Week 0 of the college football season is finally here, and while there aren’t many national championship contenders in action this week, there are plenty of intriguing matchups to dissect. Keep reading for a prediction of the August 26th game between the Ohio Bobcats and San Diego State Aztecs.
Ohio Bobcats Vs. San Diego State Aztecs Odds
Money has come in on Ohio this week, pushing the spread from an opener of -3.5 to -2.5 in favor of San Diego State. The number 3 is the most key number in betting football spreads, so keep that in mind when placing wagers here. The total is a touch lower than where it opened – it’s down to 49 or 49.5 from an opener of 50.5. Be sure to shop the odds at different sportsbooks as these numbers can vary, and they might be different later in the week when you’re reading this article.
Ohio Bobcats Vs. San Diego State Aztecs Prediction & Pick
San Diego State has been dominant against teams from the Mid American Conference, where Ohio plays – they are 15-1-1 against the MAC. Their only loss came in the 2018 Frisco Bowl against current Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke’s brother Nathan. Can Kurtis repeat that feat and upset this Aztecs team on the road?
Rourke’s health has been a relative question mark leading up to the start of the season after he tore his ACL in Week 11 last year. However, just 9 months after that injury, he’s expected to be a full go for the start of the year. Rourke had an incredible season with over 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
Sources: Ohio University star quarterback Kurtis Rourke will start the season opener at San Diego State in Week 0 on Saturday. He tore his ACL in November of 2022, ending a season that saw him win the MAC Offensive Player of the Year.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) August 21, 2023
The Aztecs bring back quarterback Jalen Mayden, a converted safety, after he threw for over 1,700 yards and 10 touchdowns to 7 interceptions in seven games as the starter. Mayden is an erratic passer but he offers dynamic rushing and new offensive coordinator Ryan Lindley said he wants Mayden to be leaving the pocket even more often this season.
After Mayden entered the lineup last year, the Aztecs jumped from 19 points per game to 23 and jumped from 4.4 yards per play to 5.6. With Lindley now calling plays and a full offseason for Mayden to learn the position, there’s room for further improvement from the San Diego State offense this season.
Ultimately, I expect this to be a shootout that comes down to the wire. If Rourke is truly a full go, I like Ohio to pull out the win, and I’ll put a half unit on their ML as long as it’s plus money. I also put a half unit on the over in this game, as I expect both sides to find success on offense, as I’ll break down below.
Ohio Bobcats Vs. San Diego State Aztecs Key Matchups
Jalen Mayden vs. Ohio run defense
While he’s playing quarterback, Jalen Mayden doesn’t really throw the ball downfield – his 8.7% attempt rate of 20+ yard throws was the fifth-lowest among 187 qualified quarterbacks per PFF. However, Mayden is a high-level rusher – he averaged 6.7 YPC last year and 9 of his 26 attempts went for 10+ yards.
JALEN MAYDEN 32-YARD SCRAMBLE FOR SIX
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) October 23, 2022
Ohio allowed the 34th-fewest explosive passing plays last year, but that isn’t all that helpful against Mayden. Meanwhile, the Bobcats struggled to prevent big runs – they ranked 110th in explosive rushing allowed. They ranked 18th in total tackles for loss, but when ball carriers got beyond the line of scrimmage, they met a defense ranked 124th in tackling. It doesn’t help that they lost six of their 14 players who saw 300+ snaps on defense.
The San Diego State offense struggled last year as the Aztecs were bottom five in average line yards and stuff rate, but improvement should be expected with five of the top seven linemen returning. Lindley’s desire is for Mayden to get out of the pocket even more this year, and that should work well against this Bobcats defense.
Kurtis Rourke vs. San Diego State pass defense
Like his brother before him, the “Maple Missile” has become a highly productive collegiate quarterback. Under his direction, the Bobcats finished last season ranked 14th in passing EPA and 29th in success rate. Rourke’s 7.4% big-time throw rate ranked sixth among qualified college passers per PFF and his 117.2 passer rating ranked eighth.
Kurtis Rourke is not the average MAC QB. pic.twitter.com/mQiOJ4WZi1
— Travis May (@FF_TravisM) November 2, 2022
While Rourke tore his ACL last November, he was in full pads at the spring game and he’s expected to be fully healthy for this game. Sam Wiglusz also returns after leading the team with 73 catches for 873 yards and 11 touchdowns. Rourke and Wiglusz will be facing a pass defense that ranked 36th in EPA/play allowed and 55th in success rate.
Much of what made the Aztecs’ pass defense so dominant was a pass rush that ranked 33rd in sack rate and 30th in havoc. However, San Diego State has a lot to replace up front as they lost six of their seven defensive linemen and linebackers who saw over 400 snaps last season.
Sieh Bangura vs. San Diego State run defense
Rourke and the passing game will be supported by standout running back Sieh Bangura, who’s coming off a season with over 1,300 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns. Ohio’s offensive line helped him a ton as the Bobcats ranked top 60 in stuff rate and PFF run-blocking grade. Four of the five starters upfront return.
The Aztecs had a top 20 defense by EPA and success rate last year and Kurt Mattix is an elite defensive coordinator, but replacing all of their lost production won’t be easy. Expect Rourke, Bangura, and Wiglusz to have productive afternoons.
Sieh Bangura has put Ohio on his back!
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) December 31, 2022