The San Diego State Aztecs launch the 2023 season hosting MAC opponent Ohio Bobcats. Expect defense, while offense remains to be seen.
A new season of Aztec football is just around the corner. What are the realistic expectations for the season and specifically for the opener this Saturday at Snapdragon Stadium against the Ohio Bobcats? Is realignment taking a pause so the teams can play football without a million analytical opinions thrown out like a wobbly spiral? The focus heading into the game is what can be expected in game one. The Aztecs have shown they may actually have an offense that can gain yards, lead a balanced attack and control the tempo of a game. Jalen Mayden looks in control at the quarterback position. The offensive line looks solid heading into their matchup. What to watch for will be the skill positions. Expect the Aztecs to rotate running backs and receivers, looking for that key balance of success. Time of possession and avoiding three and out series’ will be key metrics Coach Hoke and his staff will be looking with a keen eye.
Ohio is coming off of a 10-4 campaign in 2022 including a 30-27 OT bowl win against Wyoming. The only common opponent last year was Toledo. The Bobcats lost 17-7 while the Aztecs won17-14. The Bobcats are expected to be in contention for the MAC title with Miami and Toledo the other key teams. The consensus is a 7 or 8-win season. They will probably split their non-conference games 2-2 and go 6-2 or 5-3 in the MAC. The conference is very balanced and not too much difference for the majority of the teams. The Bobcats feature 2022 offensive player of the year in QB Kurtis Rourke, He threw for over 3000 yards and is very accurate with a 69% completion percentage. He is supported by all league receiver Sam Wiglusz and RB Sieh Bangura. While the offense looks decent, the strength is on the defensive side. Senior DT Rodney Matthews and senior LB’s Keye Thompson and Bryce Houston anchor the Bobcats in the middle. SO. safety Austin Browley is expected to step into a strong season as well. As with most teams with a dominant quarterback, containment and hurries are key. There will be no intimidation factor for Ohio, making a trip to California. They are a strong, capable team that plays a tough disciplined brand of football.
San Diego State (0-0) vs. Ohio Bobcats (0-0)
Location: Snapdragon Stadium, San Diego, Ca.
Date/Time: Saturday, August 26 at 4:00 PM PST
Line: San Diego State by 2.5 points. The over/under is 49 points
TV: Fox Sports 1
History: This is the second meeting between the Aztecs and the Bobcats. The last meeting was in the 2018 Frisco Bowl won by Ohio 27-0. SDSU owns a 15-1-1 record against MAC opponents. The Aztecs and Bobcats played bowl games last year, the Aztecs losing to Middle Tennessee State 25-23 while the Bobcats beat Wyoming in the Arizona Bowl 30-27 in overtime.
3 Keys to the Game
- Which offense will show up to start the season? Jaylen Mayden is firmly in control of the Aztec offense. Tight ends Mark Redman and Jay Rudolph will undoubtedly be counted on to both block and catch passes, Utilizing these two talented tight ends may be the difference for the Aztecs this year. The offensive line looks solid with Cade Bennett, Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson, and others. Offensive coordinator Ryan Lindley will finally be able to be responsible for the play-calling. He has a number of weapons to use, but how will he deploy them? One thing is certain is that the Aztecs will not look as comatose as they did to start last season. He has a good command of what combinations will work and he will have quite a few weapons to try and move into place. He will attempt to mirror the offense utilized by Utah which includes two tight ends and two wide receivers in the formation with one running back. Watch for plays that compliment each other. Lindley has a good offensive mind and has won the confidence of his charges. Watching him in action with his own plays should give Aztec fans something they’ve been craving: offensive excitement.
- Can the Aztecs contain Ohio’s quarterback Rourke? Similar to last years game against Toledo where the Aztecs needed to contain Dequan Finn, they will need to find ways to get QB Kurtis Rourke out of his rhythm early and often. The Bobcats return eight starters on offense with nearly all players being upper-classmen. There is depth that could frustrate the Aztec defense. The Aztecs will be pushed to provide pressure and containment on the line, fill gaps from the backer positions and take away passing lanes in the secondary. Watch DE Samuela Tuihalamaka, LB Cody Moon and Safety Davaughn Celestine as the key components of the first game. As these positions perform, so will go the Aztecs.
Analysis/Prediction: I made a preseason pick of a 21-17 Aztec win. I think that it will be strategic and predictable. Neither team wants to show too much of their hand. Try to uncover the identity and gain much-needed competitive repetitions. The Aztecs will be opening the season at home again, expecting different results than last year's season-opening loss to Arizona. Coach Hoke will want to dominate with defense. Lindley will want to run an offense that, ultimately, puts up points. Fans are hoping for a slightly more exciting team this year. Expect Kenan Christon to get a lot of touches, both out of the backfield and on returns. There will be several levels of depth playing, both for situational analysis as well as actual game speed experience. I expect Jaylen Mayden to be the cog that will run the show. He will need to make good decisions, eliminate turnovers, reduce mistakes, and basically put the ball in his playmaker's hands. There’s not much much else to expect or analyze before the first game. Which team can start quickly and maintain momentum? Expect to see defenses better situated to start the game. One might hope to see a few more Aztec points. Lindley will have external and internal pressure to perform. His track record shows he’s up to the task. Let’s get ready for the kickoff!