The San Diego State Aztecs are trying to keep their conference title hopes alive while the Fresno State Bulldogs are trying to salvage their season as the two southern California schools clash in primetime this weekend. Game time is at 9:30 EST on Friday, November 15 at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego. Fans can catch all of the action on ESPN2.
Current betting odds list the Aztecs as 1.5-point favorites at home with an over/under of 44.5 points. Click here to check out all of this week’s college football odds.
The Aztecs saw their Mountain West title hopes take a small hit last week, losing at home to Nevada 17-13. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for San Diego State, who is chasing their first conference title since 2016. The good news is that the Aztecs are already bowl eligible at 7-2 and still hold a 1-game lead in the MW West division with a 4-2 conference record. If San Diego State can win this week and next week against Hawaii, they will secure a spot in the conference championship game. However, last week’s loss took away their margin for error, so another loss in conference play will likely cost them a chance to play for the Mountain West championship.
San Diego State losing last week actually opened the door for Fresno State in the MW West division. If the Bulldogs win their three remaining games, they would win the West division and have a chance to defend last year’s conference championship. Of course, the Bulldogs are more concerned with just becoming bowl eligible for the third straight season. Fresno State continues to endure an up and down season, including a 37-35 loss to Utah State last week on a last-second field goal. The loss dropped the Bulldogs to 4-5 on the season, meaning they need at least two wins in their final three games to become bowl eligible.
In addition to the conference title game implications, this is a rivalry game with the winner receiving the Old Oil Can trophy. These two schools have been playing for nearly a century with San Diego State holding a slight lead in the all-time series. Fresno State has won back-to-back games in the rivalry, as well as five of the last seven meetings. However, the Aztecs have won five of the last seven games against Fresno State on their home turf.
This is a fascinating matchup between one team that’s all offense and no defense and another team that’s all defense and no offense. Typically, I’d side with the better defensive team in a game like this. But I’m going to stray away from that in this instance. With points at a premium, I’m going to side with the team that has proven they can score them, which is Fresno State.
The San Diego State offense has been so abysmal this season that even head coach Rocky Long admitted after last week’s loss to Nevada that he doesn’t have any answers. In that game, the Aztecs scored just 13 points against a Nevada defense that’s giving up over 32 points per game on the season. That says everything you need to know about the state of the SDSU offense. Oddly enough, the Fresno State defense is also allowing around 32 points per game this year. However, Fresno’s struggles on that side of the ball don’t mean that the Aztecs will be able to take advantage.
In fairness, the San Diego State defense has been tremendous all season. The Aztecs have allowed more than 17 points in just two of their nine games, which means they always have a fighting chance to win if their offense can produce everything. After all, San Diego State is 7-2 on the season, so they can win games with a great defense and an inept offense, even if only one of their wins has come by more than 10 points.
However, I think the Fresno State offense will be able to find enough of a breakthrough against San Diego State to win this game. The Bulldogs boast a strong rushing attack behind Ronnie Rivers, who has run for over 100 yards in three straight games and scored at least two rushing touchdowns in four straight games. On the season, Rivers is gaining over five yards per carry, so his production has been consistent all year.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are just threatening enough in the passing game behind senior quarterback Jorge Reyna. The numbers aren’t eye-popping, but Reyna has completed over 64% of his passes on the season and is coming off his best performance of the year against Utah State last week. He’s not elite, but he’s an efficient quarterback who can also make the occasional play with his legs. Most importantly, Reyna gives the Bulldogs enough balance so that teams can’t focus solely on stopping Rivers and the running game, which will be vital against San Diego State.
For most of the season, Fresno State’s defense has prevented them from winning games. That’s less of a concern against SDSU, meaning the Fresno offense should be enough. It’ll be tough sledding against the San Diego State defense, but I think the Bulldogs will be able to do just enough offensively to win a close game.