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San Diego State Football: Keys to beating San Jose State

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San Diego State takes on in-state rival San Jose State for the early standings lead in the MW West division.

Donnel Pumphrey leads the team out against San Jose State in 2014
Donnel Pumphrey leads the team out against San Jose State in 2014
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

WEEK 7: San Diego State Aztecs vs San Jose State Spartans

WHEN: Saturday, October 17, 7:30PM

WHERE: Spartan Stadium, San Jose, CA

TV: ESPNU

COACHES: Rocky Long, Ron Caragher

SERIES RECORD: 19-17-2 San Jose State, 39th meeting all-time

San Diego State (3-3, 2-0 MW) meets San Jose State (3-3, 2-1 MW)  in what seems like an early meeting of the two best teams in the West division of the Mountain West. San Diego State, preseason favorite for the West division, faces an improved San Jose State team anchored by the second-best rusher in the Mountain West, Tyler Ervin. The Spartans were smashed by the Aztecs at Qualcomm in 2014 (38-7), and look to avenge their loss and move ahead of the Aztecs in the standings. San Diego State is coming off two straight wins against Mountain West opponents and look to keep their sights on the top of the mountain.

Keys to Victory

Feed the Ball

Donnel Pumphrey, what ankle injury? San Diego State ran and stomped on Hawaii where Pumphrey carried the ball 30 times for 148 and three touchdowns. During the Aztecs last meeting with San Jose State, Pumphrey rushed for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Overall, San Jose State is suspect to give the yardage to San Diego State because in the previous two games the Spartans gave up 186 yards to UNLV and 234 yards to Auburn.

This week the SDSU offense gets back senior offensive lineman Darrell Greene from suspension. The big guy in on the line will make improvements for the running game, but Pumphrey has gotten used to running against the Mountain West defenses. He’s gone back-to-back games with over 120+ yards with at least 4.9 yard-per-carry average.

Stop The Run

Though Pumphrey might the preseason favorite of the writers of MWConnection, Tyler Ervin might garner some national attention by the end of the season. Through six games, Ervin already has amassed 874 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns compared to Pumphrey's 577 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. The defensive unit this week has the task to control Ervin's playmaking ability. San Diego State hasn’t given up over 100 yards rushing since the loss to South Alabama. San Diego State has a staunch defense, but this will be tough without Dakota Turner and Randy Ricks.

Take it to the House

Sophomore sensation Rashaad Penny has speed, and leads the Mountain West in kickoff return yards (37.5) and in return touchdowns (2). Every week there's a chance Penny could take it to the house, but Penny needs more opportunities besides kick-returning to make plays. He's been used in some packages and reverses on offense, but he should be thrown more into the rotation of the running backs.

It’s also key that Lloyd Mills fight coverage on punt returns as San Jose State currently leads the NCAA in average punt yards (52.1). He hasn’t been much as a factor in the return game compared to Penny, but he is not a forgotten member of the return unit or the offense. The poor consistency from Maxwell Smith turns the offense to one-dimensional with eight men in the box. It's crucial that the playmakers on special teams not only help put the team in the best position to score-- but add points returning the ball.

Prediction

Between the two teams, San Diego State hasn’t lost to a Mountain West team yet. San Jose State might have the best unknown running back in the nation, but they can’t seem to stop offenses from driving on them. It’s almost a match of wills between the two schools. San Jose State is favored by 2.5, so it’s a tough call. A win for San Jose State would move them in position to front of the race for the West division, and a win for San Diego State starts solidifying their position atop the West division. San Jose State might be a little hungrier than San Diego State, and the Bay Area hasn't been kind to the Aztecs this year. The game will be decided in the fourth quarter.

San Diego State 28, San Jose State 27