a rookie," Savage said.
Offensive and defensive coaches have a better idea of the types of players they're integrating into their schemes, and special teams coaches no longer get blank stares and blank canvases from the rookie class.
"Not only do you like the fact that they come in and have experience doing it, but you love the mentality if you're a coach and a decision maker that this guy isn't a diva, he's got no ego about it, he understands the team and puts team before self," says ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.
"And he comes in with the mindset of 'What can I do to help the team and how can I contribute?' Those are the guys that seem to make it and last longer in the league because they're just willing to do different things and whatever it takes."
The prime example in this year's draft class is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey , a "dynamic player than can do it all," according to Broncos GM John Elway.
McCaffrey gained more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage in his college career and added almost 2,000 more as a returner.
"There's just a lot of big plays open in the return game," McCaffrey says. "You see special teams have such an impact on the game today. Any time I can have the ball in my hands, I feel like I can do something dangerous, and that's really why I love the return game."
Other highly touted draft prospects who polished their resumes on special teams include Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Washington wide receiver John Ross, and USC cornerback Adroee' Jackson, all of whom are projected as high selections.
McShay says "we're seeing more and more programs put an emphasis on special teams and having their key players contribute in one or more areas on special teams."
He pointed to Ohio State, where Urban Myers coaches special teams himself.
"It's a major emphasis there, and so you'll see some more guys typically lined up and contributing that are starters and stars," McShay says. "It's an honor to be on special teams."
Not a burden.
"It is not uncommon now to see people that are going to be picked in the first round having 100-plus special teams plays," suggests NFL draft consultant and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.
He pointed to the University of Florida, where Gators defensive backs cover kickoffs as well as they do receivers.
"Everyone's always trying to get their best guys on the field," Brandt says.
That's a change from years past when coaches feared exposing their star players to the extra hits.
The added value benefits the players, whose multiple talents allow NFL general managers to address many needs.
"We're seeing more emphasis on it in college, and I think NFL teams love to see it because if just means you're getting a bit more for your buck," McShay says.
Top talents who bolstered their value by playing special teams:
CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY , RB, STANFORD: He shined at the combine working out with the running backs and was as impressive running routes. Asked if there was anything he couldn't do, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey said then: "I can't sing."
JABRILL PEPPERS , S, MICHIGAN: He worked out with safeties and linebackers at the combine, where teams talked of him playing RB and WR in addition to returning kicks. "The bottom line is I'm a ballplayer and I'm a hell of a ballplayer," Peppers said.
JOHN ROSS , WR, WASHINGTON: He caught 81 passes with 17 TDs last season but actually posted more return yards (2,069) than scrimmage yards (1,924) in his college career.
ADOREE' JACKSON , CB, USC: One of the best special teams coverage players in the NCAA, Jackson also scored eight TDs on punt and kick returns in college. His punt return averages rose from 6.0 yards to 10.5 and 15.8.
JAMAL ADAMS , S, LSU: Another star in coverage, Adams' defensive mentality extends to special teams. "I love being on the field and just playing football," said Adams, whose father, George, was a first-round pick by the Giants in 1985.
ALVIN KAMARA , RB, TENNESSEE: In a deep running back group, Kamara separates himself with his special teams acumen. "A lot of teams have been bringing up special teams," Kamara said.
DESMOND KING , CB, IOWA: He had eight interceptions as a junior and three as a senior. "I had a really good special teams season," King said. "Not being targeted as much, I still went out there and competed the best I could and was still making plays."
CHRIS WORMLEY , DE, MICHIGAN: Wormley touts playing for Jim Harbaugh as one of his attributes. "Coach Harbaugh came in and ran our program like an NFL program, like he had with the 49ers," said Wormley, who blocked three kicks his senior season.
ZAY JONES , WR, EAST CAROLINA: Like McCaffrey, he has good NFL bloodlines (son of Robert Jones, brother of Cayleb Jones). He caught 158 passes as a senior, but spent his first two seasons in college also making his mark as a returner.
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.
The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and its 13th straight regular season Big 12 title before losing to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.
"After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Jackson said in a statement Monday.
"I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas," he said, "and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA."
Jackson was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.
With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket - not to mention defensive chops that are rare among freshmen - Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation's top draft prospects.
His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by coach Bill Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.
He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed just 10 points in a season-ending loss to the Ducks.
Jackson's suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women's basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson's teammate, Lagerald Vick.
Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial is scheduled for May 24.
His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.
Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self's ire when he didn't tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.
His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.