Aztecs vs. Stanford: Keys to Victory

Three things SDSU has to do to beat the Cardinal

San Diego State has been a solid college football program for nearly a decade. Over the last three years they’ve been a very good college football program. On Saturday night they can take another step towards becoming a nationally recognized college football program.

The Aztecs host 19th-ranked Stanford in a 7:30 start at … whatever the stadium in Mission Valley is called these days. SDSU is facing a Cardinal team that, despite last week’s loss at USC, is good enough to have legitimate National Championship aspirations.

If the Aztecs can beat Stanford it would be a milestone win for the program. They’ve lost 30 straight games against ranked teams from Power-5 conferences. The last time they beat one was when they ripped 12th-ranked Iowa State 52-21 back in 1981. Aztecs legend Marshall Faulk was eight years old at that time.

SDSU wants to be a perennial Top-25 program. Winning games like these are the ONLY way to do that.

Not only does it make the rest of the country stand up and take notice … and (if he has another monster night) put running back Rashaad Penny into the legitimate Heisman Trophy conversation … this game helps the next 10 years of Aztecs football simply by helping recruiting.

Stanford has eight players on their roster from San Diego County high schools. I’m sure the incredible educational opportunity in Palo Alto is a reason they went north but from a football perspective, if SDSU wins this game and earns more of a national reputation it stands to reason that in the future kids from San Diego who are considering the Pac-12 will stay home and play on Montezuma Mesa.

And for the first time in a long time the Aztecs have the weapons to actually pull a win like this off. Here are three things they’ll have to do to make that happen:

A Penny For Your Thoughts

Rashaad Penny leads the nation in rushing yards per game and yards per carry. He’s also one kickoff return touchdown shy of tying the all-time NCAA FBS record (one more would give him seven, same as C.J. Spiller and Tyron Carrier). Penny is not just a home run hitter, though. He can help you grind out a game by getting first downs and extending drives. He’s probably going to be the best skill position player on the field from either team. If the Aztecs get him 25 touches they’ll be in a good spot to win.

Grind Down The Interior

Penny gets the press but the largely young SDSU offensive line has been awfully good, too, opening multiple large holes for the back to exploit. Senior center Antonio Rosales is the only player with more than two career starts on his resume. But one thing the Aztecs have going for them up front is size. At 305 pounds Rosales is the LIGHTEST guy on the line. In their loss to USC the Cardinal defensive front was torn up, allowing 307 rushing yards. Running the ball is the Aztecs’ bread and butter. Keep on hammering away in the middle and the backs should be able to break a few big runs.

Get Off The Field

Stanford has a very similar philosophy to the Aztecs. They want to control the clock, run the ball, and beat up the opponent with its own hulking offensive line. The Aztecs defense will have to make sure that doesn’t happen. If the Cardinal can keep moving the chains and chewing up the field, putting together drives that end in points, they can get a few big plays in the 4th quarter, which is likely where this game is going to be decided.

Derek’s Prediction

Even without looking at everything that’s at stake here and all the extra emotion that’s going to be flowing I fully believe that the Aztecs are a good enough football team to beat Stanford. And that’s exactly what they’re going to do.

Final score: Aztecs 27, Cardinal 23. Welcome back to the Top-25.

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