As the San Diego State Aztecs begin the eighth season of the Rocky Long era with a game vs Stanford here is a preview of what you can expect from the squad out on the mesa in 2018.
Reasons for optimism: A quality line can fix almost any problem an offense has and this year’s group up front looks like some vintage Rocky Long type bullies. The smallest lineman on the rosters Zach Thomas who is 6’5’’ and 300 lbs. Having that kind of size up front can give some breathing room for the offense while they figure out who will carry the majority of the workload this season.
Cause for concern: It’s hard to keep putting up historic numbers every season and this isn’t a knock on Juwan Washington but rather pragmatism about being able to produce NFL caliber backs every single season. Last year it took an almost super human performance from Rashaad Penny in order to go 10 - 2 and get second in the Mountain West West. Even a moderate drop off in run production this year could be a sign of bad times.
Key Stat: 100 yards. The Aztecs reaching the century mark has historically been a good sign of a win so keep your eyes fixed on that rushing total the first few games of the season. Juwan Washington is going to be the featured back and seems like a solid choice to fill Rashaad Penny’s shoes.
Wildcard: Kahale Warring. The Tight End had a couple of massive games last season and could be the key in helping develop Christian Chapman into a true passer.
Reasons for optimism:
The front seven are gong to bring the heat this season. Noble Hall, Ronley Lakalaka and Troy Cassidy are just a few of the names you will hear being called for making plays in the backfield this season. With the intense pressure coming up front the Aztecs should be more than able to stay competitive in games this year.
Cause for concern: With the exception of Tariq Thompson the secondary is a huge unknown. The big concern being the deep ball, if SDSU can’t limit the explosive scoring from opponents then it could be a long season.
Key Stat: 3rd down. This defense will need to give the offense all the opportunities that it possibly can so stopping opponents on 3rd down conversions will be key. Stops can come from both pressure or coverage so this will probably be a good way to judge the overall cohesion and success of the defense.
Wildcard: If Noble Hall can manage to play at his peak for a large part of the season he could be one of the best defensive players in the conference and take a lot of pressure off of the rest of the defense.
When and Where:
August 31st at Stanford
September 8th vs Sacramento State
September 15th vs Arizona State
September 22nd vs Eastern Michigan
October 6th at Boise State *
October 12th vs Air Force *
October 20th vs San Jose State *
October 27th at Nevada *
November 3rd at New Mexico *
November 10th vs UNLV *
November 17th at Fresno State *
November 24th vs Hawaii *
(* indicates conference game)
The Mountain West is going to be a tougher conference this year so this will be the toughest test for the Aztec’s in close to a decade. With a pair of Pac - 12 games plus Boise on the schedule there is the possibility that this season could bring some serious panic if things go worst case scenario. This will also be a season of great optimism, with so many recognizable names graduating a whole new generation of SDSU stars are ready to have their moment in the sun
Best case scenario:
12 - 0. Any football coach will give you the cliche of liking their odds on any given week so so an undefeated season and somewhere around a #14 national ranking would be the final result when you always look on the bright side.
Worst case scenario:
6 - 6. Stanford, Arizona State, Boise, San Jose, UNLV and Fresno could all preset challenges and if there is going to be a return to Earth for the run game numbers this season some of these games could slip away.
Whats probably going to happen:
10 - 2. The big question is which two, as long as the Aztecs don’t drop a game to any Mountain West West teams they should be playing in the conference championship at the end the season.