Winners of the MWC West Division last year, the San Diego State Aztecs look to make a return to the postseason in 2015. The media has been backing them so far, picking them as repeat West Division winners for the upcoming season. Coach Rocky Long returns for his fifth year, and is a respectable 32-20 over that timeframe.
O/U Win Total: 7.5 (o -175, u +135)
To win the Mountain West: +700
Opener: September 5th vs. San Diego (No line posted)
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The Aztecs finished the 2014-15 season at 7-6 after losing to Navy in the Poinsetta Bowl 17-16. They played much better at home than on the road, going 6-1 in Qualcomm Stadium while posting a 1-5 record on the road. Typical for teams that struggle on the road, the team was young in some units. Those units improved throughout the season, especially the running game and standout back D.J. Pumphrey. The Aztecs are a run first team who use a lot of play action, so establishing the running game is important. To that end, Pumphrey averaged 7.4 yards per carry in the last eight games of last season.
Pumphrey is back at running back and is projected to run for nearly 2,000 yards if he can stay healthy. A stud defensive line and defensive back core also returns with the rest of 18 starters from 2014. The big question mark unit for SDSU is the offensive line, as they lost 3 all-conference starters, including their left tackle and center. This will make running the ball the most desirable option, as the offensive line recruiting class is athletic enough to overcome their game time inexperience and smash some mouth.
New Difference Makers
San Diego State will be dependent on a new starting quarterback in 2015. Unlike conference rival, Boise State, this quarterback will be playing behind a questionable offensive line. Still, there are two players in fall camp that should be able to get the job done. The first is Kentucky transfer, Maxwell Smith, with the second being Oregon transfer, Jake Rodrigues. My guess is that Smith gets the nod as he has starting experience with Kentucky in 2013. Smith also took care of the ball and only threw for one interception that year, a must for a run-first, possession style team playing with a strong defensive unit.
The only game of the season on the board thus far is San Diego State on the road versus UNLV, and bettors are hammering it in favor of SDSU. So much so, in fact, that the opening number of -16 in favor of the Aztecs has moved across the important 17 point line to -17.5. Even though SDSU won last year’s game against UNLV at home by 17, we are talking about a UNLV team with a O/U win total listed at 2.5 games. This looks to be a blowout, on paper at least.
San Diego State gets a favorable draw and sees the strongest teams in the MWC West Division at home this year, where they play very well. Other than those important division home games against Utah State and Nevada, the Aztecs have non-conference games at Cal and Penn State. The game against Penn State could be an important one in getting the Aztecs on the national media radar, as their running game and elite defensive line should match up well against the former powerhouse. In the end, there is a strong chance that SDSU has a chance to spoil an undefeated campaign by the Boise State Broncos in the MWC Championship Game. As home field is dependent on BCS rankings for that game, the Aztecs will not be favored should they find themselves in Boise.
As the juice indicates, the win total line of 7.5 is favorable for those looking to back the Aztecs. Unless the quarterback position is a complete disaster, SDSU should be able to notch at least 8 wins in the regular season, with 10 wins not out of the question. Early in the season I will look to fade the Aztecs on the road until they prove that they can win there, but it looks as if they are more than capable of taking that next step over last year.