LAS VEGAS -- As much as the players and coaches would like to dismiss it, the departure of quarterback David Fales continues to linger over the San Jose State football program.
Fales was a big reason the Spartans had varying levels of success the past two years. But now that he's playing for the Chicago Bears, San Jose State was picked to finish fifth in the Mountain West Conference's West Division. As outside perceptions go, the feeling is that with Fales gone, the Spartans are back to being at the bottom of the barrel.
As hard as the Spartans try to tune it out, the chatter leaks in and adds a little fire.
"It motivates us because people are saying our offense isn't going to be as good without Fales," sophomore wide receiver Tyler Winston said. "We just want to show that he wasn't the only player on the offense we had, even as great as he was."
If expectations are low this season, it's also because of how SJSU performed a year ago. The Spartans were considered a potential conference title contender in 2013 but went just 6-6 and failed to reach a bowl game. Not long ago, a 6-6 season would have been viewed as successful in San Jose.
"Now we're held to a higher standard," senior defensive tackle Travis Raciti said. "We hold ourselves to a higher standard. We know that we can be great, and when we don't achieve what we set out to achieve, it hurts."
"There's some fringe talk about it," Caragher said. "Has anything been finalized? Not necessarily. But I think it'd be great."
San Jose State and Stanford have played 67 times since 1900, but they're not playing this year and have battled publicly over the reasons for not continuing the series.
San Jose State said it wanted a home-and-home series -- only three of the previous meetings were in San Jose -- but that might be a stretch for Stanford to agree to.
Caragher and SJSU athletic director Gene Bleymaier said last year they would be open to Levi's Stadium. There's no word about when a resumption of the series could begin, but both schools have openings on their 2015 schedules. Stanford's 2016 and 2017 slates are full.
Caragher said he'd also love to make arrangements to play Cal at Levi's Stadium. Those schools have met 35 times, but not since 1996.
"Joe had a really good spring game," Caragher said. "But I also think they both had good springs. It would be hard to say one has the lead going in."