The 9-3, 7-1 Mountain West Champs SDSU Aztecs take on the 7-5 BYU Cougars in the eighth installment of the ever changing second bowl of San Diego. There have been at least five different agreements with conferences over the years and in 2008 the PAC10(12) couldn’t meet the required seven teams to send a team to the southern most city in California.
The Cougars of BYU have had an up and down season and just about gave the country what they wanted in upsetting Notre Lame. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall, who may have the coolest name for a head coach ever, has an issue at the QB position. His starter and heart of the team, Riley Nelson, has been injured and still isn’t sure he’ll be able to go on the 20th.
Playmakers: On offense, Cody Hoffman has been the consistency that the Cougars have needed amid their QB issues. Having Riley Nelson and James Lark in the backfield during the season hasn’t deterred Hoffman from having a stellar year. One of the top playmakers in the nation, but under the radar, he has 90 receptions for 1,134 yards for an average of 94 yards a game and 11 touchdowns. A long TD of 64 yards this season he is the playmaker they need to step up despite uncertainty at the QB position. I am honestly surprised he hasnt had more than just 3 KO returns all season.
Defensively, there is one person that really stands out and single handedly kept the Cougars in the ND game. LB Kyle Van Noy almost had Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o as a teammate as they are both Mormon and Te’o considered BYU. Van Noy is a junior but a hot NFL prospect so he may be suiting up for the last time. A stud pass rusher, he will have to step up his rushing D as the Aztec’s set a new team rushing record for a season.
Season High – Low: This is where I should be talking about the biggest win and bad loss. It is difficult to do that with this team as they won the games they shoould have and in their five losses, three were ranked opponents (Oregon St, Boise St, Notre Dame). An arguement could be made that their high and low of the season was the Notre Lame game. Having only lost 17 to 14 to the then #5 ranked team in the country and current BCS Championship participant.
The Cougars had their shot at the Irish as Riley Nelson produced not just one but two TD’s against a defense that hadn’t given up one in over 17 quarters. He had his chance to seal the victory but missed a wide open Hoffman in the endzone and then was sacked for a loss. Losing the game but gaining a bit of national respect, the Cougars finished strong, save for a loss at San Jose State.
The San Diego State Aztecs have had one of those seasons that you take a step back and try to figure out where things went wrong. Then, all of a sudden, they are in the middle of a seven game win streak. Having lost three of their first five games, they righted the ship and did the way they can, running the football. Their head coach Rocky Long(another great coaches name) is very good friends with Bronco Mendenhall and they have a history together beginning in ’91 at Oregon State.
Playmakers: On offense they had two players combine rushing for over 2100 yards but Adam Muema is the man. Scoring 16 touchdowns on the season, he carried the ball for 211 times and 1.355 yards. Averaging 112 yards a game and over 6 yards per carry, he had a long of 83 yards and is a star. He will be a tough task for a good BYU defense.
CB Leon McFadden will get one last chance to showcase his talents as he prepares for an NFL career. The Aztec star has had three picks this season and took two of them to the house. The 5’10′ 190 CB has wowed spectators with his play making ability. He will have a tough task in this match-up covering Cody Hoffman from BYU. McFadden has had double figures in pass breakups in each of the last three seasons and could be a big weapon for the Aztecs if he can neutralize Hoffman.
Season High – Low: The Aztec’s season has two parts. The early part they have been able to forget about, losing three of five and giving up monstrous yards to some suspect teams, they turned it around on defense and upset Boise State during their 7 game winning streak. Credit could be given to the defense, but Rockly Long’s ball control grind it out offense will have to shoulder some of it as well. If they want to continue their streak, it will have to be much of the same as what they have done. Shutdown the oppositions pass game and run the football. Tall order against one of the best rush defenses in the country.
Buckeyes Against Participants: One of Coach John Cooper’s first underachieving teams was his 1993 version that ended up in the Holiday Bowl against the Cougars. They tied with Wiscy during the season and then were chewed up and spit out against the Wolverweenies 28-0. They hung on a defeated a game Cougar team that really should have won the game. The Buckeyes are 3-0 against BYU in bowl games and have never played them during the regular season.
Rick Bay has some very well respected ties in college athletics having served as the AD at THE Ohio State University he went on to SDSU where he created a relationship with his former employer. The Aztecs had never faced the Buckeyes until Mr. Bay hit their campus. They have played three times since beginning the series in 2001 and haven’t played since 2005. The Buckeyes have won all three contests, but for the most part the Aztecs have held their own and almost upset them in 2003 only losing 16-13.
The only match-up between the Buckeyes and these two teams that could be a concern is the rushing offense against the BYU rushing defense. They have been tough down the stretch and one of the best in the country. The Buckeyes possess one of the best rushing defenses in the country as well and would have little dificulty shutting down the excellent Aztec running attack. Buckeyes would win either game. OSU 35 BYU 13: OSU 42 SDSU 7
Expert Picks: BYU: Mali, Eric, Jason, Janelle, Tim, SDSU: WVa
Prediction: I am going out on a limb here and picking SDSU. They are on a roll of late with a seven game win streak and BYU is hurting. BYU does have one of the best rushing defenses, but the Aztecs have proven they can have a patient run game. They did have two backs combine for over 2100 yards this season but it has mostly been about controlling the clock which takes the BYU offense out of the equation and puts everything square on the shoulders of their D.
Aztecs with a big part of the clock on their side. SDSU 17 to 10