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San Diego State vs. Idaho State Bengals preview

Aztecs offense is under the microscope in an early season game. Idaho State should be an easy mark, but how will the Aztecs continue to evolve in their second game?

NCAA Football: Ohio at San Diego State Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Aztecs hope to follow up season-opening win in a contest against Idaho State. How will the Aztecs continue to evolve as they take on the overmatched Bengals.

Coming out of a 20-13 win over the Ohio Bobcats, the Aztecs have much to be happy about. First, a standout team defensive effort that shut down and took advantage of situations against Ohio. The effort was led by new Aztec linebacker Cody Moon. A transfer from New Mexico, Moon led the Aztecs with 12 tackles, including seven solo, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. His efforts led to his being named as the Mountain West Conference defensive player of the week. Second, no doubts exist as to who the quarterback will be. Jaylen Mayden has secured himself into a competent signal caller and leader. His line included 17 completions in 27 attempts for 164 yards and two touchdowns. No interceptions or fumbles along with good decision making has Mayden leading the Aztec offense for the foreseeable future. Finally, special teams are well in hand with Jack Browning starring as both punter and placekicker. He connected on 49 and 21 yards as well as averaged 56 yards per punt. For his efforts, he was named as the Mountain West Special Teams player of the week. Quite a strong showing, despite a limited schedule of games. Other MWC games included Hawaii coming up short to Vanderbilt 35-28 and San Jose State showing a spirited performance against #6 USC, dropping their contest 56-28. Both of those teams showed well and are on the Aztecs future schedule this season.

Defensive Questions

Reviewing the defensive performance from last week a few areas of concern jump off the page. 25 first downs for Ohio. The Bobcats threw for 278 yards, nearly a ten-yard average. The Aztecs will need to try to turn those numbers to less than ten yards. The Bobcats converted 7 of 17 third-down opportunities. They were able to score three interceptions from back up quarterback CJ Harris. Much speculation has been made that if starter Kurtis Rourke had not gone down with an injury, the Bobcats would have been in a position to win the game. Football being football, injuries are part of the game and it’s up to the next man up to carry the show. The Bobcats also ran 83 plays compared to 58 for San Diego State. They also controlled time of possession 32:37 to 27:23. If it weren’t for the key Aztec takeaways, this game could have wound up as a loss. These concerns will undoubtedly be addressed this week.

Offensive Questions

The Aztecs performed just well enough to win against Ohio. They lost statistical battles such as first downs, time of possession and total yardage. They were effective averaging over five yards per play. All in all, the Aztecs performed probably on par with the coaches' expectations. Against Idaho State, it is likely these offensive numbers should soar. Expect a few big yardage pass plays as well as a strong and steady dose of the run. One of the Aztec running backs should reach 100 yards rushing. Expect the tight ends to get their fare share of receptions as the Aztecs continue to develop a priority on this area. Don’t be surprised if the Aztecs hit near the 500 yard total offensive mark. This of course will be an outlier as the Bengals are an FCS team, and a bad one at that.

Who are the Bengals?

The Aztecs should tee off on Idaho State as the Bengals continue to struggle with their football program. Perhaps most telling is they have their third head coach in three years. Cody Hawkins is making his coaching debut after spending the last three years as the offensive coordinator at UC Davis. He is the son of former Boise State coach and current UC Davis head coach Dan Hawkins. Idaho blood runs deep as he played high school ball in Idaho as well as playing at Boise State. In addition, they field 67 new players this season. The leading candidate for quarterback is Hunter Hays, who as a backup last year against San Diego State, went 18-30 for 140 yards. Returning at running back is junior Raiden Hunter. Last year he accounted for 53 yards in his return to the San Diego area where he prepped at San Diego High. He accounted for 451 yards for the Bengals last season. The Bengals struggled mightily last year averaging only 13.7 points per game. Expect no different as they lack depth on the offensive line and no true playmakers. The defense is new this year as well with new defensive coordinator Josh Runda from Iowa State. He will implement the 3-3-5 defense, the same one the Aztecs use. Something maybe better than nothing as last year they gave up 36.5 points per game. Few starters have experience from last year including Josh Alford and Jihad Brown in the defensive secondary. One interesting player is Jackson State transfer Herman Smith at safety. Perhaps the Bengals might find a way to curtain the Aztecs passing game.

San Diego State (1-0) vs. Idaho State Bengals (0-0)
Location: Snapdragon Stadium, San Diego, Ca.

Date/Time: Saturday, September 2 at 7:30 PM PST

No betting Line

TV: CBS Sports Network

History: This is the third meeting between the Aztecs and the Bengals. The Aztecs have won the previous two games. Last year the Aztecs won at Snapdragon 38-7 and won 38-21 in 2004.

3 Keys to the Game

  1. Will the offense see improvements from last week? This game should for all intents and purposes be an easy game for the Aztecs. The game is actually going to be how the Aztecs execute their plays, how they finish, and the positive momentum they might achieve. Jaylen Mayden will be counted on to perform consistently and along the way, connect on some long passes. He should have a good game against a vastly inferior defense. The receivers will continue to be in the hands of tight ends Mark Redman and Jay Rudolph. The big question is who will step up on the wide receiver side? Mekhi Shaw and Brionne Penny are waiting to have breakout games. No time like the present. Finally, the running back tandem of Kenan Christon and Jaylon Armstead should be primed to perform. I would expect one to reach 100 yards in the game. More importantly, it will set the momentum for the following weeks game against UCLA. That being said, the elephant in the room is looking past Idaho State to the Bruins at Snapdragon Stadium the following week. The Aztecs need to execute their offensive game-plan without losing sight of the immediate game at hand.
  2. Can the Aztecs avoid looking past Idaho State? Some might say this is a typical trap game: inferior competitor before arguably the season's biggest game the following week. This would demand a fairly competent opponent who can rise up and seize the moment. If it were an FBS opponent, this might be the case. Fortunately, for the Aztecs, it is an FCS opponent in Idaho State. The Bengals might get on the board with a field goal, but they do not have the depth or talent to go toe to toe with the Aztecs. Coach Hoke and his staff will make sure the team remains focused on this week's game. They have the depth and talent to treat the game against Idaho State as a glorified scrimmage. Confidence is required and demanded, but must also be tempered against overconfidence. If the Aztecs were to have a moment of confusion or despair, it would only for a moment that can be corrected. The Aztecs are too well-coached to see a meltdown of epic proportions.

Analysis/Prediction: The preseason pick of a 42-13 Aztec win still holds. The Aztecs will execute a typical game plan with an emphasis on doing the basics right. Expect to see more attempts to stretch the field which could lead to a few long scores. Do not anticipate any trick plays or anything that deviates much from the typical Aztec playbook. After three Aztec interceptions last week expect the secondary to try to match that this week. The Bengals will need to throw and throw often as their running game will be throttled by the Aztec linebackers. Cody Moon should top his tackle mark from last week. Since the Bengals will need to throw, the reality exists that they will have significantly less time of possession than the Aztecs. Things will go the way for San Diego State. Avoid injuries, cultivate ongoing success and this will be an easy win that puts the Aztecs 2-0 heading into an extremely winnable game against UCLA. The Bruins will be coming off of a contest, 14 point favorites against Coastal Carolina. That game could be very entertaining and will provide some game film the Aztecs and their coaches will slice and dice. On a final note, the Aztec fans have no excuse to not show up this weekend. The game is an evening kickoff and the weather looks to be perfect. Anticipating an Aztec win, the fans should show why San Diego State is deserving of any promotional considerations. Of course the game against UCLA will be packed, but it would be nice to see Snapdragon have more fans than last weekends game.