Written by Michael Huling
On Saturday, the San Diego State Aztecs will play their final game of the college football season in the New Mexico Bowl against Central Michigan. It has been a very impressive season for SDSU, with the bowl game matchup offering an excellent opportunity to finish the year on a high note—and win 10 games for the fourth time in five seasons. This will also be the Aztecs’ 10th consecutive season appearing in a bowl game, showing how consistent the team has been throughout the decade.
It’s an intriguing matchup for several reasons, starting with the records of both teams. The Aztecs went 9-3 this year, while the Chippewas had an 8-5 record. Neither team plays in a strong conference, with SDSU representing the Mountain West Conference (MWC) and Central Michigan the Mid-American Conference (MAC). As college football fanatics will know, these conferences are simply a level below the likes of the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and ACC. This isn’t to take away from either program, as both have improved dramatically since last season—especially Central Michigan, considering they won just one game last year—but to highlight how even these teams are on paper.
SDSU was clearly a defensive-led team this year, bolstering one of the best defensive units in the country. The Aztecs gave up just 12.8 points per game, good for fourth among all Divison I teams. They also had the second-best rushing defense and fifth-best total defense in terms of yards allowed. The defense is led by Second-Team All-American corner Luq Barcoo, who had an incredible senior season, compiling eight interceptions, 16 pass deflections, five tackles for loss, and 51 total tackles. Linebacker Kyahva Tezino also had a stellar senior year, finishing with 96 tackles (three for loss), three sacks, one interception, and two forced fumbles.
The offensive wasn’t quite as dominant, scoring just 19 points per game. However, quarterback Ryan Agnew had 2,165 yards passing with 11 touchdowns and only five interceptions. The platoon running game was led by Juwan Washington, who finished with 600 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Kobe Smith was the team’s best pass-catcher, hauling in 57 receptions for 673 yards and four touchdowns. Kicker Matt Araiza also became something of a star, making 20 field goals on 24 attempts, along with going a perfect 22-for-22 on extra points—a great season for the freshman kicker.
Unlike SDSU, Central Michigan won its games primarily through its high-powered offense. The team averaged 31.9 points per game, but that number soars to 43.4 points in games that the team won. The Chippewas controlled games through a dynamic running duo of Kobe Lewis and Jonathan Ward, who combined for 2,059 yards rushing yards, 486 receiving yards, and 27 total touchdowns.
If the Aztecs want to finish the year with a win and as New Mexico Bowl champions, the defense will need to continue its impressive play and stifle the Chippewas explosive offense. The game will be played in Alberquerque, New Mexico, at 11 AM Pacific Time on Saturday, December 21.