The San Diego State Aztecs (3-0) travel to the eastern time zone to play Michigan (3-0) at the Big House on Saturday morning. Former SDSU coaches Brady Hoke and Al Borges will be taking on players that they recruited as well as long-time colleague and new Aztecs head coach Rocky Long.Michigan will have to find a way to slow SDSU's high powered offense featuring super-sophomore Ronnie Hillman and senior QB Ryan Lindley. San Diego State will have to focus on the explosive and versatile Denard Robinson, the QB who runs the Wolverines offense.
Michigan will have two distinct advantages:
First, Hoke and Long recruited a majority of the kids that start for SDSU right now. They know their individual tendencies and the overall tendencies of how the team plays. SDSU kept Long on as head coach was to provide consistency on how the team plays, so they are essentially the same team under Hoke and Borges.
Second: This is the second time in 3 weeks that SDSU will have to travel cross country and play at 9 a.m. Pacific Time. Players will probably tell you that it's no big deal but being half asleep will matter at the Big House.
Catch the jump for some match-ups.
OFFENSE: Denard Robinson is one of the most exciting players on the country and he accounts for the majority of Michigan's offense. He can do it through the air and on the ground eve accounting for 5 TDs for the Wolverines in one game so far this season. He is a bigger threat on the ground than in the air but Hoke and Borges prefer pro-style under center QBs so he is in a period of transition which has them compromising with more spread and shotgun formations. This has created a few problems including a completion rate of under 50% and 4 interceptions in 3 games.
The Aztecs offense starts with Freshman All-American RB Ronnie Hillman who is tied for first in the nation with 8 rushing TDs and second in the nation in rushing yards. Coming off a 191 yard and 4 TD effort last week, he should be able to shred Michigan's D-Line. Ryan Lindley is a good enough QB to use the play-action pass to break up the run game to get the ball to his merry band of rag-tag receivers.
EDGE: Aztecs. Robinson is a great player but the Aztecs offense is much more complex and experienced in their system.
DEFENSE: The Aztecs defense had faced three straight triple-option offenses before Washington State last weekend and gave up a huge TD pass on the first play of the game. The secondary is supposed to be very good and CB Larry Parker did come up with two second half interceptions last weekend. The closest they have faced this season to Denard Robinson is Army QB Trent Steelman whom the Aztecs had trouble with most of the game.
Defense has been the biggest weak spot for Michigan in the recent past but they have shown improvement so far this season. Of course, that's with giving up 31 to Notre Dame and playing two directional Michigan schools. SDSU will be the best offense they've played this season and their suspect run defense will have to find a way to slow Hillman.
Edge: Tie. This one could end up as a shootout.
Coaching/Intangibles: Like I said above, Coach Hoke is intimately familiar with the workings of SDSU's football team and Al Borges and Rocky Long have been coaching colleagues for decades. Rocky has had some time now to shore up his 3-3-5 defense against a more traditional offense but he is going to need to have some tricks up his sleeve to fool Michigan. Although they don't admit it, the Aztecs players might have a chip on their shoulders to try and show Hoke that he made a mistake in leaving San Diego.
Edge: Michigan. The coaching and a west coast team traveling to the eastern time zone is not a good combination.
Prediction: I'm taking SDSU in a shootout, 35-28.