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Aztecs continue to struggle to find their personality as they take on Colorado State

Bouncing back from a disappointing loss to Utah State, the Aztecs find themselves in do or die battle against an equally desperate Rams team

NCAA Football: Colorado State at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

The Aztecs continue along their Shakespearean storyline of drama and tragedy following their recent disappointing loss to Utah State. They leave no rope left to hang themselves as they face a Rams team, that, find themselves in a similar loser no-bowl game situation.

The Aztecs (3-6), (1-4 MWC) are 4 point underdogs on the road against a Colorado State team (3-6), (1-4 MWC) that is on a three-game losing streak. The Aztecs have only one win since the beginning of September in what many say is one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory. Both of these teams have seriously failed to reach pre-season potential. Lowered expectations seem to be a constant thread running through these two teams' rosters and coaching staff right now. The beginning of the season. Much went wrong with the Nevada loss the Aztecs look to be underdogs the rest of the season. Needing three wins to be bowl-eligible looks to be an insurmountable proposition for a team that really has not found its mark all season. Coach Brady Hoke and staff, especially offensive coordinator Ryan Lindley, are under an increasingly magnification microscope for their leadership, play-calling, and results. Lack of execution, lack of imagination and extreme inconsistency in plays are leading the Aztecs to national-level lows. They are #114 in passing offense at 170.5 yards a game and rank #112 in total offense with 317.5 yards per game. Quarterback Jalen Mayden has continued to struggle to put up big numbers, but he is the player that opponents key on. He should be given the “not surprising who will carry the ball” award. The Aztecs will have to have production from Kenan Christon, Jaylon Armstead, Cam Davis and Lucky Sutton if they can swing the balance of the pendulum of momentum in their favor. Mayden will also need to find his tight end Mark Redman, after Nevada shut him out two weeks ago. Mayden will have to have more than six completions to help move the ball and sustain drives. There seem to be more things that need to be done and the list is growing. Until this can be done, expect another busy outing from punter Jack Browning. Just hope that he stays healthy otherwise the Aztecs will be in an even bigger mess.

Colorado State had high hopes to start the season, but after a one point victory over Boise State, they find themselves mired in an emotional letdown.

The Lambs return home to Fort Collins after dropping their last game 24-15 to Wyoming. They failed to gain much traction against an effective Cowboys defense that had three takeaways and held the Rams to 274 yards of total offense. The Ewes were sorely lacking in opportunities, running only 63 plays and losing the time of possession battle 23:20 to 36:40. An ineffective running game forced the Rams to throw. The Cowboys picked off Fowler-Nicolosi twice and held outstanding wide out Tory Horton to 58 yards on seven receptions. On the season, Fowler-Nicolosi has thrown for nearly 2700 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has also thrown 13 interceptions. The running game is not a big part of the overall offense for CSU amounting for only 654 yards and a 2.9-yard average. Leading the way is running back Vann Shield with 321 yards on 74 carries. The emphasis is on a controlled passing game. The Dolly’s are led by Tory Horton who has 848 yards on 77 catches and six touchdowns. He has a capable company with tight end Dallin Holker with 653 yards and Justus Ross-Simmons with 542 more. On defense, the Rams line is anchored with al-league performer Mohamed Kamara who has 41 total tackles and 10.5 sacks. Defensive back Jack Howell leads the team with 88 tackles and one interception. The Colorado State defense puts pressure on opposing teams and one should expect them to play with a little more excitement and tenacity trying to keep any bowl opportunities alive. The Rams started the season in game two with a thrilling prime-time game against Colorado, and with the exception of the one-point victory over Boise State, has left many questions about the team's direction. Whoever gains early momentum should be in the driver's seat and control the outcome of the game.

San Diego State (3-6, 1-4 MWC) vs. Colorado State Rams (3-6, 1-4 MWC)
Location: Canvas Stadium, Fort Collins, Colorado. (Capacity 36,500. Weather forecast clear, 50 degrees).

Date/Time: Saturday, November 11 @ 4:00 PM PST/5:00 PM MST

Betting Line: The Rams are a 4 point favorite. The over/under is 47 12 points according to Draft Kings. The score has a projection of 26-22 in favor of the host Rams. ESPN analytics predicts a 58.9% chance of a Colorado State victory.

