2022 San Diego St. Aztecs Preview

by Matt Fargo

San Diego St. Aztecs

2021-22 Season Record 12-2 (7-1 MWC West) - 7-6-1 ATS - 7-7-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 5
Defense - 7

Overview

When it entered the MWC in 1999, San Diego St. was coming off a bowl appearance in its last season in the WAC and things did not go well as the Aztecs went 11 straight seasons without a winning record under the eyes of Ted Tollner, Tom Craft and Chuck Long for 10 of those and then Brady Hoke came onto the scene. He had a 4-8 record in his first season but then went 9-4 before bolting to Michigan. That led to the start of 10 straight bowl games before 2020 when COVID messed it up in his first season back but he got things back on track with a 12-2 mark last season to make the Aztecs a conference power once again. They finished No. 25 in the country, just the third time they finished ranked in the 53 seasons of the program so expectations are high but San Diego St. has a test in front of it this season with just 12 starters back and a returning production ranking of No. 115.

Offense

The offense did just enough to back up a strong defense as it won six games by one possession where it averaged just 23.3 ppg in those victories. The bad news is that only five starters are back but the way that the Aztecs play, it will not be as big of a deal as it could be with a lot of other teams. The passing game was not good with a pair of signal callers taking snaps so there was no rhythm. Taking over at quarterback will be Braxton Burmeister who transferred in from Virginia Tech where he was ok, was not asked to do a lot and took care of the football which are all San Diego St. traits for the position. Top receiver Jesse Matthews returns after 672 yards and nine touchdowns last season and transfers came in to help. The loss of running back Greg Bell is huge but there was depth so they will be fine running behind an offensive line that might take some time to come together.

Defense

The defense took a small step backwards but it was not significant as the rushing defense was as stout as ever. Overall, the Aztecs were No. 14 in total defense including No. 2 against the run, and No. 17 in scoring defense and there should be no regression this season. The defensive line will be strong again even though Cameron Thomas, who led the team with 10.5 sacks, is now with the Arizona Cardinals, as Jonah Tavia is a great edge rusher who had 8.5 sacks and will lead the front and also returning on the other side is Keshawn Banks who had five sacks. Middle linebacker Caden McDonald is the captain of the defense and had 49 tackles along with 3.5 sacks while Michael Shawcroft is on one end after 55 tackles last season. The secondary is led by safety Patrick McMorris who had a team high 90 tackles and while the corners are very young, there is plenty of depth on the outside.

2022 Season Outlook

The Aztecs recorded the most victories in program history last season but they did catch a bad break in the MWC Championship game as a slew of players were missing because of COVID so they were relegated to the Frisco Bowl instead of having the opportunity to play in a bigger bowl game. Still, it was a great second season for Hoke and the goals are unlimited this season if the offense can muster a little more production. San Diego St. opens the season with home games against Arizona and Idaho St. before it travels to Utah in what should be a great matchup. Nonconference play concludes with a home game against Toledo before it opens MWC action at Boise St. which could be an early preview of the MWC Championship. A game at Fresno St. will play a big part as well. The O/U Win total is set at 7.5 which is attainable with what looks like eight wins on paper and four swing games that could go either way. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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