San Diego State Aztecs
Head Coach: Rocky Long
2014 record: 7-6 overall, 5-3 Mountain West West
2014 Postseason results: Lost to Navy 17-16 in the Poinsettia Bowl
2015 returning starters: 5 offense, 8 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 1500/1
Odds to win 2015 MWC Championship Game: 7/1
Regular season wins: over 7 -175 /under 7 +135
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The San Diego State Aztecs have gone to a bowl for five straight seasons. Last year, the Aztecs went 7-6 but lost to Navy 17-16 in the Poinsettia Bowl. San Diego State tied with Fresno State at 5-3 for the Mountain West West division title at 5-3 but Fresno won the tiebreaker with a 24-13 win early in the season. The Bulldogs ended the season 6-8. The West Division was far weaker than the Mountain Division, as the Mountain had four 10 win teams.
This year 13 starters are back for head coach Rocky Long, including 8 on defense. The Aztecs are the second choice to win the Mountain West Championship game in 2015 behind Boise State.
Last year, San Diego State averaged 395 yards per game on offense including 178 passing and 216 rushing yards. The Aztecs were #28 nationally in rushing but #108 out of 128 teams in passing. SDSU averaged 25 points a game last year.
Offensive coordinator Bob Toledo retired after last season. Long promoted running backs coach Jeff Horton to replace him. Horton is a former head coach at MWC schools Nevada and UNLV. He gets 5 starters back on offense.
Quarterback Quinn Kaehler has graduated after throwing for 2,157 yards with 9 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. There was a three way battle for his replacement between Kentucky transfer Maxwell Smith, Oregon transfer Jake Rodrigues, and Christian Chapman a back-up for the Aztecs last year. Smith distanced himself from the other two after playing against rugged SEC defense for 3 seasons. Now a senior, Smith sat out last year, but threw for 1,276 yards with 9 touchdowns and an interception in 2013 while splitting time at QB at Kentucky.
Junior running back Donnell Pumphrey set a school rushing record with 1,867 yards on 276 carries with 20 touchdowns, plus he had 23 catches for 160 yards. The rushing record is very impressive when you consider NFL Hall-Of Famer Marshall Faulk also went to SDSU. Running back Chase Price is also back after he had 141 carries for 674 yards with 5 touchdowns, and 17 catches for 126 yards. No other running back had more than 26 carries last season, and that shouldn’t change in 2015.
The Aztecs must replace both starting receivers as well as the tight end. Eric Judge is back after making 24 catches for 471 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ezell Ruffin is now with the Indianapolis Colts after making 26 catches for 422 yards and 2 touchdowns. Lloyd Mills is back after making 22 catches for 310 yards with a touchdown, and also rushing for 103 yards on just 4 carries. Larry Clark was kicked off the team after making 17 catches last year. Daniel Brunskill takes over at tight end after making 5 catches and a touchdown last year.
The offensive line was supposed to return four starters but center Lenicio Noble was dismissed from the team before spring practice. Then right guard Darrell Green was one of five players suspended in June for the first six games of the upcoming season for violating team rules. Left guard Nico Siragusa and right tackle Pearce Slater are back though.
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San Diego State allowed 333 yards per game on defense last year, including 179 passing and 154 rushing yards. The Aztecs allowed 20 points a game. SDSU was in the top 15 nationally in total defense, passing defense and points allowed. Eight starters are back for Long who is also the defensive coordinator.
Ends Jon Sanchez and Alex Barrett are both back. Barrett had 9 tackles for loss before suffering a season ending foot injury. Nose tackle Christian Heyward could be a star.
Outside linebacker Calvin Munson is back after making 4 interceptions and 10.5 tackles for loss including 4 sacks. Jake Fely has 30 career starts but played in only 3 games last year. He was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA. Daryl Dunlap will play both defensive end and outside linebacker.
All five secondary starters are back. Like Fely, cornerback J.J. Whittaker was granted an extra year by the NCAA. His fellow corner Damontae Kazee broke up 13 passes last year. Safeties Malik Smith, Na’im McGee and Trex Lomax all had good seasons in 2014 and should be even better with another year under their belt.
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Senior kicker Donny Hageman made 20 of 25 field goals last year. However, he missed a potential game winning 34 yard kick on the last play of the Poinsettia Bowl against Navy. JUCO transfer Tanner Blain takes over the punting duties. Pumphrey will likely return kicks. Mills averaged 12 yards per punt return including a punt return for a touchdown.
San Diego State hosts San Diego and South Alabama in September, and travels to California and Penn State. October brings home games against Fresno State and Utah State, and road games at Hawaii, San Jose State and Colorado State. In November, the Aztecs host Wyoming and Nevada, and travel to UNLV.
Even with a new quarterback, this team will go only as far as Pumphrey can carry them. I don’t know if the defense will be as dominant as last year, but it will still be very good. Aside from road trips to Cal, Penn State and Colorado State, and a home game against Utah State, every other game is very winnable. I think the Aztecs will win 8 or 9 games and win the West Division title.
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