Air Force will put their 4-0 record on the line this weekend as they get set to host the San Diego State Aztecs. After being held to just three points in this matchup just a year ago, the Aztecs will need to carry some of the momentum they have on offensive into this weekend, and we’ll preview the game before going over which side I’ll be backing in the first half.
After opening the season 2-0, the San Diego State Aztecs have since dropped three games in a row after losing 34-31 to Boise State over the weekend. The Aztecs came into the season with a lot of hype around their defense, but Boise State running back Ashton Jeanty put that claim to rest by rushing for 205 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Jeanty’s second touchdown would come with just two minutes left in the game, putting victory out of reach for SDSU.
Offensively, the Aztecs quarterback Jalen Mayden would do everything in his power to keep his team in the game, as he finished with 241 passing yards, one passing, and one rushing touchdown. Despite the loss, it was probably a welcomed site for the Aztecs faithful to see their team put up some points after only scoring a combined 19 points in the previous two weeks.
Mayden and San Diego State’s offense will certainly have their work cut out for them this weekend against an impressive Air Force defense. Through four games this season, the Falcons are allowing an average of just 14.7 points and 245.3 yards per game, which has them ranked 55th in defensive EPA, according to CFB Graphs. In their 45-20 win over San Jose State this past weekend, the Air Force defense shut out the Spartans in the second half.
Per usual, the Falcons' scoring came from their rushing game, finishing with 400 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Air Force is averaging 65.3 rushing attempts per game, which is the highest average in the country, but as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and with the Falcons ranked 37th in the country in points per game, it certainly isn’t broken.
Air Force is currently listed as (-10.5) point favorites, but for my play, I’ll be backing their first-half spread of (-5.5). San Diego State has struggled to move the ball against strong defenses, and they have another one this weekend. Between their offensive inconsistencies and the fact that Air Force leads the country in time of possession, I don’t think the Aztecs will be able to move the ball downfield in their limited possessions.
SDSU is already ranked 105th in offensive success rate and 92nd in EPA per rush play, according to CFB Graphs, so they could be in for a tough weekend going up against an Air Force defense that is 6th in rushing yards allowed per game and 15th in rushing yards allowed per play. Even if SDSU tries to open it up through the air, the Falcons rank 21st in defensive EPA on pass plays.
It’s no surprise Air Force wants to run the ball, and the Aztecs have not proven they can stop the run this season. After they were beaten on the ground continuously last weekend, the Aztecs are now 106th in defensive EPA per rush play and 117th in defensive success rate on run plays. If they run like they have all season, the Falcons should have no problem marching down the field come Saturday.
Air Force 1H (-5.5)