Bowl season rolls on Wednesday night with the DXL Frisco Bowl between the San Diego State Aztecs of the Mountain West and Ohio Bobcats of the MAC. The Bobcats are favored by 2.5 points with an over/under of 54 points.
This has been a down season for Rocky Long and San Diego State. After three straight seasons of winning 10 or more games, the Aztecs head into their bowl game at just 7-5. Impressive wins early in the season against Arizona State, Eastern Michigan, and Boise State were spoiled by the Aztecs losing four of their last five games to finish the season.
As for Ohio, they quietly remain one of the most consistent and underrate programs in the MAC. Veteran coach Frank Solich has taken the Bobcats to a bowl game in nine of the last 10 years while winning at least eight games in each of the last four seasons. Ohio dropped a couple of games against tough non-conference foes early in the season, but the Bobcats won five of their last six games to finish strong.
Run All Day
The biggest key to Ohio’s sustained success under Solich has been their running game. The Bobcats are one of the top rushing teams in the MAC year after year, and 2018 was no different. Behind the backfield tandem of A.J. Ouellette and Maleek Irons, Ohio averaged 6.1 yards per carry this season with Ouellette and Irons combining for nearly 2,000 yards rushing. That being said, the San Diego State defense was strong against the run this season. Even late in the season when they were losing, the Aztecs didn’t give up much on the ground.
Of course, Ohio isn’t a one-trick pony. A big part of that rushing attack is quarterback Nathan Rourke, who was third on the team with 816 rushing yards this year. Rourke is also a competent passer who has two years of starting experience under his belt. He tossed 22 touchdown passes this year to just seven interceptions while also averaging 8.8 yards per pass attempt, so he’s capable of pushing the ball down the field. The challenge for Aztecs is shutting down a true dual-threat quarterback.
No Bread, No Butter
In recent years, the San Diego State rushing attack has carried the Aztecs. Last year, they had a 2,000-yard rusher in Rashaad Penny, who’s now playing with the Seahawks. Two years ago, they had a 2,000-yard rusher while Penny rushed for over 1,000 yards as the backup. But that hasn’t been the case this season. SDSU is averaging a meager four yards per carry on the season, a massive drop-off from recent seasons.
On top of that, they don’t have things figured out at the quarterback position. Senior Christian Chapman missed a big chunk of the season due to injury and struggled in the final four games after his return. Backup Ryan Agnew continued to see snaps late in the year. Even if the extra prep time helps, the SDSU passing game is average at best and may not be able to carry the Aztecs against a solid Ohio defense.
After a poor finish to the regular season, it’s hard to see San Diego State suddenly turn things around. The Aztecs are strong defensively, but they won’t be able to keep Rourke contained all game. They also may not have enough of an answer offensively. Bet on Ohio beating the 2.5-point spread in the Frisco Bowl.