After looking at lines for months and watching football, that doesn’t count; we have finally entered college football week zero. While the slate is not anything to write home about, it is still football that counts that can be bet on, so who is really complaining? Arguably the best game on the schedule features one of the favorites in the MAC, the Ohio Bobcats, on the road to take on the San Diego State Aztecs. We’ll preview the game before going over why I’ll be targeting a play on the total.
Originally opening as (-3.5) point favorites, the San Diego State Aztecs enter this week now listed as (-2.5) point favorites. Known for their defense, the Aztecs finished last season ranked 22nd in average points allowed per game and 13th in average yards allowed per game. Those numbers could be hard to replicate this season since the team lost their three leading tacklers, including Jonah Tavai, who led the team in sacks.
Brady Hoke did go out and attack the transfer portal, bringing in five power-five defensive transfers that should fit nicely in defensive coordinator Kurt Mattix’s system. Despite the turnover on that side of the ball, SDSU still projects to have one of the better defenses in the Mountain West. The biggest question for them entering this week is their offense which finished 107th in points per game last season.
Starting quarterback Jalen Mayden began last year as a safety, and after taking over at QB, he threw for 2,030 yards, 12 touchdowns, and ten interceptions. Mayden can also be a productive runner, which fits nicely into the offensive system the Aztecs ran last season. The senior quarterback’s first opponent of 2023 will be the Ohio Bobcats, whose defense finished last year ranked 57th in average points per game and 45th in average rushing yards allowed per game.
The true reason this Bobcats team has some hype around this year is their quarterback Kurtis Rourke. The gunslinger passed for over 3,200 yards last season, along with 25 touchdowns, and to make things even better, Rourke’s leading receiver Sam Wiglusz is back after pulling in 11 touchdowns in 2022. Alongside the QB and wideout is running back Sieh Bangura, which completes a three-headed monster on offense, creating a fascinating matchup between the Bobcats' offense and Aztec defense.
The total for this matchup opened at 49.5 and has moved to 49 in some shops entering game week. For my play, though, I’ll be taking the under of 49.5, which can be found on the FanDuel Sportsbook. Before anything else, it is important to mention that due to a rule change this season, the clock continues to run after a first down unless it is the final two minutes of each half, so the overall scoring numbers could be affected by this.
San Diego State was a run-heavy offense last season that finished 34th in run play percentage and 36th in time of possession. Even with the run-dependent offense, the Aztecs finished 90th in average rushing yards per game and now take on a Bobcats defense that finished 45th in rushing yards allowed per game. Ohio’s defense was also 32nd in EPA for rushing plays, so they match up well with what the Aztecs want to do.
Kurtis Rourke will be the most dangerous man on the field come Saturday, and the Aztecs have the defense to keep him at bay. SDSU was 23rd in average yards per pass and 36th in EPA for pass plays. Ohio also averaged just 22.9 points per game on the road last year, and with them running the same system against a tough defense, I think we’ll see them play closer to that number.