The No. 24 San Diego State Aztecs will look to keep their perfect record intact when they visit the San Jose State Spartans on Friday night in Mountain West action. San Diego State is currently rolling at 5-0 (1-0 Mountain) after easily winning its conference opener 31-7 over the New Mexico Lobos last Saturday as a 19.5-point home favorite. San Jose State will look to bounce back after a 32-14 loss to the Colorado State Rams last weekend as a 3.5-point road underdog to fall to 3-3 (1-1 Mountain West) on the season.
This is a competitive matchup historically with San Diego State holding a 22-20-2 advantage all-time. San Jose State snapped a seven-game losing streak last season against the Aztecs with a 28-17 road win en route to the Mountain West title.
San Diego State steamrolls New Mexico in Mountain West openerAfter a disappointing .500 campaign in 2020, the Aztecs have taken their typical position as a Mountain West favorite this season and had no trouble in their conference opener last weekend against New Mexico. Greg Bell capped off San Diego State's opening drive with a short touchdown run before Jordon Brookshire also scored from one yard out later in the first half, and while New Mexico would get within 17-7 late in the third quarter, Brookshire and Chance Bell would both record touchdown runs in a span of six minutes to put things away.
Brookshire wasn't asked to do much through the air, completing 11 of 24 pass attempts for 130 yards while running the ball five times for 45 yards and the two scores. Greg Bell had another huge night, running the ball 21 times for 111 yards and a touchdown, his eighth 100-yard game in 12 appearances with San Diego State. The Aztecs defense dominated, holding New Mexico to 193 yards of total offense while forcing two turnovers.
“It was what I normally see from Greg, whether it’s practice, in those opportunities, or you see him in a game situation,” head coach Brady Hoke said to the Associated Press about his star running back. “He has very good vision he did a nice job of the burst through the hole.”
San Diego State has also been a good team against the spread at 4-1, with the only defeat coming back in the season opener when it beat the New Mexico State Aggies 28-10 as a massive 31.5-point favorite. Overs are 3-2 for the Aztecs after last weekend's game went under the betting total to snap a run of three straight overs.
A normally limited San Diego State offense has been effective so far with an average of 35.8 points and 365.4 yards per game, including 244.4 yards per contest on the ground to rank in the top 10 nationally. San Diego State's defense has dominated, with opponents managing just 16.6 points and 270.4 yards per contest.
Brookshire has done enough as a game manager, completing 28 of 58 pass attempts for 389 yards, two touchdowns and one interception while adding 82 yards plus four scores on the ground while also missing two games due to an ankle injury. Greg Bell is one of the nation's more productive running backs with 94 carries for 520 yards and five touchdowns, while Daniel Bellinger is the team's leading receiver with seven catches for 163 yards and a score. Cameron Thomas has been a force for the Aztecs' defense with 23 tackles, eight of which were for a loss, along with 2.5 sacks.
There aren't any reported injuries for the Aztecs after several players returned from absences last week, including Greg Bell and Brookshire along with corners Tayler Hawkins and Dallas Branch.
San Jose State's disappointing season continues in blowout lossThe Spartans have been unable to recapture the magic of last season's unexpected run to the Mountain West title, as they weren't competitive on the road against Colorado State on Saturday. Derrick Deese got the Spartans on the board with 2:22 left in the first half on an 18-yard touchdown catch to make it a 13-7 game, but Colorado State would reel off the next 19 points as Isaiah Hamilton's garbage-time touchdown only made the final score more respectable.
Filling in for injured starter Nick Starkel, Nash completed 11 of 22 passes for 154 yards, two touchdowns and one interceptions while carrying the ball 11 times of 38 yards. Hamilton had a standout game on a rough afternoon for the offense with four catches for 84 yards and a score. San Jose State was thoroughly dominated, as it was outgained 451-267 while turning the ball over three times.
"It’s definitely something you can learn from,” head coach Brent Brennan said to The Mercury News about the blowout loss. “And Nick Nash is a hyper competitor, so this thing is going to burn a hole in his soul for a while. That’s just going to help him work harder. He is a tremendous young man and I’ve got all kinds of faith in him.”
The Spartans are having a miserable year against the spread at 1-5, with the only victory coming back in the opener with a blowout win over FCS Southern Utah. Overs are an even 3-3 for the Spartans, with each of their last two games going over the betting total after last Saturday's contest narrowly cleared the total of 44 points.
San Jose State's problems are on the offensive side of the ball, with the Spartans averaging 20.5 points and 333.5 yards per game. The Spartans defense has at least been capable, with opponents putting up 23.8 points and 369.8 yards per contest.
Before getting injured two weeks ago, Starkel had completed 69 of 137 pass attempts for 992 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions while adding a score on the ground. Tyler Nevens has been effective out of the backfield, running the ball 74 times for 406 yards and three touchdowns, while Deese is the top pass catcher with 19 receptions for 334 yards and three touchdowns. Nehemiah Shelton is the leader of the San Jose State defense with 38 tackles including one for a loss, an interception, and six pass breakups.
Starkel is considered day-to-day with an injury to his non-throwing arm and it's unknown which quarterback will play for San Jose State on Friday. Tight end Sam Olson hasn't played since the second game of the season for an undisclosed reason and it's unclear when he will return, while wide receiver Jermaine Braddock has also been out after recording seven catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns in the first three games of the year.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Spartans are capable of more than they have shown so far this season, but it's going to be hard for just about any team in the Mountain West to stay within eight points of San Diego State right now. Having question marks at quarterback for an already struggling offense isn't ideal for the Spartans going into such a tough matchup, and San Diego State's defense will be in complete control on Friday night.
San Diego State is usually among the best defenses in college football and looks particularly dominant to start 2021 with 3.7 yards per play allowed to rank second nationally, only behind the mighty No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs. The big difference for the Aztecs so far this season is that they are on pace to have easily their best scoring offense since 2016, as Greg Bell is a star running back while Brookshire provides more of a downfield passing threat than previous quarterbacks.
No matter who is starting at quarterback, the Spartans offense figures to struggle as it ranks in the bottom 20 nationally in yards per play while turning the ball over 13 times in six games. San Diego State is one of the best teams in the country against the spread while San Jose State is yet to cover against an FBS opponent, and the Spartans will eventually be overwhelmed again on Friday as their offense won't do much.
Full-Game Total Pick
Even though San Diego State's offense is improved this season, most of the damage has come against a very weak schedule of opposing defenses and this is still a team that runs the ball nearly 50 times per game. San Jose State's defense will put up a good fight, as it has been decent enough against the run with 3.9 yards per attempt allowed and won't have to worry about giving up big passing plays against San Diego State's methodical offense.
The quarterback questions make it impossible to trust San Jose State's offense to contribute enough to reach the over after Nash struggled badly against Colorado State, and this is a much more talented opposing defense including a future NFL corner in Hawkins. Both teams are going to run the ball a ton and don't offer much in the way of tempo, which will lead to a defensive struggle here.