Game time: 6:00 PM MT
Location: Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, NM
Line: San Diego State -15.5, O/U 50
Well, no real need to review the first two weeks of football for the Aggies. Two road games against Power Five opponents with much more size, speed, and offensive talent went about as you’d expect. Let’s not pretend as if those combined 120-17 losses tell us a whole lot about this week.
San Diego State is the better team on paper, which is why they are a two-touchdown favorite, but the gap is definitely smaller this week and the Aztecs are a very different team, especially given the results of their first two games.
It’s challenging to preview a team when they are so much different than your previous two opponents, so I can simply lean on what I know of them historically.
The Aztecs, for the season-plus that Ryan Agnew has been the starting quarterback, have been just like the Rex Grossman Chicago Bears or the Trent Dilfer Baltimore Ravens; play elite defense, run the ball well enough to control possessions and occasionally well enough to break one, and have a quarterback whose job is to not screw up the opportunities the defense creates.
This isn’t new. They did the same thing with Christian Chapman before him, but it was also easier to do with Rashaad Penny as 1a and Juwan Washington as 1b in the backfield.
Agnew fills the role as he is asked. Last week was his 14th start for SDSU, and he completed 74% of his passes for 293 yards and a touchdown. That marks only the second time in that span that Agnew passed for more than 220 yards, and the third time he’s attempted 20+ passes and completed more than half of them.
He’s been sacked at least once in every start since his very first one a year ago against Sacramento State, and only has two multi-touchdown passing games. The Aztecs defend like crazy and run it down your throats.
Returns this season are mixed early on, though. Washington, Agnew and sophomore Jordan Byrd have run the ball 74 times in two games and gained only 197 yards doing so, a paltry 2.7 yards per carry that gets even uglier if you remove their three longest rushes.
The defense has been as advertised, but the offense has sputtered along. In two games the Aztecs have had 23 drives; eight of them (35%) have gone three-and-out. Of the other 15 drives, six have reached the red zone, and those six have produced one touchdown, four field goals, and a fumble.
If the Aggie defense can capitalize on this inefficiency, getting in the midst of a field goal fest is a great way to hang around a lot longer than you reasonably should.
Josh Adkins will continue to face a sturdy front seven (16 TFL and four sacks in two games) but if he can get the ball out on time opportunities will be there to move the ball and create opportunities.
I’m optimistic about this game. The Aggies are the underdog and should be based on what we knew about these teams coming into the season as well as what has transpired the past two weeks.
However, given SDSU’s offensive struggles, especially in the red zone, I’m quite confident picking the Aggies to cover the spread and probably flirt with an opponent who might need to lean on their kicking game to pull one out late.
Prediction: San Diego State 34, NMSU 29
Game time: 6:00 PM MT