Defending Mountain West Conference champion San Jose State looks to win its third consecutive season opener when it takes on FCS-level Southern Utah Saturday on CBS Sports Network. The Spartans (7-1 in 2020) finished last season ranked 24th in the final Associated Press and Amway/USA Today coaches poll and No. 22 in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Thunderbirds (1-5 this past spring) are looking for their first winning season since going 9-3 in 2017. This will be Southern Utah's last season in the Big Sky Conference. It will be moving to the Western Athletic Conference in 2022.
The game is slated to start at 10 p.m. ET at CEFCU Stadium in San Jose, Calif. San Jose State averaged 28.6 points per game last season, while Southern Utah averaged 26.5 this past spring. The Spartans are 22.5-point favorites in the latest Southern Utah vs. San Jose State odds from Caesars Sportsbook, while the over-under for total points scored is set at 56.5. Before making any San Jose State vs. Southern Utah picks, check out the college football predictions from the SportsLine's Emory Hunt.
Hunt is the founder and CEO of Football Gameplan, which has been supplying analysis of all levels of football since 2007, and a former running back at Louisiana-Lafayette. He knows the game from a player's perspective.
Hunt went 178-149 on his college football picks over the past two seasons, returning $1,477 to $100 players. Anybody who has been following him is way up.
Now, he has set his sights on San Jose State vs. Southern Utah. You can visit SportsLine now to see the picks. Here are the college football odds and trends for Southern Utah vs. San Jose State:
Southern Utah vs. San Jose State spread: San Jose State -22.5
Southern Utah vs. San Jose State over-under: 56.5 points
Southern Utah vs. San Jose State money line: Southern Utah +1350, San Jose State -5000
SU: Returns 20 starters from 2020, including 10 on offense and 10 on defense
SJSU: The Spartans are 43-54-7 in season-opening games
Why San Jose State can cover
The Spartans return a number of key offensive players, including sophomore running back Kairee Robinson. He was San Jose State's second-leading rusher, carrying 82 times for 313 yards (3.8 average) and two touchdowns. In 18 games with the Spartans, he has started seven games and was named to the 2020 Paul Hornung Award honor roll for the week ending Dec. 6 for his performance in a 35-24 win over Hawaii. In that game, he carried 17 times for 111 yards (6.5 average) and one TD.
Also making his mark on the Spartans' offense is senior tight end Derrick Deese Jr. He finished 2020 with 20 receptions for 240 yards (12 average) and five touchdowns. In the Mountain West Conference Championship Game win over Boise State, Deese caught seven passes for 76 yards (10.9 average) and one touchdown. He was a semifinalist for the 2020 John Mackey Award for college football's top tight end and is on this year's watch list for the award.
Why Southern Utah can cover
Despite that, the Spartans are not a lock to cover the Southern Utah vs. San Jose State spread. That's because the Thunderbirds also return a lot of experience, including redshirt sophomore quarterback Justin Miller, who started all six spring games for Southern Utah. He threw for 1,713 yards and 15 touchdowns and was named to the HERO Sports FCS Sophomore All-America Team. He threw five touchdowns in the season opener against Northern Arizona, and three TDs in Southern Utah's win over Cal Poly.
Also powering the offense is junior wide receiver Lance Lawson. He led the Thunderbirds with 36 receptions for 275 receiving yards in the spring season and rushed 10 times for 50 yards. He rushed for a touchdown and had 92 receiving yards against Northern Arizona. He was named honorable mention All-Big Sky as a sophomore. He played in all 11 games as a freshman and has 129 career receptions for 1,075 yards and three touchdowns.
How to make San Jose State vs. Southern Utah picks
Hunt is leaning over on the point total. He has also found a critical x-factor that has him jumping all over one side of the spread. You can only get the pick at SportsLine.