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College Football News Preview 2021: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the San Diego State season with what you need to know.

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– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
San Diego State Schedule
San Diego State Aztecs Previews
2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

2020 Record: 4-4 overall, 4-2 in Mountain West
Head Coach: Brady Hoke, 2nd year, 4-4 (82-76 overall)
2020 CFN Final Ranking: 73
2020 CFN Preview Ranking: 61
2019 CFN Final Ranking: 30

San Diego State Aztecs College Football Preview 2021: Offense

Even under the new coaching staff the offense was able to run well – averaging close to 200 yards per game – but the passing attack just couldn’t click. There wasn’t much happening down the field and there were too many stalls against the better teams on the back half of the schedule. That’s why …

Finding a quarterback is Job One in fall camp. Georgia Tech transfer Lucas Johnson was okay in his limited work, and Jordon Brookshire was a bit better when he got his chances, but Carson Baker led the team with 617 passing yards and three scores – and now he’s in the transfer portal. In comes Jalen Mayden from Mississippi State to make it a three-way race for the gig.

Also coming over from Mississippi State is Tyrell Shavers, a 6-6 super-recruit receiver for Alabama who left to play for Mike Leach and the Bulldogs. He joins a deep group with the top seven wide receivers returning, including 21-catch tight end Daniel Bellinger coming off an all-star season.

The offensive line might need the most shuffling around and work. There’s size and enough overall experience to be okay around Zachary Thomas at one tackle spot, but no matter how this puzzle gets put together, the group has to be far stronger at keeping defenses out of the backfield.

The running game will get production from the quarterback, but the companion of Greg Bell and Chance Bell are back and should combine to average at least five yards per carry. The ground attack improved by over a full yard per carry – that will continue.

– What You Need To Know: Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
San Diego State Schedule

NEXT: San Diego State Aztecs College Football Preview 2021: Defense

San Diego State Aztecs College Football Preview 2021: Defense

New coaching staff, same defensive production … sort of. The Aztecs were able to finished third in the nation and first in the Mountain West in total D, allowing just 284 yards and 18 points per game. It was a rock against the run and second in the league in pass D. But now there’s work to do, starting with …

The secondary. The D and scheme make the stats and the players, but you don’t get better after losing safeties like Tariq Thompson and Dwayne Johnson and a corner like Darren Hall. Taylor Hawkins is an all-star at one corner, and Trenton Thompson is a solid veteran who’ll be a rock at one safety job.

The team’s top five tacklers were defensive backs, but 230-pound Michael Shawcroft is back at one linebacker spot – he can play in the middle but might work outside – after making 35 tackles, and Caden McDonald is a 235-pound all-star who led the team with 4.5 sacks and ten tackles for loss. It’ll be a solid group overall.

The defensive front doesn’t have a ton of size, but there’s quickness and decent depth for the rotation around 6-4, 305-pound all-star tackle Jonah Tavai. The ends can get into the backfield from time to time, but All-Mountain West performers Cameron Thomas and Keshawn Banks aren’t necessarily pass rushers – they’re rocks against the run.

– What You Need To Know: Offense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
San Diego State Schedule

NEXT: San Diego State Aztecs College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

San Diego State Aztecs College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

Best San Diego State Aztecs Offensive Player

OT Zachary Thomas, Sr.
The hope will be for one of the quarterback options to rise up and be a star, and there’s a shot RB Greg Bell or TE Daniel Bellinger becomes the team’s best player, but it starts on the line with a good veteran tackle to work around.

Hurt early in his career, the 6-5, 300-pound Thomas has been able to work his way back to go from a promising guard to a good right tackle to likely an all-star left tackle this season.

2. RB Greg Bell, Sr.
3. TE Daniel Bellinger, Sr.
4. WR Jesse Matthews, Jr.
5. PK Matt Araiza, Jr.


San Diego State Football Schedule 2021

Best San Diego State Aztecs Defensive Player

LB Caden McDonald, Sr.
The Aztec defense has been defensive back-based for the most part, but the linebackers make their impacts, too. Corner Taylor Hawkins and safety Trenton Thompson will each be all-stars, and the entire starting front three will probably be on the All-Mountain West team, but it’s McDonald who should be the quarterback of it all in his third year in the starting mix.

The 6-3, 235-pounder brings much-needed size, decent pop, and he was the team’s best player at getting into the backfield with a team-high 4.5 sacks and ten tackles for loss.

2. DE Cameron Thomas, Jr.
3. CB Tayler Hawkins, Sr.
4. DT Jonah Tavai, Sr.
5. DE Keshawn Banks, Sr.

Top Incoming San Diego State Aztecs Transfer

QB Jalen Mayden, Soph.
The Aztecs have veteran quarterbacks in place to choose from, but Mayden brings a set of all-around skills to potentially take the position to another level.

