SAN JOSE -- The start of Western Athletic Conference play Saturday brings a big challenge and San Jose State's most important game to date when it hosts Utah State.
The Aggies are the best team the Spartans have faced since their opener against Stanford and an opponent that should determine SJSU's legitimacy to reach its goal of a WAC title.
"We have one of the best football teams in the league coming in here," Spartans coach Mike MacIntyre said of Utah State. "This will be a tough task for us and one that we need to get to be able to reach that goal."
Utah State (4-2) is coming off a 6-3 loss to BYU. The Aggies' other loss came at then-No. 22 Wisconsin. Utah State missed a 37-yard field goal at the finish of that 16-14 defeat.
Louisiana Tech remains the favorite in the WAC, but the Aggies and Spartans (4-1) look to be the top two contenders behind the No. 23 Bulldogs (5-0).
"Those are teams you knew coming into the year had a lot of players coming back and have played at a high level," Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes said. "They both have played good competition, been in very competitive ballgames. San Jose could easily be undefeated, and so could Utah State."
UTSA (5-0), led by former Miami coach Larry Coker, has been the surprise early contender in its first season of FBS play and second season of football overall. Four of the Roadrunners' wins are against FCS teams.
"I think we needed a little rest," MacIntyre said. "The Navy trip took a lot out of us."
The Spartans struggled after their bye week last year. Coming off an emotional 28-27 win over Hawaii, SJSU fell behind early and lost to Louisiana Tech. That was the start of a three-game losing streak that ended the Spartans' bowl hopes.
"Last year when we came out of our bye week, we weren't caught up in the speed of the game enough," MacIntyre said. "We've done a lot against each other -- ones going against ones -- trying to make sure we kept the speed of the game going."
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