Mountain West Football: Midseason Team Grades

Mountain West Football: Midseason Team Grades

Air Force

Mountain West Football: Midseason Team Grades

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San Diego State Aztecs

Sep 24, 2022; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego State Aztecs linebacker Caden McDonald (54) looks on before the game against the Toledo Rockets during the second half at Snapdragon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Offense: D- | Defense: C | Special Teams: A | Meeting/Exceeding Expectations: C-

The defending West division champions haven’t made it easy on themselves so far in 2022. Brady Hoke’s “defense, special teams, and field position” formula hasn’t worked nearly as well as it did last season and the weaknesses on offense have gotten worse.

If it wasn’t for Jordan Byrd and quarterback Jalen Mayden’s passing performance against Hawaii in Week 6, the Aztecs might well boast the worst offense anywhere in the country. By coincidence, San Diego State ranks 128th in points per drive (0.98), available yards percentage earned (27.6%), and drive yards per offensive play (3.91) at present. It remains to be seen whether replacing Jeff Heclinski with Jeff Horton as offensive coordinator will pay off.

Just as troubling, though, is that the San Diego State defense hasn’t played at the same level to which fans on the Mesa had become accustomed in the last two or three years. For instance, after finishing seventh in drive yards per opponent offensive play in 2021, the Aztecs have fallen to 77th by that metric with an average of 5.92. They’ve suffered a similar decline in points per drive allowed, too: It may not sound like much, but giving up one extra point (1.37, 7th in 2021; 2.39, 75th) per drive is a huge deal.

The good news is that San Diego State’s special teams has continued to excel. Expecting Jack Browning to be the new Matt Araiza was always going to be an impossible standard to meet, but he’s averaged 45.2 yards per punt, connected on 9-of-10 field goal tries, and even turned a fake punt into a first down, so he’s been right in line with Aztec predecessors like Brandon Heicklen and John Baron II. Byrd has also been his usual excellent self as a returner.

Head of the Class: Jordan Byrd, RB/KR/PR

You shudder to think where this team might be without Byrd, whose explosiveness have been the single-best thing the Aztecs offer on offense and special teams. He’s emerged as the leader of a running back committee with 52 carries, 307 yards and three touchdowns, all of which are team highs, while continuing to excel as a returner, too, with a punt return score against Idaho State on his ledger.

One Player Deserving of More Attention: Tyrell Shavers, WR

Quick, who leads the Aztecs in receiving yards? Though he has one fewer reception than teammate Jesse Matthews, Shavers has outpaced his more well-known teammate with 214 yards through the air to date, including an eight-catch, 149-yard performance against Hawaii in Week 6. He also blocked his third career kick on special teams against Boise State, continuing to excel with a skillset unique with the conference.

Midseason Grades By Team

Air Force | Boise State | Colorado State | Fresno State | Hawaii | Nevada | New Mexico | San Diego State | San Jose State | UNLV | Utah State | Wyoming

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