The 6-3, 225-pounder didn’t get a whole lot of work at Mississippi State – he threw a few passes and ran for 32 yards in 2018, redshirted in 2019, and didn’t do anything last year – but he’s got the size, mobility and arm to be exactly wha the O needs.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
San Diego State Schedule

NEXT: San Diego State Aztecs College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

San Diego State Aztecs College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

San Diego State Aztecs Biggest Key: Offense

Complete a downfield pass. The Aztecs haven’t winged the ball all over the yard in a long while. The running game and defense dominated the Rocky Long era, but when the O did take a few shots down the field, the production usually followed.

The 2019 offense, though, had problems stretching the field, averaging just 6.6 yards per throw in a bit of a hit-or-miss season. The idea was to not take a whole slew of chances, but that was still way too conservative for the program.

The 2020 offense averaged six yards per throw.

Worse yet, the passing game just stopped altogether in some games. On the year the Aztecs hit just 57% of their throws with six touchdowns and five picks, and they managed to complete fewer than 40% in losses to Hawaii and Colorado.

San Diego State Aztecs Biggest Key: Defense

Generate a steadier pass rush. To get nitpicky with one of the nation’s best defenses, San Diego State was able to come up with a solid 20 sacks and 65 tackles for loss in the eight games, but the production came in bunches.

The defense lived in the backfield against UNLV, Hawaii, Colorado and Colorado State, but fizzled in a few of the other games. UNLV and Hawaii couldn’t do a thing against the Aztec pass rush, but 12 of the 20 sacks came in those two games.

Again, nitpicking, but in 2019 the defense spread out its 31 sacks over the season. But on the plus side, when the D was attacking and effective, forget it – it shut everything down.

San Diego State is 30-0 since 2010 when it comes up with four or more sacks.

San Diego State Aztecs Key Player To A Successful Season

WR Jesse Matthews, Jr.
The starting quarterback – whoever that ends up being – is the most important player to the 2021 season, but he’s going to need help from the receiving corps.

The players are there, the experience is in place, and there’s enough to expect a whole lot more. That means the No. 1 guy has to get the ball in his hands on a regular basis.

The 6-0, 190-pound junior Jesse Matthews might not be the team’s most talented target – that should be transfer Tyrell Shaves – but Matthews is dangerous as a punt returner and a target, catching 23 passes for 314 yards and a score after making 48 grabs in 2019.

San Diego State Aztecs Key Game To The 2021 Season

at San Jose State, Oct. 16
The Aztecs have a few huge games in the West division. They get Nevada and Fresno State at home, and they get Boise State from the Mountain to deal with, but like last year, getting by San Jose State should be a big deal.

The 28-17 loss was the first one to the Spartans in an eight-game span going back to 2012. With a road game at Air Force to follow and a trip to Hawaii a few weeks later, kicking off the run of three road dates in four weeks with a win would be a big deal.

San Diego State Schedule Breakdown & Analysis

2020 San Diego State Aztecs Fun Stats

– Rushing Yards Per Game: San Diego State 199.4 – Opponents 98.3
– 1st Quarter Scoring: San Diego State 59 – Opponents 20
– SDSU 1st Half Scoring: 143 – 2nd Half Scoring 64

NEXT: San Diego State Aztecs College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

San Diego State Aztecs College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

It’s not like San Diego State gave away any cheap losses in Brady Hoke’s first season back at the helm.

It came up with one good win over Hawaii, three layups against the miserable, and lost to Colorado, BYU, and San Jose State and Nevada teams that played each other in the Mountain West Championship.

But San Diego State is supposed to be one of those better teams that beats up on the rest of the Mountain West. This one should be closer to being being great than the 2020 version.

The defense will once again be a killer as long as the secondary can reload in a hurry, and the offense can’t help but be more explosive. If a downfield passing game can develop, look out.

However, there’s one giant issue …

Set The San Diego State Aztecs Regular Season Win Total At … 7

The team doesn’t really have a home until next year.

As if 2020 wasn’t disruptive enough, the Aztecs will play all their games at Dignity Health Sports Park – over 100 miles away from the San Diego State campus up in Carson.

The payoff is in 2022 when the team has a snazzy new place to play just a few miles away, but for now, it’s going to be interesting without a true home field advantage.

Even so, the team will be good enough to beat New Mexico State, Towson, New Mexico, and a least three of its Mountain West games to lock in bowl eligibility, but several of those “home” games – Boise State Nevada, Utah, Fresno State – aren’t layups. Throw in a run of three road games in four weeks – finishing up at Hawaii – and this won’t be a breeze.

However, Hoke’s got the team in place to push for a spot in the Mountain West tile.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
San Diego State Schedule