Utah State (3-5) at San Diego State (3-5)
Series: Utah State trails San Diego State all-time 13-3 and is 3-8 on the road against the Aztecs. The Aggies have won two of the last three games in the series, including back-to-back road wins. The last time the teams met was in the 2021 Mountain West Conference championship game, and USU handled SDSU, 46-13.
Weather: Partly cloudy with little to no chance of precipitation, 6 mph winds out of northwest and temperatures in the high 60s at kickoff.
For Utah State: The Aggies are 3-5 and riding a two-game losing streak. USU lost a close one at home against Fresno State and followed that performance with its worst of the season in a loss at San Jose State. For the second straight season, Utah State will have to scrap and claw to become bowl eligible, with the Aggies needing to win three of their last four games.
For San Diego State: The Aztecs (3-5 overall, 1-3 in MW play) have lost five of their last six games, the most recent being a 6-0 defeat at home against Nevada. SDSU has long been one of the powers in the MW but things have taken a turn for the worse this season, with the Aztecs’ once-vaunted defense looking like a shell of its former self.
What to watch for
There will be two major storylines when the Aggies and Aztecs meet Saturday.
For Utah State, turnovers continue to be an issue (even though things are improved on that front from a season ago. The Aggies have lost four fumbles and more importantly thrown 13 interceptions, leading to a negative turnover differential).
If the Aggies are to pull off a much-needed road win in conference, limiting turnovers will be key, which is why Anderson opened the starting quarterback job up again, at least between McCae Hillstead and Cooper Legas.
The duo has combined to throw 13 interceptions this season and the biggest point of emphasis going forward for both is to not give the ball away.
“We’ve got to protect the football. ... That’s really where our focus has been. Protect the ball and we give ourselves a chance to win,” Utah State coach Blake Anderson said.
As for San Diego State, its biggest issue has been consistency. The Aztecs have proven unpredictable this season, particularly on offense, and not in a good way.
SDSU has scored 30 or more points in three games this season, but has also failed to score more than 10 points in four other contests.
The Aztecs have simply been unable to show up in the way that they are capable of on a regular basis. Making matters worse, SDSU’s defense is a far cry from its former self, all of which had coach Brady Hoke stating this week that there are some jobs up for grabs.
“There’s a few positions that we will continue to evaluate,” Hoke said. “We’ll talk about that, at some point.”
If the Aggies play turnover-free football, their prolific offense should carry the day — that is unless the Aztecs are able to find some of the consistency it has been lacking this season.
Jalen Mayden, San Diego State, quarterback: San Diego State’s offense has not been good, at least not consistently; when it has been successful it has largely been due to the efforts of Mayden. The senior has thrown for over 1,300 yards this season (six touchdowns and six interceptions) but it is his running ability that has really stood out, particularly in games against Nevada, Hawaii and Boise State.
Mayden had a very difficult outing in the Aztecs’ loss to Nevada, leading there to be some question as to whether SDSU would make a change at QB. Hoke didn’t rule out making a change at quarterback.
“Both teams have probably not had the seasons that they wanted or expected, but still have opportunities here at the end if we can right the ship. So, we need to be our best on Saturday … against a team we know is more than capable of being extremely disruptive with their defensive front, running the ball powerfully offensively. And we’ve got to play better. That’s been the focus and hopefully we’ll get that from our guys.” — Utah State coach Blake Anderson.
“We block a play up pretty good, and then run the same play and not block up as well. We run a route pretty good, and then just not having the consistency that you need to have. ... We’ve got to continue to be resilient in everything that we do and stay together as a group and as a team.” — San Diego State coach Brady Hoke.
Utah State: vs. Nevada on Nov. 11.
San Diego State: at Colorado State on Nov. 11.
Utah State schedule
- Sept. 2 — Iowa 24, Utah State 14.
- Sept. 9 — Utah State 78, Idaho State 28.
- Sept. 16 — Air Force 39, Utah State 21.
- Sept. 23 — James Madison 45, Utah State 38.
- Sept. 30 — Utah State 34, UConn 33.
- Oct. 7 — Utah State 44, Colorado State 24.
- Oct. 13 — Fresno State 37, Utah State 32.
- Oct. 21 — San Jose State 42, Utah State 21.
- Nov. 4 — at San Diego State (5 p.m. MDT).
- Nov. 11 — vs. Nevada (1 p.m. MST).
- Nov. 18 — vs. Boise State (5 p.m. MST, CBS Sports Network).
- Nov. 24 — at New Mexico (1:30 p.m. MST, CBS Sports Network).