WASHINGTON -- San Jose State has faced some good defenses this season. Bowling Green, its opponent in Thursday's Military Bowl, ranks among the toughest.
The Falcons (8-4) are in the top 15 in the country in each of the major defensive categories, including No. 7 in total defense.
The Spartans (10-2) have faced three other teams whose defenses rate similarly: Stanford, Utah State and BYU. San Jose State lost to Stanford and Utah State and was shut out in the second half of its 20-14 win over BYU.
"I think they're right up there in that classification," SJSU offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said of Bowling Green. "Their front is physical. People aren't scoring a lot of points against them. ... I think we've got our work cut out for us."
Bowling Green is allowing 15.8 points per game, which ranks eighth nationally. It has allowed more than 30 points only twice, in a 37-0 loss to Virginia Tech and a 31-24 loss to Kent State. The Spartans are averaging 35.3 points.
"Our offense has worked like crazy to game plan against these guys," defensive coordinator and interim head coach Kent Baer said. "That's probably the matchup you want to watch. We feel good about it, but we're going to have to play."
Bowling Green's defense is keyed by senior defensive tackle Chris Jones, the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He's among the national leaders with 12.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.
"He plays extremely hard," Lindgren said of Jones. "He's extremely athletic for how big and strong he is. He changes direction well. He gets off the blocks. He's a really impressive player. One of the better guys we've seen up front all season."
Jones definitely has San Jose State's attention.
"We've got to throw in a little bit different protections for him because he makes plays down there and he's real explosive," Spartans quarterback David Fales said.
The Falcons differ from the other three stout defenses in that they use a four-man front, anchored in the middle by Jones.
"They're a talented group," SJSU left tackle David Quessenberry said. "They have a lot of experience. They have real good lateral movement and real good gap control. For us, it'll be important to get solid double teams, be assignment sound, find the right guy and execute."
Sophomore linebacker Gabe Martin and junior defensive back BooBoo Gates joined Jones as first-team All-MAC selections.
The Falcons are allowing 173 passing yards per game, which is seventh in the country. San Jose State is averaging nearly double that through the air.
A lot of Bowling Green's success has come from shutting down the run to force opponents to become one-dimensional, which could work in the Spartans' favor. San Jose State's passing game has been much more consistent than its running game.
There may be nothing more significant than preventing the Falcons from establishing a pass rush. The Spartans surrendered 13 sacks in their 49-27 loss to Utah State. But in the six games since -- all victories -- SJSU has allowed just two sacks, both against BYU.
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