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Utah State Aggies vs. San Diego State Aztecs Preview and Prediction

Author:
Donnel Pumphrey

Donnel Pumphrey

Utah State sent tremors through the Mountain West Conference landscape with its demolition of perennial league champion Boise State. With a tough, swarming defense and a suddenly high-octane offense, head coach Matt Wells' Aggies are staking a claim to be the new Mountain West giant on the block.

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San Diego State should offer a good test to see how far Utah State has come. The Aztecs lead the all-time series 10-1. USU notched its only win in 1967, prevailing 31-25 in San Diego. History shows that the Aggies have a reasonable chance of adding a second victory this weekend. USU is 16-3 all-time in Mountain West Conference play since joining the league in 2013. The Aggies are 7-2 in MW road contests under Wells.

Utah State at San Diego State

Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV: ESPN2

Spread: Utah State -5

Three Things to Watch

1. Pumphrey Power

San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey doesn't waste an opportunity to make an impact on offense. The junior is the only player in the nation to lead their team in rushing yards, receiving yards and receptions. Pumphrey has tallied 729 yards and eight touchdowns on 159 carries this season. He has 249 yards and a touchdown on 19 receptions.

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Slowing him down will be crucial for Utah State. The Aztecs have won 16 straight games when rushing for at least 200 yards. Pumphrey has played a big role in most of those victories. He has tallied 17 career 100-yard rushing games. Pumphrey has crossed that 100-yard plateau in the last three games, most recently running for 152 yards and a touchdown against San Jose State last week.

2. Piling up Turnovers

Mountain West teams are quickly learning that playing mistake-free football against Utah State is an impossible task. The Aggies have forced 18 turnovers this season. They lead the Mountain West in that category and are tied for fourth nationally.

Utah State took it to an insane level against Boise State last week. The Aggies forced seven turnovers and scored 35 points off those turnovers before halftime. USU finished with eight turnovers. It was the most turnovers given up by the Broncos during their time in the FBS ranks. The last time Boise State turned the ball over that many times in a single game was when it coughed up the ball 12 times in a 1989 loss to Montana.

3. Making a Name

The USU offense isn't suffering with senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton once again sidelined by injuries as might be expected. Sophomore QB Kent Myers has the offense executing at its highest level in a long time. In their last two games, the Aggies have outscored their opposition 108-40.

Myers is 3-0 as a starter this season and 8-1 as a starter over his career. He is an exciting dual-threat QB for Utah State much like Keeton is when 100 percent healthy. Myers burns defenses with his speed and smart decision-making. He has thrown for 554 yards and five touchdowns on 47-of-70 passing. Myers also ranks third on the team in rushing with 243 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries.

Final Analysis

This could be a preview of the Mountain West title game in December, which is good news for Utah State now and later. The Aggies have lost eight straight games to San Diego State dating back to 1968, but the streak will be broken on Friday night. USU is a bad matchup for a run-oriented Aztec offense. USU ranks sixth nationally in rushing defense, allowing 77.3 yards per game on the ground. Without a rushing attack, San Diego State's chances of staying perfect in Mountain West play look dim.

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Prediction: Utah State 31, San Diego State 20

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.