SAN JOSE -- Keith Smith was part of a recruiting class that came to San Jose State four years ago sold on the promise that it could turn the program around.
That group has its final chance to cement its legacy Friday.
An 11-2 season in 2012 was a breakthrough, but its luster will fade if SJSU can't make a return trip to a bowl game. To do so, it will need to beat a Fresno State team that is 10-0 and ranked No. 16 in the nation.
"We're all going to have that extra fire to get after it," Smith said. "With all that extra stuff on the line, the bowl game, playing a ranked team, it's going to be good for us. Fresno is a good team. You always live to play guys like that."
It will be the final home game for 22 seniors, although four of them -- including star receiver Noel Grigsby -- are injured and unable to play.
Smith, a four-year starter from Covina who is second on the Spartans' all-time list for tackles, didn't consider SJSU until Mike MacIntyre was hired as the successor to Dick Tomey in December 2009. That's when MacIntyre, pressed for time to recruit, worked the state hard and fast.
He came away with a class that included Smith, Bené Benwikere, Nicholas Kaspar, Kyle Nunn, Damon Ogburn Jr. and JC transfer Jon Meyer -- all of whom will play their final game at Spartan Stadium on Friday. Others from that class, who will return next season, are starting center David Peterson, defensive tackle Travis Raciti and linebacker Vince Buhagiar.
"That might've been his best class," SJSU coach Ron Caragher said, referring to MacIntyre, who left after last season to become coach at Colorado. "If you look at the guys on the field now, those are the guys that have made the biggest difference in the last three or four years."
San Jose State was coming off a 2-10 season under Tomey, so MacIntyre didn't have a lot to sell. But he knew how to sell it.
"He just had that passion and that fire," said Benwikere, who has played 46 games since coming north from L.A. "He made it believable that if we could get a certain group of guys together that just wanted it, we'd have a winning season, we'd come a long way."
They have come a long way, going 21-15 over the last three years -- the best three-year stretch for SJSU since 1990-92. But one more win would mean everything. It would close their Spartan Stadium careers with a victory over their arch-rival and put them in position for a bowl game. They would become only the second team in school history to reach a bowl game in successive seasons. They would have a chance to become the first ever to win bowl games in successive seasons.
Whichever way it goes, some of the seniors will leave with their names in the record books. Smith is second on the all-time list for tackles. Benwikere is tied for the career lead in interceptions. Punter Harrison Waid has the highest career average. Chandler Jones is the career receptions leader.
And then there's David Fales, the quarterback who has rewritten the record book in only two years. He's the career leader in passing yards and touchdowns and holds every significant single-season record.
"It's tough to think this is my last time in this stadium," he said. "It's been a great time."
Jones can't think of a better way to close it than facing Fresno State with so much on the line.
"All the years I've been here," Jones said, "the whole focus is beat Fresno, beat Fresno."
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Fresno State (10-0, 7-0 MWC) at San Jose State (5-6, 4-3), 12:30 p.m., CBSSN