TV: CBS Sports Network

RADIO: San Diego Sports 760

History: This is the 37th meeting between the Aztecs and Rams. The Aztecs are leading in the overall series with a 22-14 lead. The last meeting was in 2020, a 29-17 Aztec win. The first game in the series was in 1978, a 34-31 Aztec victory. The Aztecs are 11-6 when playing at Colorado State and have a two-game winning streak.

Keys to the Game

  1. What offensive game plan will OC Ryan Lindley utilize? The key should be a balanced approach, utilizing each component including RPO. Analysis of last weeks game showed pass first to set up the run. Quarterback Jalen Mayden had a strong passing performance completing 25/39 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns. Traditionally the mainstay of the Aztec offense, Mayden was limited to a purely passing proposal. His legs were not utilized. Perhaps trying to keep him safe, but his RPO component has always been a strength of the Aztec ground game. Expect Mayden to be turned loose on a few plays to keep the Rams offense honest. Running back Lucky Sutton provided some big play excitement for one play on a 62 yard scamper, but the rest of his performance was pretty contained. 200 yards rushing by the Aztecs corral of backs would go a long way to establishing legitimate credibility. Last week they averaged 3.9 yards per rush. Look for this stat to improve if the Aztecs are to upset the Rams.
  2. Still looking for a leader to step up to provide more consistency on offense. The defense is playing well, although needs to tighten up after giving up 400 yards to Utah State. Leadership starts at the top and much of the season it has been Head Coach Brady Hoke on the hot seat. Fans are calling for him to be replaced but it will probably be too expensive to let him go. Expect some coaching positions to be evaluated in that case. Quarterback Jalen Mayden has performed as a good middle-of-the-pack QB. Jack Browning excels at punting. The running game has no one who has risen to the top tier. Lucky Sutton has the potential that needs to be developed. Tight End Mark Redman is probably in the top 3 in the MWC. Mekhi Shaw is good but there is depth at WR in the Mountain West. On defense, Linebackers Zyrus Fiaseu and Cody Moon have been mainstays filling holes and making big plays. They might be the third and fourth-best linebackers in the conference. Safety Cedarius Barfield has performed exceptionally leading the team with three interceptions. The Aztecs surely are a team by committee. One wonders if the coaching staff were managed the same way if the results might have turned out differently.

Analysis/Prediction: The Aztec trials continue this week against the Rams. They are in a tailspin heading into the final three games of the season. Is a loss inevitable or does the Aztec fanbase on the Mesa still have a little more gas in the tank? Initially, the Aztecs were looking to have this game as a lock, predicted by this writer to have a 32-15 victory in the pre-season review article. But this year's sequence of events has not been normal. It has been a horror show of the nth degree. It seems that each week leads to mostly unpleasant surprises. That being said, the revised score for this game is going to be Colorado State with the win, 28-20. Many of the game expectations are the same as they have been for previous games. Need offense to wake up. The burden will continue to lie on the defense to carry the day. They will have their hands full dealing with Rams wideout Tory Horton and quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi. This dynamic one-two punch are formidable, but, alas, not much else exists for the Rams. The game should be entertaining, as both teams are fairly evenly matched, each with their own unique strengths, but it will wind up being the loser is out of the bowl hunt. The Aztecs will most certainly need to exact their pound of flesh to avoid joining the landfill of tragedies such as Hamlet and Macbeth.

Around the MWC sees Air Force reeling in a bad way from their demoralizing loss to Army. Nearly gone are the hopes for the conference and a New Year's six bowl. The Falcons look to rebound in a big way against Hawaii. Last weeks opponent Utah State hosts Nevada, needing two wins to become bowl-eligible. Boise State, also needing two wins, hosts New Mexico. Both Utah State and Boise State should gain wins. The final two matchups, look intriguing and worth a watch. First, UNLV, at 7-2, host Wyoming. Two of the conference darlings fight it out. UNLV needs a win to continue to be in the hunt for the conference championship game. The last game matches up the Fresno State Bulldogs at San Jose State in the Valley rivalry game. Fresno needs a win, like UNLV, to stay in the conference championship game, while the Spartans, are coming off of a bye week and a three-game winning streak. This series always features a few surprises. At this point, the bowl-eligible teams are Air Force, Fresno State and UNLV, with Wyoming, Boise State, San Jose State and Utah State getting close. This season has shown us many faces and disguises and with three weeks left to play, hope lies ahead for a few, while others will face the despair of a tragic season.