The Aztecs will present Kevin O'Connell under center. O'Connell can cause an opposing defense many a headache. He may be the second-best quarterback in the Mountain West conference, behind only Max Hall, and is certainly the best quarterback the Cougar defense will have faced for a long while.
O'Connell can hurt a defense by both throwing the football and by running it out of the pocket. He has a passing rating of 127.4 to go with 3,122 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions on the year. He is ironically the Aztec's leading rusher on the year, gaining a net of 347 yards.
San Diego State at running back
To say the Aztecs have struggled at running back would be an understatement if there ever was one. As mentioned, the leading rusher on this team is the quarterback, which doesn't speak well for the RBs, especially considering the Aztecs run a pro-style drop-back offensive system.
The Aztecs rotate two running backs. Brandon Borne and Brand Sullivan have combined for 560 yards on the year. The Aztecs very much rely on their passing game; Borne and Sullivan rarely get more than 10 carries each per game.
San Diego State at receiver
Brett Swain is San Diego State's biggest threat at wideout. Swain has 48 catches for 875 yards and five touchdowns on the year. He can beat a defense deep and will be the primary receiver the Cougar defensive backs will have to account for.
The Aztecs use three-receiver sets a lot, in which Swain will be joined primarily by Vincent Brown and Chaz Schilens. The Aztecs wideouts are the primary playmakers on offense.
The Aztec tight ends have played a much bigger role this year than they have in the past. They've more than tripled their collective production from a year ago. They're led by Steve Schmidt, who has 27 catches on the year for 210 yards and a touchdown.
San Diego State's offensive line
The Aztecs start four seniors at offensive line. They haven't been able to mount any semblance of a consistent run attack, and have also struggled to protect O'Connell, giving up 28 sacks on the year.
BYU versus San Diego State on the Ground
The Aztecs don't run the ball well, and they don't really try to run it well. The Cougar defense is very intent on stopping the run, and do it really well. You do the math. BYU should be able to limit the Aztec ground game fairly easily.
The challenge comes with limiting O'Connell's opportunities for running the ball out of the pocket. In past years this would pose a huge problem, but a very quick linebacker corps led by Bryan Kehl should limit O'Connell's opportunities on the ground.
BYU versus San Diego State through the air
The Aztecs will present the toughest test in defending against the pass that the Cougar defense will have faced since Tulsa. The Cougar secondary has been very stingy since the Tulsa game, but will have to bring their best game to limit what O'Connell and company are able to do through the air.
The key is likely to bring good and consistent pressure on the Aztec quarterback, as the San Diego State offensive front have been giving up a lot of sacks on the year. Unlike most teams, the Aztecs will also present a tight end that will have to be accounted for in coverage.
San Diego State's Defensive Line
San Diego State can be run on, as TCU and Air Force have proved in recent weeks. The Aztec defense, led by the defensive line up front, gives up 235 rushing yards per game. It's a unit that has struggled mightily to win an advantage at the point of attack, and hasn't been able to mount much of a pass rush, having recorded only 15 sacks on the year.
San Diego State at Linebacker
Ditto for the linebackers, who are at least as responsible for the woeful stats as the defensive line is. The Aztecs start a freshman, sophomore and junior at linebacker, and all have struggled mightily throughout the year.
San Diego State's secondary
The Aztecs have been better at defending against the pass. giving up just short of 260 yards through the air in games this year. The Aztec secondary is a unit that starts two seniors, a junior and a sophomore. Those 260 yards don't look all that bad, but since opposing teams have been able to run rampant on the Aztec front-seven in just about every game this year, that may have subsequently limited what teams have tried to do through the air.
BYU against San Diego State's run defense
If Harvey Unga's health proves to be even close to 80 percent, he should have a field day. The Cougar offensive front has begun to manhandle opponents in recent weeks, and manhandled is what San Diego State's defensive front-seven has been in just about every game this year.
Look for the Cougars to pound away early and often against what may be the weakest front-seven they will play against all year. The Cougar offensive front is peaking, while the Aztec defensive front has declined in recent weeks.
BYU against San Diego State's pass defense
Look for Max Hall and company to have their opportunities down the field. Fans should expect the Aztecs to stack the box early and often in an attempt to limit BYU's effectiveness on the ground. Hall and the rest of the Cougar offense should look to have some of their better outputs on the year.
Final Score prediction: BYU 42, San Diego State 24