Ohio State enters Week 2 four touchdown favorites over their opposition. Why still then are so many Ohio State fans not entirely feeling comfortable about an opponent that just lost to an FCS Eastern Illinois squad last weekend? To try and better understand what the Aztecs bring to Ohio Stadium, we chatted with Mountain West Connection's Managing Editor, Jeremy Mauss. You can follow Jeremy & co. @MWCConnection and Jeremy in particular @JeremyMauss.
Adam Dingwell was awful in his first game, but also had an unusually high usage rate. How will SDSU try to deploy him, and what is his reasonable ceiling as a player for this season? Can the Aztecs depend on him to win games for them?
The thought coming into the season was that Dingwell would be be better than last year, because he got a head start taking over for Ryan Katz following a season-ending injury last year. That may not wind up being the case, at least that's how it looks after one game. His interception problem in 2012 appears to have carried over to 2013. Last year he had seven interceptions in the six games he was the starter, and he had four last week. He has some decent receiving help though, beginning with Colin Lockett and Ezell Ruffin, plus he completed passes to nine different receivers last week.
It ultimately comes down to decision making and the offensive line, which allowed four sacks against Eastern Illinois. The saying goes that teams improve quite a bit between the first and second weeks, and hopefully for the Aztecs, that is the case. Dingwell shows promise but he needs a running game to help him out. The amount of throws [against EIU] was due to trailing for most of the game and Adam Muema leaving with an ankle injury. The offensive attack should be more balanced and if that can be achieved, then Dingwell will be a far more productive passer.
EIU had an unusually high number of pass plays defensed. Does SDSU have growth potential at WR this year, and why couldn't they get open before?
As for top end talent, the Aztecs have not had that in a few years, However, Colin Lockett could be that guy as a senior. He had an up-and-down junior year with the quarterback switch at mid-season and only finished with 20 catches. But if he can get back to his 2011 form, in which he had 58 receptions, over 900 yards, and eight scores, then the passing game could be a threat. After Lockett, there is not a ton there. Yes, there were eight other receivers who caught a ball, but there should have been better production with over 60 passes thrown. Ezell Ruffin and Tim Vizzi should be the second and third wide outs. Vizzi is a smaller, faster receiver who will play a lot out of the slot, while Ruffin is just over 6-feet but still has speed to go deep.
In terms of getting open, I am not entirely sure on that front, but part of it could have been the result of the offensive line forcing Dingwell to make quick throws due to pressure. If that happened against an FCS opponent, going up against Ohio State could be ugly.
If Adam Muema isn't healthy, who is getting the rock, and what are they good at?
Muema should be good to go after suffering an ankle injury early on against Eastern Illinois. However, if he is limited or injures that ankle again, it could be true freshman Donnel Pumphrey or Chase Price. Pumphrey shows more potential and has some nice speed plus moves well in the open field. But if San Diego State is going to have any chance, they need Muema on the field as much as possible. He is a back who made the team go last year and is someone they will need to rely on heavily to make the offense more balanced. If Muema is on the field and healthy on Saturday, then San Diego State will have a better chance of competing.
Rocky Long's 3-3-5 gave Urban Meyer fits at Utah. What does SDSU's swarm attack have to do to cause history to repeat itself?
Talent gap is an issue in this matchup. Back when Long was at New Mexico and Meyer at Utah, the difference in talent was not as great as it is today. However, that type of defense is not common, and the goal is to have a lot of speed on the field; that is what San Diego State will need against Ohio State. Having that speed on the field for the Aztecs should allow them to have a better shot of containing Braxton Miller if he takes off and tries to run the ball. There could be some confusion early on, and the few times that Long went up against Meyer back in the Mountain West, it seemed that Long knew how to get after the spread attack Meyer runs. In the end though, talent wins out for Ohio State and they should have some success on offense, but as I mentioned there could be a few hiccups in the first half along the way.
San Diego State nearly departed the Mountain West for the (then hypothetically) greener shores of what ultimately became The American. Tell us why Jim Delany would be remiss if he didn't try and poach SDSU for the Big Ten.
I think heading to San Diego for the league's annual spring meetings is a far better option than a potentially snowy Big Ten city; that's as good of a reason as any to grab the Aztecs. I also hear there is a lot of speed in that fertile part of California for recruiting. Plus there's In-N-Out.
In all seriousness, can San Diego State do what EIU head coach Dino Babers predicted they would and shock Ohio State a week after getting upset in their own right? How does this one play out?
Well, before the season I was giving San Diego State a decent shot to pull off an upset. Now, it feels like I don't even know this team after that debacle last week. The Aztecs were already motivated for this game, but now they are potentially even more driven after getting embarrassed at home to Eastern Illinois. As for how they show that they aren't that team that showed up against EIU, they must have Muema healthy running the ball, because when he is on, he can make things happen. Assuming Muema plays then tack on the Aztecs' motivation after getting crushed last week, and I think they will likely do a much better job against Ohio State.
The offense will need to get Muema the ball early and often to establish the flow of the game, then get the wide receivers involved. Also, keeping the offense balanced throughout will help keep the Buckeyes guessing. The Aztecs' defense will need to force some turnovers and give the offense some short fields if they are going to pull the upset off.
In terms of how this plays out, I expect Dingwell to throw at least a pick or two and allow Oho State to get some easy scores. I do think that the defense will be able to keep Ohio State from getting those home run plays, but they will figure out the 3-3-5 and be able to move the ball more effectively after that. Ultimately, I think the game will wind up closer than the experts are predicting, but Ohio State wins by about two touchdowns.