On Saturday, September the 16, the San Diego State Aztecs play host to the 19th-ranked Stanford Cardinal, in the most anticipated game of the season for SDSU.
It’s safe to say that this game has created quite a buzz around town, especially after the Aztecs victory in Tempe last week against the Sun Devils. In this piece I will point out what I think are the keys to victory against the nationally ranked Cardinal team.
Keys to victory on defense:
1- Contain Bryce Love
It’s no secret that ever since Stanford became a national power, their identity has revolved around running the football. In order to wear down their opponents, through the years they’ve had an impressive stable of running backs, from Toby Gerhart to Christian McCaffrey. This years starting RB, though less recognized, is every bit as talented. Last week Bryce Love took a simple pitch play and ran it 75 yards for a touchdown against USC’s highly ranked defense. I think it’s paramount for the Aztecs to find a way to contain Love, especially on first down, in order to put the Cardinal in passing situations.
2- Match their physicality
In football, it is well-known that a team takes the personality of its coach. And no team embodies that as well as Stanford. Coach David Shaw is a tough and smart coach that preaches physicality and discipline. In order for the Aztecs to get a win on Saturday, they need to own the line of scrimmage and play tough.
3- Minimize the penalties on defense
This Aztec team cannot get into trouble with penalties, against a physical Stanford team. The Aztec secondary is a bit suspect, so they must not give up the big plays when the defense forces the Cardinal offense to third and long situations.
Keys to victory on offense:
1- Get creative with Rashaad Penny
Everybody and their grandmother knows that in order for SDSU to win on Saturday night, they need their Heisman hopeful to come up big. Obviously, coach David Shaw will try to have a game plan in place to contain Penny. Remember Shaw earned his stripes by slowing down Chip Kelly’s high-octane offenses. So I think coach Rocky Long and the staff need to pull out every trick in order to get Penny in space. Look for Penny to get 30 touches on offense in a variety of ways.
2- Start Fast
In my opinion, in order for the Aztecs to pull off the upset, they need to play with the lead for most, if not the entire game as they don’t yet have the passing attack to make up deficits. So in my mind, the first 25 plays of the game will tell us a lot about how this game is going to play out. They also need to be unpredictable, maybe start with a flea flicker of a reverse in order to get Stanford’s defense on their heels early.
3- Christian Chapman
The Aztec QB needs to improve his pocket presence. There is no doubt that the Cardinal’ defense will be hunting him on passing downs. He will need to come up with a big play from time to time in order to give Penny more space to run. Chapman must grow as a QB and run this offense efficiently.
This game is probably the most important game in the history of the program. Yes I know, the Aztecs have played Miami, USC, UCLA, and other national powers. But when you take into account everything that has happened over the last calendar year in San Diego, if the Aztecs win this game, that might take some of the pain away. I think coach Long and the players know that and will rise to the challenge. I also think that SDSU is getting Stanford at the right time. After that embarrassing loss the Cardinal had at USC, their morale might be a bit down. So I’ll take the Aztecs in a close, low-scoring game. SDSU wins it 24-21. Go AZTECS!