Don’t look now, but the San Diego State Aztecs are about to come across your TV screen as one of the top 25 football teams in the nation. But they aren’t beating opponents in nearly the same kind of fashion as schools like Ohio State, Alabama or LSU. Will this hurt them as they lay a bunch of points, even in a revenge game against the Nevada Wolf Pack?
That is a question we’d like to address as we talk about that game in the Mountain West Conference for late Saturday night.
San Diego State-Nevada will be seen on ESPN2, slated for 10:30 PM ET at SDCCU Stadium. BetAnySports customers can watch it and place wagers in real time using Sports Betting Ultra.
Here are the reduced juice odds in San Diego, where the Aztecs are considerable favorites:
San Diego State Aztecs -17.5 (-105)
Nevada Wolf Pack +17.5 (-105)
Over 39 points (-105)
Under 39 points (-105)
Certainly the revenge motivation is heavy for SDSU, which lost a 28-24 decision last season to a Nevada squad that couldn’t even crack 300 total yards. The Aztecs, whose only loss so far third year came at the hands of Utah State, excel at defending the run, as they have allowed just 2.6 yards a carry and 70 yards per game. They’ve turned the ball over only four times, which ties them for second-best in the country. And they have yielded just 14 points a game. That’s been necessary, because they have had very limited success in the spread offense Rocky Long and his staff installed this season.
QB Ryan Agnew has been somewhat adequate (64% completions), but this team has scored more than 27 points only against New Mexico State. Not that Nevada has been productive on offense, but the Wolf Pack has not embarrassed itself most of the time on defense, forcing 15 turnovers and holding the opposition to just 33.6% on third down. Redshirt freshman QB Carson Strong has come back to the lineup, displacing Florida State transfer Malik Henry, and he’s looked okay, completing 67.5% of his passes. Sure, the Wolf Pack has suffered devastating defeats (by 71 vs. Oregon, 51 vs. Hawaii), but the Aztecs don’t have that kind of explosive offense. And the Pack has shown up for wins over San Jose State and Big Ten entry Purdue.
Matt Araiza, a redshirt freshman placekicker, has been the most dependable offensive weapon for SDSU, missing just two of 16 field goals and making all extra points. Is that a difference-maker here, or a bad sign? It’s probably a good sign, but not an edge.
What kind of bothers me about this game is that Norvell is talking about playing a number of freshmen here to see if they should be redshirted. So is he tossing this one out and figuring his team can get bowl-eligible by beating either Fresno State or UNLV? I don’t know. But they aren’t likely to be working with a turnover advantage, since they have coughed up the ball 19 times.
Another red flag is that Norvell has taken the play-calling duties away from Matt Mumme (son of ‘Air Raid’ originator Hal Mumme) and is doing that himself. He has failed to keep a job at the major college level a few times when he was in this role (at Oklahoma, UCLA and Nebraska, for example), and his offense looked very tentative first time out with that, perhaps in an effort to avoid mistakes. They had 369 yards against a New Mexico defense that was second worst in the nation, giving up over 500 per contest.
So now they are on a different path; changing up the scheme and getting much more conservative. Norvell talks of running the ball, winning the field position battle and “protecting” his defense. Well, he isn’t going to get far with SDSU – and won’t win field position either – by going run-heavy. When you go through an entire quarter against the second worst defense in the country and can gain just nine yards in nine plays, as they did against the Lobos, it is a signal that they have a long way to go.
And I’m thinking it might not be all that unattractive to lay the points in this payback quest.
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