college football picks San Diego State at Missouri 9-18-10

September 18, 2010


DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 18th, 7:00 p.m. (et).

FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Stadium (71,004) — Columbia, Missouri. Television: Pay-per-view. Home Record: SDSU 1-0, Missouri 1-0. Away Record: SDSU 1-0, Missouri 0-0. Neutral Record: SDSU 0-0, Missouri 1-0. Conference Record: SDSU 0-0, Missouri 0-0. Series Record: Missouri leads, 2-0.

GAME NOTES: A matchup of two undefeated squads takes the spotlight in Columbia this weekend, as the Missouri Tigers and the San Diego State Aztecs clash in non-conference action at Memorial Stadium.

The Tigers had a sizeable win over McNeese State last Saturday at home, posting a 50-6 victory against the Cowboys to move to 2-0 on the young season. Mizzou began the campaign with a slightly tougher opponent in Illinois and made it through with a 23-13 triumph at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

As for the Aztecs, they too experienced the joy of throttling an opponent from outside the Football Bowl Subdivision when they blanked Nicholls State in the opener, 47-0. A tougher test took place this past weekend when the squad made its way to Las Cruces and dominated New Mexico State, 41-21. However, seeing as how the Aggies have one of the longest losing streaks in the nation at eight in a row, SDSU is still waiting to measure itself against a quality Division I foe and this meeting should give the Aztecs a better indication of how they really stack up.

San Diego State lost the two previous meetings with the Tigers, yet the most recent of those took place in 1980 when Mizzou captured a 31-7 victory.

Earning himself Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors, running back Ronnie Hillman torched New Mexico State for 150 yards and four touchdowns as the Aztecs picked up their second win in as many chances for head coach Brady Hoke. Even though Hillman got most of the post-game glory, quarterback Ryan Lindley was also a key component to the victory as he completed 20-of-42 passes for 319 yards and a score. More importantly, Lindley didn’t throw an interception and avoided being sacked. While it has been just two games, the news is good on Lindley who has the passing attack ranked first in the MWC and 14th in the nation with 316 ypg. Throw in Hillman with his 107.5 ypg on the ground, second-most in the conference, and the squad’s 547 ypg overall has them tops in the conference and sixth in the nation at the moment. After two weeks last season the run game for the Aztecs was 99th in the country and by the end of the campaign the squad was a dismal 116th nationally with just 78.3 ypg.

Against one of the weakest teams in the FBS from a year ago, the Aztecs permitted NMSU a total of three touchdowns but at no point were the visitors really ever challenged. After watching the Aggies control the ball for more than 10 minutes in the first quarter, the Aztecs made their move and allowed NSMU to handle the ball a mere 16 minutes the rest of the way. The Aggies converted a woeful 2-of-13 on third down as Jerome Long helped to put the pressure on with his 4.5 tackles and sack of Matt Christian. Completely crushing Nicholls State in the opener has certainly helped the Aztecs show strong numbers on the defensive side of the ball, such as allowing just 10.5 ppg to rank first in the conference and 14th in the nation heading into action this week, but that’s not something that will remain constant throughout the balance of the season. Last year the squad ended up seventh in the MWC and 98th in the country with 30.5 ppg permitted, so expect the Aztecs to return to reality in the not-too-distant future.

Henry Josey made a huge impact in the meeting against McNeese State over the weekend and he did it all within the first 20 minutes of the game as he tallied three straight rushing touchdowns in the 44-point rout at home. Josey carried the ball just seven times, but managed to turn those limited touches into a whopping 112 yards, while the rest of the Tigers accounted for a combined 71 yards. Blaine Gabbert missed on only five of his 31 passes resulting in 220 yards and a score in the victory as well. Gabbert, who had at least one touchdown pass in all but one game in 2009 and finished with 24 scores, against nine interceptions, has started out slow with only 240 ypg in total offense, but once the Big 12 Conference kicks into high gear he should be getting plenty of more plays called for him. T.J. Moe, who had a grand total of just two catches for eight yards last year, is already off to a blistering pace with 23 receptions for 180 yards in just two games.

While Josey and Gabbert were handling the bulk of the responsibility on offense for Missouri, the defense was turning up the pressure with three interceptions and a couple of fumble recoveries to make the final score that much more lopsided. Michael Sam logged one of the group’s three sacks and also forced a fumble, while Brad Madison forced the other turnover and had a pair of stops behind the line of scrimmage for a group that held McNeese State to just 245 yards of total offense. With six interceptions through two games the defense for the Tigers is tied for second in the nation in that department and with nine total turnovers gained the unit is tied with Florida for the most in the country and is among the best in the nation with a turnover margin of plus three. Atop the tackles list for the Tigers is Aldon Smith with 14 stops, making three behind the line of scrimmage and two against the quarterback.

San Diego State should get a better read on just how good it is at this stage of the season when it takes the field on Saturday. Unfortunately, the Aztecs might be somewhat disappointed to find out that early results have given them a false sense of security.

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