Most important player for San Diego State to Win: DE Cameron Thomas
The Aztecs win when Cameron Thomas gets to the QB.
The Vegas odds are with the San Diego State Aztecs. Going into Saturday’s contest, they are favored by 6 to win. For the team playing in Carson to complete their quest to “win 22”, it starts with their Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year lineman Cameron Thomas.
“[Cameron Thomas and] across the board they’ve got length combined with speed. They’re built very well,“ said opposing Utah State coach Blake Anderson who offered praise in his weekly presser. ”The numbers speak for themselves and he fits that system perfectly.”
Cameron Thomas is the #MWFB Defensive Player of the Year, as voted on by the coaches and media!
Thomas finished the regular season ranked seventh nationally in sacks per game and 15th in tackles for loss per game. He leads the MW with 11.5 sacks.
#AtThePeak | #GoAztecs pic.twitter.com/Ho7ShqBpvh
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) November 30, 2021
The 6’5”, 270-lb junior from Carlsbad made noise starting as a freshman interior tackle and now because of his athleticism on the edge NFL scouts have him projected to go in the first round.
Cowboys mock draft analysis: Defense again the Round 1 focus with edge rusher Cameron Thomas https://t.co/9lrHXqvBb9
— The Athletic Dallas (@TheAthleticDFW) November 30, 2021
For the last two years, he’s been raking in pre-season accolades including on the Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List, Bednarik Award Watch List. He’s been named to multiple preseason All-Mountain West teams by Mountain West media, Athlon Sports, Phil Steele Magazine, and College Football News.
Thomas linebacker is a versatile defender that can stop the run, and obviously get after the quarterback. In the 7-game 2020 season, he racked up 35 tackles and 4 sacks total. In the Aggies’ previous matchup, Thomas had 3 total tackles and a half-sack.
This year he improved his tackles for a loss this year to 20, doubling his combined output from 2019 to 2020 (9 and 9.5 respectively), which puts him 15th in the nation in the category.
After seeing Rocky Long’s New Mexico defense, Anderson’s team knows the more talented veteran squad will be tougher to handle. Over the course of the season, opponents’ increased focus on Thomas has made nose tackle Jonah Tavai look stronger, and Caden McDonald quicker from his linebacking spot.
The Aztec defense has forced 20 turnovers overall, and +8 in the category. The team hasn’t given up over 100 yards of rushing since losing to Fresno State. They are 6th in FBS in defending on 3rd down, allowing opponents to convert only 31.3% of the time.
San Diego State’s defensive front will win them a championship. When the offense stalls, the Aztec defense bails the team out to keep the score close. Brady Hoke has praised his team for how they rally together in all three phases, and for Saturday’s Mountain West Championship Game it comes back to Cameron Thomas.