San Diego State looks to end their losing streak when they play Colorado State on Saturday afternoon.
The Colorado State Rams are 1-2 on the season, with their lone win coming against Wyoming on November 5. The Rams had their last two games canceled and haven’t played since November 12.
After a 3-1 start to the season, the Aztecs have dropped back-to-back games to Nevada and Colorado. Due to the cancellation of their game against Fresno State last week, SDSU played Colorado instead.
In their first game of the season against a Power 5 team, the Aztecs (3-3) fell 20-10 to the undefeated Buffaloes. With both Lucas Johnson (hamstring) and Greg Bell (ankle) out, San Diego State had no offense going as they got shutout in the second half. Carson Baker and junior quarterback Jordon Brookeshire were very underwhelming as well, completing only 11 of 28 passes for 76 yards.
With Bell out, the ground game only totaled 79 yards on 31 rushes for an uninspiring 2.5 yards per carry. Even with solid replacements for him in Chance Bell and Kaegun Williams, the offense had nothing going. The only Aztec touchdown was on an interception that Darren Hall returned for six.
Greg Bell is questionable to play on Saturday, but it seems like he is trending in the right direction. If he is available, he should be able to carry this Aztec offense, which averages 25.7 points per game, as he has been all season. G. Bell and Co. will still have a tough task against a solid Rams defense that ranks third in the Mountain West in rush yards allowed at 105.7 per game. In Colorado State’s three games this year, they have allowed 2.4, 3.0, and 2.0 yards per carry.
The biggest question for San Diego State is who will play behind center. Lucas Johnson missed the game against Colorado, but he is questionable for Saturday’s game. The San Diego native is the best option at quarterback for the Aztecs, given Baker’s performance so far this season.
Johnson also gives the offense a boost with his dual-threat ability, forcing defenses to keep an eye on him. The read-option featuring Greg Bell and Johnson can be deadly, and he is another threat in the backfield with his legs.
Johnson started in the 26-21 loss to Nevada on November 21, completing 58% of his passes for 184 yards and a touchdown. He also added 29 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The Rams pass defense surrenders 290.3 yards per game, 2nd-worst in the Mountain West. Whoever is under center will need to keep the defense honest and prevent them from stacking the box against G. Bell to make the passing game a threat.
The Aztec offensive line has been outstanding this year, and they will be facing a great Colorado State defensive line. Although they have played only three games, they rank second in the country in both tackles for loss per game (10.3) and sacks per game (4.3).
One of the biggest issues for the Rams, who allow 38 points per game, is their defense surrendering big plays. They have allowed 18 plays of 20+ yards and 11 of 30+ yards. If G. Bell can break open through holes and Johnson can get the passing game going with Jesse Matthews (15.6 yards per catch), the Aztecs should be able to create the big play.
The San Diego State defense is among the best in the country, ranking first in the country in yards per play (4.06), third in total defense (269.8 yards per game), and top ten in points allowed (16.2) and pass and rush yards allowed. They allowed only 272 yards of offense against Colorado.
Senior quarterback Patrick O’Brien will be under center for Colorado State. He started the last two games and has completed 61% percent of his passes for 477 yards for three touchdowns and one interception this season. Junior transfer Todd Centeio started the opener but has completed only 37% of his passes for 5.5 yards per attempt. Centeio may be used as a change-of-pace running quarterback. O’Brien will be facing a tough matchup against the Aztec defense, and he will need to perform how he did in the win against Wyoming, where he completed 69% of his passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns.
A’Jon Vivens, a wide receiver, is the Rams’ leading rusher with 164 yards on 4.8 yards per carry. Senior running back Marcus McElroy Jr. has had a rough season, with only 60 yards on 31 rushes. They do have some exciting pass catchers in Dante Wright and Trey McBride. Wright has 255 receiving yards in only two games, and tight end McBride has 268 yards and four touchdowns in three games.
San Diego State’s defense, led by Caden McDonald, Tariq Thompson, and Dwayne Johnson Jr., is easily one of the best in the country. They should be able to limit the Rams’ ground game but may have a tougher task in containing Wright and McBride. Wright and McBride are electric players to watch and will be a challenge for the Aztec defense,
The biggest question mark for this game will be the availability of Lucas Johnson and Greg Bell. If both are available, the Aztecs should cruise to a win.
San Diego State won last year’s matchup 24-10.
Saturday’s game is at 4:00 p.m. at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, CA. The game will be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network.
Bobby is currently a senior at Arizona State University and is majoring in Sports Journalism in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He expects to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Fall 2023. Bobby is from San Diego, loves to write and has a deep passion for baseball, football, and basketball. He also co-hosts the “Devils Talking Padres” podcast, contributes for ZonaHoops.com and is a digital reporter and photographer for Cronkite News/Arizona PBS.