Coaching is a major factor when handicapping college football and you would be hard-pressed to find a better overall coaching staff in the country than what head coach Brady Hoke has assembled at San Diego State. The Aztecs may have the best pair of coordinators in college football with Al Borges calling the offense and Rocky Long running the defense. Hoke, Borges, and Long are no strangers as they were all part of the UCLA staff back in 1997. Borges was fantastic while at Auburn where his team led the SEC in scoring in back-to-back years. Long was the head coach at New Mexico for 11 seasons and his defenses were always rock solid.
The Aztecs come into this game at 2-1 straight-up and a perfect 2-0 against the spread against their FBS opponent. They should have won last week in Missouri as they had the ball with a 24-20 lead with just over 1:40 left to play. But Missouri had their timeouts left and forced a punt. The Tigers went 88 yards for the winning touchdown after a screen pass went 68 yards for the game-winner with less than a minute to play, handing SDSU a heartbreaking 27-24 loss.
Now there is concern about a hangover here for the Aztecs off that loss, but their scheduling dynamic should have them focused. They have a bye next week, and the last thing they want to do is go into their off week off back-to-back losses, especially since their next game is on the road at conference opponent BYU. This is a big game for the Aztecs as far as momentum goes, and since they catch a beaten-up and tired Utah State team, we’re not too worried about their opponent jumping on them early.
Utah State also comes in off a disappointing home loss to Fresno State. The Aggies led that game 24-17 late in the third quarter before their special teams did them in and they lost 41-24. That was a demoralizing loss, especially after the team learned 4 more players suffered serious injuries and will be out for the next few weeks. “When somebody goes down, somebody else has to step up and take those reps on offense and defense,” head coach Gary Andersen said. “We just have to keep on fighting through those injuries and keep battling.”
The other intriguing angle on this game is the fact that Utah State offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin held the same job under SDSU defensive coordinator Rocky Long at New Mexico. Long knows Baldwin’s offense, and since he’ll have limited weapons with all of the injuries, we expect Long’s defense to have a distinct advantage here.
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