#24 SAN DIEGO STATE AZTECS (5-0, 1-0) vs SAN JOSE STATE SPARTANS (3-3, 1-1)
When: Friday, October 15th. Kick off at 7:30 pm PT.
Where: Spartan Stadium, San Jose, CA
How to Watch: CBS Sports Network
Head-to-Head: The last time these two Mountain West conference foes met, the Spartans won 28-17 on November 6th, 2020, on their way to a MWC Championship. The Aztecs have won 22 of 42 meetings with SJSU, including a 7-game win streak from 2013-2019.
#24 San Diego State is looking to extend their undefeated season and reach a 6-0 start for the second time in 5 seasons (2017). After gaining one position to No. 24 from No. 25 in the latest college football AP poll, the Aztecs are feeling good heading into Week 2 of conference play.
Coming off an expected win vs New Mexico (31-7), the Aztecs are on their way to a record-breaking season. With a stronger opponent in San Jose State, they will have to continue to be at their best.
San Jose State is coming off their first conference loss to Colorado State, 32-14. That was a tough one, considering the Spartans would love to be at the top of the conference in back-to-back years. SJSU will look to knock off the No. 24 team in the nation and keep their conference championship hopes alive.
KEY TO VICTORY FOR SDSU
The Aztecs are predicted to win this one with a 76.2% chance to beat pSJSU, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. SDSU has one of the most explosive offenses in the Mountain West, ranking second in rushing yards (1503) and second in total touchdowns (29). They are also ranked in the top 10 in both rushing offense and rushing defense. The Aztecs will look to put those accolades on display Friday night.
A key player for the Aztecs will be Senior running back Greg Bell. Bell is the second ranked running back in the Mountain West, averaging 87 yards per game. He has rushed for over 100 in 4 of 5 games and is second in touchdowns overall in the Mountain West with 5. SDSU has rushed for over 200 yards in each game this year, and are 52-2 in their last 54 games when rushing for 200. They have plenty of depth in the backfield, including kick/punt return man Jordan Byrd. If they get going in this one, it will be bad news for the Spartans.
It is likely the SDSU will put on a show against an SJSU defense that allows 369.5 yards of offense per game. That is if they can execute quickly and before the second half. I expect Senior quarterback Jordon Brookshire to get the start and he should have a good day undercenter. Despite Head Coach Brady Hoke sticking to the run game most of the time for the offense, it has turned out to be their everyday gameplan. Luckily for Coach Hoke, Brookshire can scramble for plus yards and find the endzone as the young man rushed into the endzone twice last week against New Mexico.
The key to victory for SDSU is to run all over the Spartans and hold them to a low score. The Aztec defense is notoriously known to stop the run game, so they need to be ready to see some passes from the SJSU quarterback, whether it be Senior Nick Starkel or Sophomore Nick Nash. Capitalizing on mistakes made by the Spartans will help create momentum for the Aztec offense to run up the score.
KEY TO VICTORY FOR SJSU
It looks like sophomore Nick Nash may be the starter over Senior Nick Starkel who injured his left arm against Western Michigan in Week 4. Kind of a downfall for the Spartans who will lack experience at the position against a tough defense, although Starkel hasn’t been the same quarterback as last year as he has thrown an interception in each game this year. So Nash, who has thrown 5 TDs and 1 INT in two games, is a viable option to backup Starkel. His success running the offense will be key for a victory against San Diego State.
With SJSU rushing for only 105.3 yards per game and the Aztecs allowing just 50 rushing yards per game, it is almost inevitable that they won’t get much going on the ground. With that said, finding ways to get around the defense will be key in keeping up with the Aztecs.
With an awful loss to Colorado State, the Spartans committed three turnovers. In order to get a win against SDSU, mistakes will have to be eliminated. The Spartans are ranked 4th in passing touchdowns and T-11th in rushing touchdowns in the Mountain West. Their success will have to come through the air, which they are more comfortable with doing. The Aztecs have allowed the second-most passing touchdowns in the Mountain West, so the Spartans should target SDSU’s secondary. Finding the endzone early and putting pressure on the Aztec run game will be the key to victory for the Spartans.
With the #24 Aztecs having a top 10 offense and defense in the country, it is hard to believe the Spartans have a chance. SJSU will have to stop the run game - bottom line. If Greg Bell or any of the other quality running backs rush for over 100 yards and total 200 for the game, SDSU will walk away with another win, reaching a 6-0 for the second time in 40 years.
I expect San Jose State to put up at least their normal average of points per game (20.5) scoring touchdowns through the air. Sophomore QB Nick Nash can also scramble himself, so keeping the Aztec defense off balance will aid the Spartans in this conference matchup.
The Spartans will be playing with a bad taste in their mouth from last week, looking to stay alive in the conference standings to have a chance at repeating a MWC Championship. SJSU will have to be near perfect in order to walk away with a win.
SDSU 34, SJSU 22