Let's start, as usual, with the big picture -- with the bowl math.

The Spartans are 7-2 overall and 6-2 in games that count toward the postseason.

They. Are. Eligible.

It has been a long time and a long climb.

But unless they win the WAC, the Spartans will be a free agent, available to any bowl in need of a team.

Although they could go anywhere -- a vacancy is a vacancy and 70 spots must be filled -- the Spartans are more attractive to bowls in the West than those two or three time zones away.

  • The Kraft Fight Hunger has one spot filled (Navy) and should have a Pac-12 representative on the other side.

  • The Las Vegas Bowl will be booked (Pac-12 vs. MWC).

  • The Poinsettia Bowl will be booked (BYU vs. MWC).

  • The New Mexico Bowl? There's a scenario in which the Pac-12 wouldn't fill its spot, but it's fairly remote.

  • The Hawaii? Hmmmm.

    The bowl matches a Mountain West team against a representative from Conference USA, and there's a chance one of the leagues won't have a team available.

    On the MWC side, the Spartans would need Air Force to lose its final three games, which seems unlikely: The Falcons host lowly Hawaii in two weeks.

    I haven't taken a close look at the C-USA schedules, permutations and pecking order.

    But at this point, it has only three eligible teams for five bowls -- and everybody else is at least two wins away from becoming eligible.

    If there's an opening on the C-USA side, I'd have to think Hawaii officials would be interested in matching SJSU against one of its past and future conference rivals, like ... I dunno ... Fresno State or Nevada.

  • Result: Won at Idaho 42-13

  • Grade: A-

  • Comment: The level of competition and the sloppiness (four turnovers) kept me from handing out a higher grade.

  • Poignant quote from coach Mike MacIntyre:

    "The lowest point in my career was in this building," MacIntyre said, referring to a 26-23 overtime loss in 2010 to end his first season as coach at 1-12.

    "It's amazing how far we've come. We're not done yet. But this is something we are going to savor for just a second. I'm just so proud of everybody. It's an emotional day."

  • SJSU outscored Idaho 28-6 in the second half and has now dominated opponents after halftime to the tune of 161-74.

    That's conditioning, depth and halftime adjustments.

  • Good: Six sacks.

  • Bad: 2.9 yards per rush.

  • Good: One penalty.

  • Bad: 4 of 13 on third down.

  • Another sterling performance by QB David Fales, who threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns and was named WAC Offensive Player of the Week.

  • The concern for SJSU at this point is similar to the one facing Stanford:

    When you play second-rate competition week after week -- and when you beat up on that second-rate competition -- there's a tendency for bad habits to take root.

    Problem is, you don't know the bad habits exist because the opponents aren't good enough to exploit them.

    The combination of bad habits mixed with a string of lopsided wins is a dangerous one and afflicts teams across the country every year ... until one too many sloppy performances leads to a loss.

    Here's a Spartan-specific example: Turnovers.

    They committed three at Texas-San Antonio and won handily.

    They committed three against Texas State and won comfortably.

    They committed four at Idaho (three on special teams) and won going away.

    That's 10 turnovers and three decisive wins.

    SJSU has one game to correct the problem, because three (or more) turnovers against BYU or LaTech will result in a loss.

    Next up: at New Mexico State

    The matchup: The Aggies are quite possibly the worst team SJSU has faced, at least since UC Davis and maybe including Davis.

    NMSU lost to Idaho.

    NMSU lost to Texas-San Antonio.

    NMSU has lost to everyone on its schedule since Sept. 30, when it thumped Sacramento State.

    So yes, SJSU should win handily. (It's a three-touchdown favorite for a reason.)

    In fact, we're going to do what the players and coaches cannot do: We're going to assume a victory.

    What matters to the Spartans, in the context of their presumptive eighth win of the season, is:

    1) Staying healthy for the two huge games down the stretch, and

    2) Correcting all the mistakes that have surfaced over the past few weeks, with turnovers topping the list.

    The Spartans must be at their best against BYU and LaTech.

    Saturday's game is their final tuneup.