SAN DIEGO STATE AZTECS (1-0) VS ARIZONA WILDCATS (0-1)
When: Saturday, September 11th. Kick off at 7pm PT
Where: Arizona Stadium, Tuscon, AZ
How to watch: PAC-12 Network
Head to Head: The Aztecs will look to improve to 2-0, beating their first two non-conference opponents. The last time U of A faced SDSU, the Wildcats won 23-10 in 2001. UA has won 4 straight meetings with the Aztecs, with SDSU’s last win coming in 1979.
The Aztecs last played a PAC-12 opponent on Sept. 7th, 2019, beating UCLA 23-14. SDSU is also on the wrong side of the overall record (6-19) against PAC-12 teams although they are the Mountain West team with the most appearances against them.
Coming off an impressive second-half run to get a win last week against New Mexico State 28-10, San Diego State will have the momentum coming in to this one.
Arizona (0-1) is favored by 1.5 points, looking to add a W to their resume for 2021. Coming off a loss in their season-opener against BYU, the new Wildcat coaching staff is in a bit of a hole, but will look to get back into things, tie up the record and send home the Aztecs. We’ll find out what will go down in the desert on Saturday Night.
KEY TO VICTORY FOR SDSU
San Diego State ran the ball extremely well last week, rushing for 248 yards and 3 of the 4 touchdowns came on the ground. One by quarterback Jordon Brookshire and senior running backs Greg Bell and Jordan Byrd. Bell rushed for a total of 165 yards in the game which was a career best. Byrd had an impressive 43-yard touchdown run making the score 28-10. SDSU will look to have the same amount of success on the ground against the Wildcats.
In their last 50 games played, the Aztecs are 48-2 when rushing for over 200 yards. So yeah, I think the Aztecs should strategize their run game to be the biggest part of their offense. If SDSU finds success on the ground, they will have a strong chance in this one. Getting Greg Bell going early (not in the second half) and utilizing multiple backs including Jordan Byrd will be the key to victory for the Aztecs.
SDSU is still balancing QB’s (Jordon Brookshire, Lucas Johnson, Jalen Mayden) as Head Coach Brady Hoke expects to use multiple signal callers against Arizona. Brookshire completed just 6 passes against New Mexico State for 76 yards and an interception.
Although the run game proved to be enough against NMSU, it wont be enough against PAC-12 Arizona Wildcats. The Aztecs will need to step up their passing game, as well as their tempo, in order to get passed Arizona and keep the undefeated record.
On defense, the Aztecs will continue to apply pressure. Last game, LB Andrew Aleki intercepted Jonah Johnson of NMSU and returned it for a touchdown. If the Aztec defense can come up with a turnover or two, they will overcome the Wildcats in Arizona.
KEY TO VICTORY FOR ARIZONA
The Arizona Wildcats struggled to put the ball in the endzone against BYU last week, although redshirt-freshman quarterback Gunner Cruz did well throwing for 336 yards on 34-for-45 passing. Despite his strong showing and second half comeback, the Wildcats fell 24-16.
Arizona kicker Lucas Havrisik missed two of three field goals which didn’t help, although a loss was still in place if all three field goals were made. Cruz will have to find a way to get in the endzone to limit field goal attempts. Touchdowns will be key to beating SDSU.
Despite allowing 24 points, the Wildcats defense held BYU to just 368 yards, when they averaged 522.2. Promising, but they will have to apply all the pressure against a gritty SDSU run game. Not only do they have to watch out for Bell and Byrd in the backfield, the Wildcats will have to watch for SDSU QB Jordon Brookshire who can also run.
If Arizona can stop the run and put the ball in the endzone, they will have a chance against the Aztecs of San Diego State. Playing at their home stadium may help too, as brand new head coach Jedd Fisch wants Arizona fans and students to show up and show out at Arizona Stadium.
“THINKING ABOUT A SELL OUT..” Coach Fisch typed in all caps on twitter. A sell out crowd could help motivate the Wildcats to their first W of 2021.
Both teams came alive in the second half of each of their respective season-openers, so I believe whoever gets going early will have a better chance. Making a statement and obtaining momentum will be the best way for each team to play their best in this one.
If SDSU can run the ball with ease and create mistakes for young Arizona QB Gunner Cruz, the Aztecs will take it. If Arizona can find the endzone more than once and apply pressure on defense, they will send the Aztecs home with their first loss of the 2021 campaign.
SDSU and Arizona both have explosive offenses and will need to utilize their weapons to score. I see both teams coming out firing, but the first one to make mistakes and lose momentum will fall short when the clock hits 0:00.
SCORE: SDSU 23, Arizona 20