It all comes down to two teams, the consistent presence of San Diego State, or the feel-good story of the season in Utah State. Team previews will come out as usual, but hear from other writers. The MWCConnection team shares their thoughts and predictions below.
Mike: It’s a battle between two teams who could not be more opposite. On one hand, the Aztecs combine a strong defense with a game-changing special teams unit. Including weapon Matt Araiza. On the other hand, Utah State is a fast-scoring, big-play machine offense with countless weapons on that side of the ball. It will be strength against strength and while both have looked beatable at any given time, each team has proved doubters wrong by making it to the championship game. I’ve admittedly doubted the Aggies a bit more this and have had to eat my words, but I don’t feel as confident in them as I do the Aztecs. I expect the game to feature key defensive turnovers, flipping the field, and a few highlight-worthy touchdowns. I’ll take SDSU 24, Utah State 17.
Zach: This game is going to come down to who can take care of the ball and control the clock. The Aztecs clearly have the better defense and the Aggies clearly have the better offense. The Aztecs are going to control the clock and the game. They will also pressure Bonner into making a few mistakes. SDSU 27, Utah State 14
Jeremy: Historically, the home team rules the day in the Mountain West championship game. Oddly enough, the winner of the defensive player of the year award has historically gone on to win the conference championship game too. This all seems to bode well for San Diego State.
Look, the Aztecs are 11-1. No arguing with their track record. They’re a tremendous team, but their clock-controlling, dominant defensive ways leave them flying close to the sun a lot for an 11-1 team. I think as usual, the Aztec defense and Matt Araiza are the difference, but I think the Aggies make the Aztecs sweat. Give me San Diego State 24, Utah State 21.
Willie: This Mountain West Championship game should be SDSU’s to lose. The Aztecs have been the more consistent football team on both sides of the ball this year and while the firepower on offense has been a pleasant surprise for the Aggies this season, I believe them to be outmatched against a very balanced San Diego State defense that ranks 2nd against the run and 6th in defensive interceptions, nationally. SDSU also, in my mind, holds the more impressive resume coming in with victories over Utah, Boise State, and Nevada, while Utah State has a couple of ugly losses against teams with good defenses like Boise State and Wyoming. I like the 11-1 Aztecs in this one. I’ll take SDSU 28 Utah State 17.
Tyler: The Aztecs have been to the Mountain West Championship twice before and claimed victory both times (2015, 2016). With this 2021 team being better than both those years, it can almost be a given that SDSU will win, but Utah State should not be overlooked. They can sneak up on you and have constantly put points on the board averaging 32.2 points a game; the Aztecs may not be able to keep up if the Aggie offense finds rhythm. Time of possession may be important down the stretch. At the end of the day, SDSU’s defense will likely be too much for the Aggies, but they will likely keep up. The Aztecs have the number one defense in the Mountain West and 2nd ranked rushing defense in the nation and lead the conference with 15 interceptions, so this defense will be looking to capitalize on Aggie QB Logan Bonners mistakes. But I see both teams going at it with a photo finish at the end.
SDSU 31, Utah State 28
Matt H.: Time of possession is going to very key. Utah State’s fast-paced offense has been very good at converting third downs — ranking in the top-30 nationally in third-down conversion rate (44.1 percent); San Diego State counters with an excellent third-down defense, which ranks seventh in the nation (31.4 percent). The Aztec pass rush — led by Mountain West defensive player of the year Cameron Thomas — will create havoc in long down-and-distance situations. That defense is loaded with talent and they’re going to fly around the field; I’m not the first to say that, and I certainly won’t be the last. Utah State, which ranks third in the Mountain West in yards per play (6.0), is going to have find ways to piece together chunks of yards each play to limit the frequency of less-than-ideal down-and-distance scenarios. If San Diego State has the football, they’re going to eat clock like I chow down on my Thanksgiving Ham (Ham > Turkey, by the way. Forever and always) — meaning they’re going to eat a lot of it when the opportunity arises. The Aztecs have a stable of backs and a pair of dominant fronts that can take over the game with a snap of a finger. Utah State was one of three Mountain programs — along Air Force and SDSU — to go undefeated to finish undefeated on the road in 2021. While they’ve had a surprisingly great season under their first-year head man Blake Anderson, Utah State’s going to have to play at its absolute peak on both sides to earn their first Mountain West title. It’s absolutely possible, but I still have San Diego State taking home its third conference title. San Diego State 28, Utah State 24
Alex: I don’t think anyone expected to see this matchup in the championship game this year, which is a good thing. Both teams couldn’t be more different with San Diego State’s solid defense and Utah State’s high scoring offense. We saw the Aggies get exposed late in the season by Wyoming. And San Diego State has been consistent all year and had just one hiccup in a tough West division. Give me the team with the better defense and give me the Aztecs. San Diego State 27, Utah State 21.
Graham_Gibson: Here’s the thing: Utah State has been good this year no question. When they haven’t faced good defenses. Against Boise State and BYU, the Aggies struggled to get something productive going on offense and this game feels like it’s going to be much of the same. Logan Bonner has thrown an interception in almost every game this year and facing what’s going to be a really good defense, that’s not a good sign for Utah State. San Diego State’s offense will also be coming into this one with confidence after finding a rhythm against Boise State. Utah State will keep it close early but the Aztecs will pull away in the second half.
Aztecs: 34; Aggies: 17
Your turn: Who will win? What will the score be? Post a comment below.