College Football Pick: Air Force +10 vs San Diego State
Air Force Falcons (2-3 SU, 3-2 ATS) vs. San Diego State Aztecs (4-1 SU, 2-3 ATS)
College Football Week 7
Date and Time: Friday, October 12, 2018 at 9PM EDT
Where: SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, California
TV: CBS Sports Network
By: Loot Levinson, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: AFA +10 / SDSU -10 (-105 pricing at reduced juice books)
Over/Under Total: 43.5
The Air Force Falcons come to Mission Valley for a week 7 Mountain West Conference matchup with the San Diego State Aztecs. The Aztecs are 4-1, with four straight wins since a week one loss to Stanford. With a nice road upset over Boise State last week, 19-13, they now look to keep the ball rolling. Air Force, meanwhile, was able to breathe some wind into their sails on Saturday with a lopsided win over Navy. Who can get the job done in this MWC matchup in San Diego?
Where Each Team Stands
Air Force is at 2-3, which isn’t where they were looking to be, but there are some good signs. Three losses led to last Saturday’s 35-7 mop-up of the Midshipmen, but none of those losses were that lopsided. And with a new face at QB last week, the whole team seemed to respond. If their win over Navy were your only point-of-reference, you would probably think the Falcons were actually a pretty good team.
It’s been a strange first five games for the season for the Aztecs. Their opening-week loss to Stanford was a letdown. And it looked to be getting worse, as key guys starting falling due to injury. First was the starting QB in Chase Chapman, followed by the supposed heir-apparent at running back in Juwan Washington. But it’s been “next man up” for the Aztecs on offense, along with a growing “D” that has given their season a new lease on life when it looked pretty bleak not that long ago. Winning straight-up on the road as nearly-two touchdown dogs against Boise speaks to their wherewithal. Making it all the more impressive is how many freshman they’re throwing out onto the field. So far—so good.
San Diego Forging a New Identity
Over the past several seasons, as the Aztecs have grown in prestige with three straight ten-win seasons, they’ve gotten a big boost from standout running backs. They are digging deeper into the barrel than they would like at this point and not having Washington in there hurts. But with Chase Jasmin and Jordan Byrd, it’s clear that this roster is still packed with robust talent in the backfield. We’ll see how it goes with Ryan Agnew at QB, but it’s not clear how much it even matters, with the Aztecs one of the least QB-dependent offenses in the conference.
Those who saw the Aztecs in their week one flop to Stanford might find this hard to believe, but their defense has really been the key part of this 4-game win streak. One of their most-reliable playmakers was key in the win against Boise with LB Ronley Lakalala getting a key pick with a nice return. A Boise State offense that usually thrives at home in a MWC context couldn’t get anything going, with Broncos QB Brett Rypien throwing his first picks of the season and getting sacked four times.
What Will You Get from Week to Week?
There is an inconsistent nature to San Diego State—even in the midst of this mini-Renaissance they’ve been in for the last 3-4 years. They often play down to the level of their opposition. You see them one week and they’re overachieving and beating Arizona State as underdogs, then the next week they need OT to beat Eastern Michigan at home. Then they prove the spread wrong the next week by 20 points in the road-win against Boise. And for those liking this team to cover in seemingly-tougher games have a point, with the Aztecs not typically all that great in this role.
Air Force: New Blood at QB
Again, for those who were watching Air Force last week, they didn’t look like a team that was flat on their back. Sophomore DJ Hammond looked really good behind center. He was tough, gritty, clutch, and had a nose for the first down marker and the end zone. He was efficient enough passing, making nice connections with Ronald Cleveland, who is also a threat on special teams, as well as big-body WR Geraud Sanders. RB Joseph Saucier looked good and scored a TD, while Hammond showed some nice legs with three TD runs in the big win.
It seemed the better flow and overall success of the Air Force offense did wonders for the Falcons team-wide. There was a greater energy on the team and more cohesion. They seemed like a confident unit for a team that was coming off three really difficult weeks of play. And a defense that hadn’t really been impressive suddenly snapped into shape. A Navy team that averaged 36 points and 355 yards per game was held to 7 points and 129 total yards.
Take the Points on the Road Underdog
Sure, it seems simplistic. But the fact is that San Diego State isn’t as good ATS when you’re expecting them to do well. They play to the level of the opponent. And with their run-heavy defensive style, they’re not built to cover big numbers. That might even be truer when playing a team like Air Force that has some talent to unleash offensively. The Falcons could get off to a lead, while the sometimes-slow-starting Aztecs football machine clicks into gear. Air Force QB DJ Hammond will find this infinitely harder than he did last week in the win over Navy, but I see Air Force hitting the scoreboard with enough regularity to keep this one respectable. I’m taking Air Force and the points.
Loot’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Air Force Falcons +10.