Why San Diego State Will Beat Fresno State
Unfortunately for Aztec fans, kicker Seamus McMorrow’s game-winning field goal attempt was blocked and the Bulldogs won 35-28 in the extra period.
The situation’s no different this year: SDSU and Fresno State will once again battle for the West Division, this time in Fresno. The teams sure are different, though, and that’s why SDSU will win the rivalry game this year.
The Bulldogs didn’t win last year with defense; they ranked 93rd in yards per game allowed and saw their opponents score 40-plus points three times. No, they won with their top-ranked passing offense led by now-Oakland Raider Derek Carr.
Carr accounted for 71.5 percent of Fresno State’s yards gained last year—that’s not something a team can easily replace in one year. Carr had three main targets last year—Davante Adams, Isaiah Burse and Josh Harper—who all caught over 1,000 yards. Of those three, only Harper returns. When a team wins primarily based on four offensive contributors and only one of those contributors returns, that team’s going to have some problems.
SDSU loses Adam Muema—yes, that’s a big hit. However, they bring back speedster Donnel Pumphrey who ran for 752 yards and eight touchdowns while teamed up with Muema in the backfield last year. And yes, the Aztecs lose their most prized possession in the running attack: fullback Chad Young, who paved the way for successful running backs for three years.
But, SDSU returns its two biggest components of the passing game: quarterback Quinn Kaehler, who is poised for a big year in his first full year as starter after walking on last year, and senior wide receiver Ezell Ruffin. Ruffin emerged as Kaehler’s favorite target, snagging 68 passes for 1,136 yards and three touchdowns. To the delight of Aztec fans, Ruffin elected to forgo the 2014 NFL Draft and return to SDSU for his senior year. He and Kaehler will be a lot of fun to watch this year.
Last year, SDSU’s run defense ranked 21st last year in yards per game allowed. Expect it to be even better this year. The Aztecs return all but one starter on the defensive line and linebacker core, and all starting linebackers are seniors, including Phil Steele’s Preseason All-MWC Second Team linebacker Jake Fely.
I was never a huge fan of math, but even I can do this equation: the Bulldogs lose a lot, the Aztecs don’t, giving them the advantage.