In the third installment of our Better Know a Foe series, looking at the San Diego State Aztecs, we talked to Jeremy Mauss of the Mountain West Connection, an excellent blog which covers the whole MWC.
Vandal Nation: San Diego State has been stuck for many years at the bottom of the Mountain West. Their last winning record was in 1998, three coaches and a conference ago. Are they as much a drag on the MWC as we have been on the WAC?
Jeremy Mauss: Yes, they have been a drag on the Mountain West but they have a good quarterback with Ryan Lindley who started last year as a freshman and is very good. Brady Hoke looks to be getting the Aztecs in the right direction, but it will be next year before they challenge for a bowl game.
What’s been Brady Hoke’s impact on the Aztecs, and can he turn the program around?
It is hard to tell because all the practices have been closed to the media. However, he has put together a very good coaching staff with a former New Mexico head coach who is now the defensive coordinator, and then offensive coordinator Al Borges who came from Auburn. The team did not give up against UCLA and looks to be much improved from years past, but like I said before, it will be a year or two before they move up the MWC chain.
What can we expect from the Aztecs offense, and who are the key playmakers?
A lot of passing will be going on. Last year, Ryan Lindley was forced to pass a lot because the Aztecs were trailing, but he really is that good and completes passes for a high percentage. His favorite target is Vincent Brown, who has two touchdowns and 281 yards receving in only two games so far. Running back Brandon Sullivan was supposed to break out this year but so far he has been only average with just 136 yards in the two games, which includes an FCS opponent. If Sullivan is able to get into a groove and have a good game running the ball then this Aztec offense has the possibility to be potent.
What can we expect from the Aztecs defense, and who are the key playmakers?
Against UCLA, they gave up 33 unanswered and let a bad UCLA outplay them. Playmakers? They do not have any playmakers! The Aztecs defense is not great. However if a player needs to be mentioned, I’d nominate Jacob Tauanuu, who plays linebacker and leads the team in tackles for loss with four, to go with two sacks. He is a speedy player and is able to get into the backfield.
Is the 3-3-5 system really any better of a defensive system, or is it just a gimmick?
This is Rocky Long’s defense and he has been running it for years, and while it is a different setting the defense is effective. To run this defense the team needs athletes that are able to play defensive back and linebacker. This defense is great at hiding coverages and their blitzes and makes the offensive line and quarterback think more then normal. SDSU does not have the athletes to run this scheme really successfully, but enough to cause a little trouble.
Against UCLA, Ryan Lindley threw for 238 yards but also gave up three picks. Early-season jitters or is he quick to break under pressure?
It is more of San Diego State not being able to run the ball, which forced him to pass more then they would like. Also, they were playing a Pac-10 school and Lindley was trying to make too many plays which can lead to mistakes. Plus, the talent at SDSU is not that great which can lead to mistakes and turnovers. Look for him to have a big game against Idaho.
What’s your predicted outcome?
Neither team is all that great but San Diego State has shown improvement and I expect this game to be in the favor of the Aztecs, winning by 10 or more points.