SAN JOSE — The San Jose State Spartans are looking to accomplish something Saturday night in Los Angeles the football program has never done: beat USC.
The Trojans have made light work of SJSU five times since the teams first met 28 years ago, but the current Spartans are determined to finally break through and upset No. 6 USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
“We always want to face the best,” said SJSU linebacker Bryan Parham. “This is just another opportunity for us to showcase our skills. I always looked at my opportunities as golden, so we’re gonna be prepared and we’re gonna be ready.”
The teams first met in 1995 when the No. 7 Trojans, led by eventual first-overall draft pick Keyshawn Johnson, blew out SJSU 45-7. The only time the series was more lopsided was in 2009, when the Trojans rushed for 342 yards in a 56-3 blowout.
The closest game in the series was in 2000, when SJSU took a 24-12 lead into the fourth quarter against the Carson Palmer-led Trojans. But the Spartans allowed 22 unanswered points in the final eight minutes and lost 34-24.
The teams most recently met in 2021, when the Spartans trailed by just six points in the third quarter. But the Trojans rallied for 17 points in the fourth quarter to pin the Spartans with a 30-7 loss despite Nick Starkel’s 308-yard passing performance.
Wide receiver Charles Ross #7 of the San Jose State Spartans catches a pass for first down against the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA football game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, September 4, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)
It’s only been two years, but both programs have undergone significant personnel changes since they last met. USC’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams and head coach Lincoln Riley were both at Oklahoma the last time the teams met.
“I don’t think there’s anything about their team that we’re playing that looks anything like the team we played two years ago,” SJSU head coach Brent Brennan said. “I think the only thing, the only consistent thing is it’ll be played in the LA Coliseum. Hopefully, there’ll be some familiarity with that, but in terms of their personnel, the scheme, how they’re coached, how they’re playing, it’s a totally different football team.”
One player who is more than familiar with the atmosphere of the Coliseum is SJSU safety Chase Williams. Williams transferred to SJSU last season after playing three seasons at USC. He played against the Spartans in 2021 and made six tackles.
“I think there’s a little bit of some emotional ties just from them being my school in the past, but at the same time, I’m still trying to stay level-headed,” Williams said.
For some of SJSU’s players, Saturday’s game fulfills a childhood dream of playing against a team they used to watch growing up.
“It’s very exciting,” said SJSU junior wide receiver Isaac Jernagin, who grew up in Bakersfield. “I’ve been watching them since I was a little kid. My favorite player is Reggie Bush. Just to get that opportunity to showcase myself on that big of a stage, it’s just a major opportunity to showcase what I can do and what I’ve been preparing to do.”
SJSU wide receiver Charles Ross grew up across the freeway from the Coliseum and said he is most excited to have his family in the stands on Saturday.
“I used to live 10 minutes away from the Coliseum and my great grandma used to take me to the games,” Ross said. “So it’ll be nice to have family there watching and supporting.”
The last time SJSU defeated a Power Five school was in 2019 when they beat Arkansas 31-24 on the road. If the Spartans were to win against No. 6 USC, it would be the highest-ranked win in school history. The last time SJSU defeated a PAC-12 school was in 2006 when it defeated Stanford 35-34 at home.
This game will be the first season opener in the Brennan era that will take place on the road. Brennan is 4-2 in season openers and has not lost a season opener since 2018.
— SJSU quarterback Chevan Cordeiro enters Saturday with 68 career passing touchdowns which is 11th all-time in the Mountain West. Cordeiro is in range of moving up into the top 10 as former Colorado State quarterback Nick Stevens and former Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald are tied for ninth at 70 career passing touchdowns. TCU quarterback Andy Dalton is at eighth with 71.
SJSU (0-0, 0-0 Mountain West) at USC (0-0, 0-0 PAC-12), Saturday, 5:00 p.m., PAC-12 Network, 850 AM