The San Diego State Aztecs are expected to be a much improved football team this season. In recent years the Aztecs have been one of the Mountain West Conference’s doormats. But second year head coach Brady Hoke, Ball State’s former coach, has some tremendous talent back this year. Fans of the Aztecs are hoping this is the year that San Diego State gets back to a bowl, which would be the first time since 1998.
The Aztecs have a big challenge Saturday night when they travel to Columbia, Missouri to take on the Missouri Tigers. The home Tigers opened as 15 point favorites but the college football line has come down to 13 ½ or 14 points, depending upon the book. The public has been responsible for moving the line, playing the Aztecs at about 60%. Come this Saturday night, I expect the majority of the public to be disappointed. The Tigers are the better play here, especially at 13 ½ points.
While SDSU has some good players back, so does Mizzou. The Tigers are loaded with experience. 17 starters return from a team that went 8-5 last year. No one is more important to the Tigers than Blaine Gabbert. As a freshman, Gabbert threw for over 3,500 yards, 24 tds and 9 ints. Although Danario Alexander is gone, Gabbert still has a fine host of receivers to play pitch and catch with. T.J. Moe and Michael Agnew have combined for 39 catches through 2 games, and Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp are considered the best 2 receivers on the team. Losing running back Derrick Washington certainly hurt, but Henry Josey and De’Vion Moore are looking like a productive tandem. Importantly, the offensive line has 4 starters back from last year. And with Gabbert executing Gary Pinkel’s unique offensive system, the Tigers’ offense should have little trouble putting up points against the Aztecs.
Sean Weatherspoon was one of Mizzou’s best linebackers ever, and he was a 1st round draft pick last April. But the Tigers’ defense is just as talented as the offense. 12 of the top 15 tacklers return. The d-line is solid, and the linebackers will be good, too. But the strength of the D will be in the secondary as four seniors with a lot of experience will be a force. This is a balanced, talented Tiger squad that should finish 2nd in the Big 12 North.
As mentioned, the Aztecs do have talented players and they will be better this year. Junior quarterback Ryan Lindley is under center for his third season and should put up big numbers this year. In 2009, Lindley threw for over 3,000 yards, 23 tds, and 16 ints on a sub-par team. That’s impressive! Lindley has a talented corps of receivers to work with, and 4 o-linemen are back. The Aztecs need more production out of the backfield, though. And with Lindley’s inability to move the pocket or run the ball himself, this offense will become one-dimensional against Mizzou. Watch the Tigers pin their ears back and go after Lindley from start to finish, especially with 4 experienced defensive backs to rely on.
The SDSU defense should be serviceable, but they gave up 30 points per game last year. They aren’t going to win the Aztecs any games; their goal should be to keep SDSU in games so that Lindley can win games. There are a number of players with game-time experience from last year, but they’re going to have a hard time with Mizzou’s odd offensive style. They aren’t as talented as the Tigers and not seeing this type of offense from any team in the MWC makes this a tough game for SDSU.
All things considered, I think 13 ½ points is a gift, but it shouldn’t come down to that. Mizzou should dominate this game. The only problem I can see is if the Tigers are up 21 points late, Lindley and his receivers are certainly capable of putting up a quick score. But I really believe Missouri wins this one going away. Don’t be misled by the public – the Tigers are the play to pay.
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