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Logan Lookahead: San Diego State

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The Aggies kick off conference play against an elite D

“Logan Lookahead” graphic by Danny Stevens

When: Saturday, September 21st @8:30pm MDT

Where: Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego, CA

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio: Aggie Sports Network

Last Time Out: The Aggies hosted the Aztecs in 2016 and got blown out 40-13 as SDSU headed to an 11-3 record punctuated with a victory over Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl.

OFFENSE:

Can the run game get it going against a Top-5 Rush D?

- The Aggies run game, featuring the two-headed monster of Jaylen Warren and Gerold Bright, has been great through their first two games. The rushers have averaged 8.8 and 5.8 yards per rush attempt respectively. Hand in hand with the rushing success is the solidarity of the offensive line. Through two games the OL has allowed just two sacks (one from each opponent).

- This week’s matchup will test the meddle of every single player involved in the run game. San Diego State’s defense, especially their front seven, is dangerous in more ways than one. It’s still not certain if the team leader in tackles for loss, Keshawn Banks, will play Saturday as he’s still listed as questionable. If they are to be without him, the Aztecs will rely on other defensive pieces that have accumulated a few decent stats: seven sacks, fifteen TFLs, three interceptions, and five forced fumbles. Yikes.

How will Jordan Love look against competition better than Stony Brook?

- SDSU excels at stopping the run and creating chaos, but they do have a weakness with the passing game. As a team, they’re giving up 205.7 passing yards per game along with a 65.7 completion percentage. That is solid, but comparing it to the 42.3 total rushing yards and 1.7 yards per rushing attempt they’re allowing over three games, you can see where the strength of the defense really lies. It’s also important to note that SDSU DB Darren Hall, the Aztec’s team leader with two forced fumbles of his own, is listed as questionable along with the aforementioned Banks.

If the Aggies are going to win this game, it will most likely have to be through the air. Love has his #1 target now in Siaosi Mariner. The wideout has caught 13 passes for 191 yards (that’s 14.7 yards per reception) and two touchdowns so far and has solidified himself as the top dog. TE Caleb Repp has also been a valuable piece in the passing attack.

DEFENSE:

Can the Secondary stay the course?

- The pass defense held Stony Brook to just 155 pass yards and a 45% completion percentage while also snagging an interception. A good performance, but hard to dictate how good it was since it was against a lowly FCS opponent. Performing well can have a positive impact no matter who the opposition is, however. The big question is to see if they can use the motivation from a good performance and the extra week of rest and translate it into a positive performance against SDSU.

- The Aztecs aren’t really a pass-heavy team, as they average 17 more rushing attempts per game (45.7) than passing attempts (28.7). A lot of the success of the Secondary will rely on whether it’s healthy or not. The Aggies currently have three players on the injury report: Cameron Haney, DJ Williams, and Zahodri Jackson. All cornerbacks, all questionable. It will be a major help to have all three guys available for Saturday, especially Williams. He leads the team with three Pass Deflections and is second on the entire squad in solo tackles with ten.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

- The Aggies conference opener will not be an easy one. The Aztecs have one of the best defenses in the entire country and will look to get off on the right foot in conference play after a so-so year last season. If USU can work around the insanely good SDSU run defense and get big chunk plays and scores through the air, they’ll be successful. The Aggies will also need the secondary to improve upon their play against higher level competition, as the success against Stony Brook can really only be taken with a grain of salt. A lot also teeters on whether those three injured defensive backs mentioned earlier will be playing or not; if they don’t suit up, Utah State will be relying on some inexperienced players and that could spell trouble.

If USU can get any semblance of production from the run game they’ll win this game, because it won’t be hard to be successful passing. That Aztec defense is tough, however, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the Aggies are held to a lower point total than usual.

FINAL SCORE PREDICTION: Utah State 27, San Diego State 20