BYU’s star quarterback, Zach Wilson, wore a headband this past week saying, “Any Team, Any Time, Any Place,” For some programs, these words are mere bravado, but for San Diego State, they are words to live by.
While the Cougars will be home without a game on Saturday, the Aztecs shook off their Thanksgiving dinners and took an early flight to Boulder, Colorado on Friday.
The impromptu matchup between the Aztecs and the Buffaloes is the first non-conference game for either team. Non-conference games are rare in 2020.
Saturday’s game marks the only non-conference game in the Pac-12 so far this season and only the third such game in the Mountain West to da
Kickoff: 2:00 pm PT Weather: High of 56°, Low of 26° Sunset: 4:37 pm
Odds: SDSU is currently a 3.5 point underdog.
Key Statistics (NCAA rank)
Scoring Offense: SDSU: 28.8 (65) CU: 41.5 (12)
Rushing Offense: SDSU: 246 (11); CU: 220.5 (22)
Passing Offense: SDSU: 155 (115); CU: 258 (44)
Total Offense: SDSU: 401 (62); CU: 478.5 (17)
Scoring Defense: SDSU: 15.4 (8); CU 37 (109)
Rushing Defense: SDSU: 90 (7) CU: 122.
Passing Defense: SDSU: 179.4 (12) CU 315 (118)
Total Defense: SDSU: 269.4 (3) CU: 437.5 (91)
Keys to Victory
Get Colorado’s Offense of the Field
Through the first two games of the season, CU has thrived on third down. Their 51.5% conversion rate ranks 17th in the NCAA. Colorado’s 16.5 third-down attempts a game ranks third in the FBS. Colorado has had only nine explosive plays this season where they gain 20 or more yards. Leading rusher, Jarek Broussard, has a 5.3 average per carry with a long of 37. This combination of solid running and limited big plays puts CU in numerous third-down situations.
The Aztec defense, meanwhile, ranks fourth in the NCAA in third-down defense. They are allowing opposing offenses to convert 25.33% this year. One key for the SDSU will be containing quarterback Sam Noyer’s running ability. In short-yardage, Noyer has been effectively running the football.
Time of Possession and Running the Football
Both teams are ranked in the top 25 in time of possession. SDSU ranks 21st with 32:46 minutes a game, and CU ranks 12th at 34:02. Both teams depend on stellar rushing attacks to keep the chains moving and their defense on the sidelines. San Diego State’s running game is averaging 246 yards a game, and Colorado’s ground game averages 220.5. This ranks 11th and 22nd, respectively. SDSU’s defense has been far better at stopping opposing offenses, while Colorado’s defense has been better at creating turnovers. Time of possession will be a key indicator of which team is running the ball successfully, which team is turning the ball over, and which team is converting on third down.
Who benefits most from the last-minute matchup?
There can be a case made for either team. San Diego State left Friday for a flight to Boulder. Their travel schedule, practice routines have been seriously changed. On the other hand, SDSU has played three more games than Colorado. If there was not enough time to put in a specific game plan, that should benefit the team with the most game action as both clubs will be focused more on playing to their own strengths instead of playing to their opponent’s weaknesses.
If the game comes down to the coaches adjusting on the fly, this bodes well for the Buffaloes. This season, SDSU has not shown an ability to make mid-game adjustments, particularly on offense. Only once have the Scarlett and Black scored more than seven second-half points in a game.