The Aztecs are the worst rushing defense the Cougars will face all year. They were okay before, but injuries to three of their four starting defensive linemen have contributed to opposing teams being able to romp over, around and through the Aztec front seven.
Since San Diego State's win over Idaho, the Aztecs have given up 383 yards on the ground against TCU, 401 against Air Force, 419 against New Mexico, 211 against Colorado State and 378 last week against Wyoming. The numbers speak for themselves, and the numbers indicate that the Aztecs would have trouble defending against even the worst rushing offenses in the country.
The Cougars meanwhile have been efficient but not spectacular at running the football so far this season. Harvey Unga has been very consistent, while Fui Vakapuna has shown some life in recent weeks and has proven to be a good running option along with Unga.
Prognosis: BYU should be able to run for more than 200 yards quite easily against the Aztecs. San Diego State is a team that packs it in if they get behind early, and look for the Cougars to get an early lead come Saturday. It's difficult to imagine the Cougars not rushing for at least 200 yards in Saturday's game.
What I'll be Watching: What better game to give J.J. DiLuigi some much needed work along with some confidence than Saturday against San Diego State? If I were Coach Anae I'd be subbing in DiLuigi early and often in this game, along with Wayne Latu, to exploit a porous Aztec run defense.
BYU passing offense vs. San Diego State
It's hard to assess how good a team's pass defense is when teams have been so overwhelmingly effective against them running the football. Teams simply haven't had to throw much on the Aztecs to move the football, and that very well may be the case come Saturday.
While their defensive front has been decimated by injuries, the Aztecs field an experienced secondary which includes two seniors and two sophomores. They're led by cornerback Aaron Moore, who has started at one cornerback position since he was a freshman.
The Cougars have seemed to have hit their stride over the last two games in regards to throwing the football. Max Hall and company have been able to do basically what they wanted through the air against UNLV and then against Colorado State, and that shouldn't change against San Diego State.
Prognosis: While the Cougars look to be more successful on the ground, their attempts through the air may be subsequently diminished. Look for the Cougars to use some play action to throw it long, as well as incorporating more bootlegs and whatnot in anticipation of the run game finding a lot of success and thus forcing the Aztec defense to play closer to the line than most teams the Cougars have faced this year.
What I'll be Watching: I've maintained the Harvey Unga has been underutilized in the passing game in most games this year, and I'll be watching to see if he's thrown to more in this game. I'll also be watching Michael Reed to see if he can get more involved with the offense, as he's somewhat disappeared since missing time with an injury.
BYU run defense vs. San Diego State
The Aztecs haven't found much success in running the football so far this season. Although they found some success on the ground against Colorado State, they've struggled to run for even 50 yards against all other Mountain West opponents.
Junior Atiyyah Henderson has some ability and can beat a defense on the edges if necessary. Beyond that, the Aztecs don't pose much of a running threat.
The Cougars have defended better against the run here of late since taking it on the chin against TCU. San Diego State's threat of a running attack may be just what the Cougar defense needs to build confidence down the stretch before facing Air Force and Utah.
Prognosis: Don't look for the Aztecs to spend much time in establishing any type of running attack. They haven't found success in running the football and likely won't this week against the Cougars. Their passing game has seen some success, and this is a desperate team. Therefore, fans shouldn't be looking for much effort from the Aztecs to run the football this Saturday.
BYU pass defense vs. San Diego State
If the Aztecs are to beat the Cougars, then it will be through the air. Redshirt freshman starting quarterback Ryan Lindley is coming off a good game against Wyoming in which he threw for more than 300 yards. Lindley has improved throughout the year and has two good targets in wide receivers Vincent Brown - who is his main target - and the 6-foot-6-inch, 230-pound Darren Mougey, who can cause matchup problems due to his size.
The Cougars meanwhile are found scrambling, as they lost their best cornerback - Scott Johnson - for the year due to injury. The Cougars are left a bit thin at defensive backs, but nevertheless will work together to improve at defending against the pass.
Prognosis: Look for the Aztecs to open it up considerably come Saturday, as doing so should prove to be the only way they can win the game. Teams have seen success in running misdirection and trick plays against the Cougars here of late, and look for more of the same to be attempted by the Aztecs. San Diego State should get some yards through throwing the football, but look for the Cougars to be much better at defending against misdirection and trick plays.
What I'll be Watching: I'll be watching the Cougar pass rush, which hasn't been effective here of late. While most of the burden has fallen on the defensive backs in most fans' minds, the Cougar pass rush hasn't done much to help them lately. Hopefully the Cougar defensive front can mount a more effective pass rush against the Aztecs.
This game shouldn't be close, as the Cougars look to finish out strong at home while the Aztecs are just about done for the year. An early lead by the Cougars should lead the Aztecs to pack it in, as they did in recent road games against New Mexico and Wyoming. The Aztecs should be able to do a little damage through the air, but it likely won't be enough to make Saturday's matchup much of a game.
Final Score Prediction: BYU 52, San Diego State 17