Junior quarterback Jordon Brookshire saved the Aztecs’ season last weekend when he had his best game of the year, and he barely played half of the victory over Boise State.
For San Diego State to have any semblance of a passing attack is vital to winning this Mountain West Conference championship, because its defense and kicking games are élite, its runners usually reliable.
Utah State has not seen a defense like this all season, which will make it a long day for quarterback Logan Bonner. A time-consuming ground attack, that includes Brookshire, and that sticky Aztecs’ defense keep points at a premium.
NCAAF · Sat (12/4) @ 3:00pm ET
|Aztec Stadium, San Diego, California
Utah State Aggies (9-3, 8-4 ATS)
The Aggies rang up at least 600 yards of offense twice this season, 564 in a 51-31 thrashing of Hawaii and at least 400 yards on six other occasions.
The one game that sticks out, though, among every college football game played this season, is their home game against Boise State. Utah State had 443 yards of offense, mustering only three points from all of that work.
An anomaly, for sure. That it’s capable of such brutal inefficiency, however, in a 27-3 defeat at home, is not to be dismissed.
Especially since Boise is the foe that the Aztecs dispatched in a ruthless second half last week.
Bonner spent four years at Arkansas State before landing in Logan, Utah, and he’s thrown for 3,236 yards and 32 TDs. He’s also had 10 passes picked off, and this setting could be ripe for a Pick-Six by SDSU.
Senior middle linebacker Andrew Aleki has returned both of his interceptions for TDs, and sophomore Aztec (the name given to a hybrid type of linebacker-rover-hunter) Patrick McMorris has picked off three passes.
SDSU’s allowance of 6.1 yards per pass attempt is seventh in the country, opponents’ 0.232 points per play is sixth and their 55.9% completion rate is 15th. And if Utah State tries to run, the Aztecs yield 85 rushing yards per game and 2.7 yards per run, both fourth in the nation.
Cameron Thomas, a 6-5, 265-pound sophomore defensive end, is the main disruptor, with 20 tackles for loss (tied for second in the country) and 10.5 sacks (tied for 12th).
Utah State also dropped a curious 44-17 game, again at home, to Wyoming. That and the Boise debacle, both in their own yard, show that the Aggies are capable of imploding.
The past two times these two have played, both in Logan, have been SDSU victories, 38-7 last year and 40-13 in 2016.
No. 19 San Diego State Aztecs (11-1, 6-7 ATS)
An ineffective Lucas Johnson injured his right knee, and coach Brady Hoke put Brookshire in when the Aztecs trailed Boise State, 16-3, last weekend.
The entire complexion of that game changed. Brookshire hit Jesse Matthews with a 29-yard touchdown pass just before halftime, Matt Araiza booted a 37-yard field goal and SDSU had cut it to 16-13 at the half.
That defense kept the Broncos off the scoreboard in the second half, as the Aztecs clamped down on a left-to-right crossing route that Boise had been using so well in the first half.
And Brookshire capped the scoring of the 27-16 victory, with a 16-yard scoring run midway through the fourth quarter.
Senior tailback Greg Bell did score the Aztecs’ first TD, but he had only 42 yards on 15 runs. He has 947 yards on the season, but his five fumbles make coaches nervous. Plus, he’s only busted triple digits once in his past seven games.
Backup Chance Bell (no relation) ran only three times for six yards against Boise. The Aggies, however, allow 4.6 yards per rush and 173 ground yardage per game, both bottom-third national figures. The Bells might ring regularly for SDSU.
Araiza is the nation’s best punter and probably the team’s MVP, but he missed two field goals against Boise. Taking the UNDER avoids an Araiza miss affecting a spread that has crept to Aztecs -6.
For two years, the Aztecs have essentially played every game on the road—“home” games are 115 miles from their actual home—as their new stadium gets built for the 2022 campaign. That plight drew the Washington Post’s recent attention.
SDSU Vs. Utah State Pick
Six of San Diego State’s past eight games have finished under their totals, and the Aztecs have become quite comfortable in their home-away-from-home in Carson, Calif.
A victory here would give the Aztecs, who have won 11 games four times, a school-record 12th triumph, with a 13th a possibility in a bowl.
Our pick: Under 49.5 (FanDuel)