Threat(s): Quarterback Ryan Lindley and third-year head coach Chuck Long's passing offense.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Lindley got over some opening-game jitters in his first-career start, to settle in for a nice performance in the tough 29-27 home loss to Cal-Poly.
A red-shirt freshman, Lindley won the signal-caller duties in the spring, and flashed his potential despite defeat. He is the second freshman to start the opener in school history.
Against Cal-Poly, the local product set school records for completions (27), yards (352) and touchdowns (3) by a freshman in a single game. Regardless of who you play, those are good numbers.
The Aztecs ranked second in the Mountain West Conference last season in passing yards per game (272.7), and Long wants to open things up even more despite seeing his quarterback and top two receivers from that team get drafted into the NFL. Lindley's promise as a player has Long, who used to be the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, thinking he can do so.
Lindley's top receiving threat is sophomore Vincent Brown, who caught seven passes for 98 yards and a score against Cal Poly. The sophomore had 31 receptions for 349 yards last fall.
Lindley likes to spread the ball around, as seven players had at least one reception in the opener, including a team-high nine by tailback Brandon Sullivan.
In the loss to Cal-Poly, Lindley attempted 45 passes and was intercepted twice and sacked on two other occasions.
Achilles Heal(s): The Aztecs running game, turnovers and a makeshift offensive line.
The Aztecs offensive line features a converted defensive end at left tackle in Peter Nelson, and Lance Louis, a former tight end at right tackle. That doesn't bode well for protection, judging by the safety given up in the opener, or getting the running game going.
San Diego St. ran for just 27 yards against the Mustangs, and you have to figure yards will be a little harder to come by this weekend. Lindley could be running for his life with inadequate blocking in front of him, and the rush attack stalling for a second straight week.
That should lead to turnovers. The Aztecs had five of them in the opener. Corwin Brown, Jon Tenuta and company have to be licking their chops.
Miscellaneous: San Diego State was 2-of-11 on third down against the Mustangs. They scored both times they were in the red zone. They were dominated in time of possession, 38:00 to 22:00.
Running back Atiyyah Henderson did not play against Cal-Poly because of a hamstring injury. An all-conference honorable mention selection two years ago as a freshman, Henderson would add speed to the Aztecs backfield if he can play against the Irish.
Achilles Heal(s):All of the above.
The Aztecs return eight starters from last year's defense, including all the linebackers and three guys in the secondary. That'd be a good thing if the defense didn't resemble the exact same product as the year before.
Last fall, San Diego St. ranked 115th against the run (241.5 ypg), 104th in pass efficiency defense, and 115th in total defense (498.17 ypg). Against Cal-Poly, they picked up where they left off.
The Mustangs ran for 263 yards against the Aztecs, and completed 12-of-21 passes for 220 yards, with a touchdown and zero interceptions.
About the only thing San Diego St. did well is get off the field on third down. Cal-Poly was 2-for-13 in that situation.
Miscellaneous: Making matters worse, starting defensive end Tony DeMartinis was likely lost for the season with a leg injury. Defensive tackle Siaosi Fifita was already hurt, making for a depleted front four this weekend against the Irish.
Game Notes: This is the first-ever meeting between the Irish and Aztecs. The Vegas line has Notre Dame opening as 20-point favorites. Charlie Weis' record against San Diego St. is 0-0. Chuck Long's record against Notre Dame is 0-0.
Prediction: Notre Dame 38, San Diego St. 7
It could be even worse.
Notre Dame spent two weeks preparing for this game, and the season should definitely get started on the right foot. All three running backs, Robert Hughes, Armando Allen and James Aldridge should get ample opportunity to carry the ball and put up numbers. Jimmy Clausen will easily be able to pick a part this defense.
On the other side of the ball, the Irish will be able to quickly key in on the pass, and have Lindley running for his life.
Look for a big special teams play out of Allen or Golden Tate in the return game.
Game Week: San Diego State Forecast
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