Aztecs become bowl eligible with victory last week. Is a letdown in order or have the Aztecs found the key to sustained success?
Now that the Aztecs have climbed a seemingly difficult hurdle of becoming bowl eligible, do they continue with their newly acquired momentum or are they in for a ground crashing letdown? There is so much to look back on that was good about the Aztecs 43-27 pounding of the San Jose State Spartans. First is the ability to take a 14 point deficit and run off 38 straight points. Regardless that the Spartans lost tight end Sam Olson on the first drive and their play calling melted into thin air, the Aztecs stepped up their game in every aspect. Early adjustments by the Aztecs showed their coaching is quick to react and the players were skilled enough to implement the necessary changes. Defensive secondary smothered leading receiver Elijah Cooks after his amazing one handed catch and initial touchdown. Defensive line play thwarted any running game and put quarterback Chevan Cordeiro in deer-in-headlights mode for most of the game. Add to this Jalen Mayden, conference offensive player of the week, and his amazing performance both throwing and running the ball. The receivers seemingly found early every ball is thrown their way, controlling down and distance scenarios with easily achieved first downs. The only area of concern was the typical Aztec area of strength, the running game. Mayden led all rushers with 61 yards but that is a surprise considering the bevy of backs available to the Aztecs. For them to close out the year strong, they need to get a running back over 100 yards and a couple of scores. Braxton Burmeister has returned to practice and is listed as the backup quarterback. meanwhile, Safety CJ Baskerville is improving from an injury but is unlikely to play, as Cedarious Barfield is listed as the starter.
San Diego State Aztecs (6-4, 4-2 Conf., 3-1 division) vs New Mexico Lobos (2-8, 0-6 Conf., 0-4 Division)
Location: University Stadium, (39,224), Albuquerque, New Mexico
Line: San Diego State -14 (Provided by DraftKingsSportsbooks) Over/Under 39.5 points. The Aztecs are strong favorites according to the Oddsmakers. The score projection appears to be a 27-13 Aztec win. New Mexico has won two games in the year, both at home. They are coming off of a 35-3 defeat against Air Force on the road. The Aztecs are coming off of a 43-27 home victory against San Jose State.
Date/Time: Friday, November 18 at 6:45 PM PST
TV: Fox Sports 1
Radio: San Diego Sports 760
History: This is the 44th meeting between the two teams with the Aztecs holding a 28-15 advantage. They are 8-2 in the last ten meetings including a 31-7 win last year in Carson. The Lobos won the first meeting between the teams in 1953, 41-12. The Aztecs averaged 26 points per game over this span. This seems to be in alignment with the oddsmakers.
Unlocking the Keys to the Game
Who are these Lobos?
The Lobos started the season with victories over Maine and UTEP, but have not won since week three. Expected losses against Boise State, LSU, Fresno State and Air Force were smattered among losses against UNLV, Wyoming, Utah State, and probably most surprising a 21-9 loss to instate rival New Mexico State. Seven losses in a row leave the Lobos dwelling in the cellar of the Mountain division. Unfortunately, they do not play Nevada, current residents of the West Division. Their final two games of the season are against the Aztecs and then Colorado State. The Rams should defeat the Lobos, projecting the Lobos to a final 2-10 record on the year. On the year, the Lobos score 14 points a game while yielding 26. They average nearly 240 yards of offense, ranking last in the conference. On defense, they are ranked 5th, yielding 356 yards, on par with San Diego State. The Lobos started the year with Miles Kendrick at quarterback. He is 85/144 passing with 7 interceptions and only 3 TD’s. He has thrown for 859 yards. Since the Fresno State game, the Lobos have been led by Justin Holaday. He has been average at slinging the pigskin going 26/59 for 222 yards, one interception and 135 rushing yards. He is joined in the backfield by RB Nate Jones who has added 466 yards and 2 TD’s, but a woeful 4.3 yard average. Holaday has two main receivers in Geordon Porter, 19 catches, 303 yards and 2 TD’s and Luke Wysong, 27 catches, 256 yards and one score. Probably the key standout is punter Aaron Rodriguez who averages 44 yards per kick. He also leads the league in total punts with 65, so it's possible his leg may tire soon. On defense, the key standouts are LB Cody Moon with 84 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 6.5 TFL. Adding two interceptions each are A.J. Hauley and Ronald Wilson. New Mexico head coach Danny Gonzales is in his third year. While has made gains, he basically still has not made the necessary steps to be a competitive program. Prior to this tenure, he was a San Diego State safeties coach and defensive coordinator from 2011 - 2017.
Do the Aztecs come out on top?
My preseason pick of this game was a 48-13 Aztec win. While the oddsmakers don’t think much offense will be had, I believe that the Aztecs have tasted blood and enjoyed scoring points and will win 35-13. The Aztecs are really stepping up their overall game, led by Mayden and his passing and decision-making. If they can establish a steady running back effort, the Aztecs should be dominant. Mayden has truly been a difference-maker for the Aztecs in the passing game, moving them from 65 yards a game to 250 yards a game, good enough for 44th in the country. In addition, the Aztecs have been strong with a 41% 3rd down conversion rate. The Lobos are quickly counting down their season and probably looking forward to the season-ending game against Colorado State. The Aztecs are a dark horse to win the division as they need Fresno to lose twice (odds are against that) but they are playing for bowl positioning. Winning their last two games will help to solidify probably the third best bowl available to the conference. Several possibilities exist and these will be covered in the next few weeks as the landscape becomes clearer. Meantime, The Aztecs are looking at one time, one night and one victory as they prepare to do La Bamba against the Lobos.