2012 Record: 9-4 (7-1 in MWC)
Head Coach: Rocky Long (17-9 at SDSU, 82-78 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2012 Poinsettia Bowl: lost to BYU 23-6
Stadium: Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego (capacity = 71,294)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 14th out of 55 mid-major teams
Big Time Games: 9/7 at Ohio St, 9/21 vs Oregon St, 9/23 vs Boise State
Revenge: 10/26 vs Fresno State, 11/9 at San Jose St
Swing Games: 10/4 vs Nevada, 10/10 at Air Force
Stat to Fear: allowed 35 sacks in 2012 (9th in MWC)
Stat to Cheer: scored on 90% of trips to red zone (1st in MWC)
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 48th out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 7, Defense 9, Special Teams 1
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Jake Fely (90 tackles, 7 sacks, 11.5 TFL), LB Derek Largent (61 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 9.5 TFL), LB Nick Tenhaeff (52 tackles, 3 sacks, 13 TFL), DB Eric Pinkins (65 tackles, 3 sacks, 7 TFL), DB Nat Berhe (94 tackles)
Key Offensive Returnees: RB Adam Muema (1458 yds rush, 6.1 ypc, 16 TD), QB Adam Dingwell (939 yds passing, 57.6% completions, 8 TD, 7 INT)
CFBZ: Statistically, the offense struggled a bit in the second part of 2012 without QB Ryan Katz. Who will take the reigns of the offense in 2013?
David Frerker: On the contrary San Diego State finished the second half of the season with a record of 5-1 behind back up quarterback Adam Dingwell. This finish was good enough to give San Diego State it’s first ever Mountain West Conference Championship season. San Diego State upset Nevada in overtime and went into Boise State and earned the upset. The most important piece of any offensive is the quarterback, Adam Dingwell. Many people blame Dingwell for losing the Poinsettia Bowl against BYU. As the quarterback he will be the go to man on the Aztec offensive.
CFBZ: What are the biggest areas of strength on this team?
David Frerker: Win the Mountain West Conference Championship and win a bowl game.
Going into 2012, the Aztecs had lost a 3,000 yard passer (Ryan Lindley) and a 1,700 yard rusher (Ronnie Hillman). The Aztecs started 2-3 and fans thought they might be in for a long season but they went on a seven game win streak to finish in a three-way tie for the MWC Championship with Fresno State and Boise State. Rocky Long enters his third year as head coach and the expectations are high for this team.
When in doubt, the Aztecs will hand the ball off to Adam Muema. The Aztecs ran the ball over 50% of the time in 2012 and Muema toted the majority of that load. Adam Dingwell takes over at QB, and as David referenced he went 5-1 down the stretch last season. Still there are concerns especially when you post an 8:7 TD to INT ratio and now Dingwell will also be without top target Gavin Escobar (42 rec, 6 TD). One interesting thing of note is the new Offensive Coordinator. Former OC Andy Ludwig moves on to Wisconsin and the Aztecs have hired Bob Toledo to replace him. This spring they worked on pass protection and let's hope it worked because Aztec QBs got sacked early and often last season. A concern on offense is losing two All-MWC performers off of the offensive line but they do return four players with seven career starts or more. The OL could be the lynchpin of this team and the season.
The defense returns a ton of talent as only two of their top sixteen tacklers were seniors. They return five or their top six defensive linemen, their top five linebackers and some good talent at the safety position. The biggest concern on the defense is at corner and teams did like to pass against the Aztecs last season (gave up 235 yds/game through the air). If the corners are up to the task, this defense could be improved over a defense that was a top three MWC defense last season.
After their most successful season in the Mountain West, the Aztecs have a bit of a target on their back as they will be one of the favorites from the outset. The Aztecs will definitely be a contender for the MWC Championship. It will come down to the Boise State, Fresno State and San Jose State games. Fresno State and San Jose State might see a bit of a drop-off. Will this come down to a two horse race between SDSU and Boise State? That could be up to Bob Toledo, Adam Dingwell and the offensive line. I expect the Aztecs to challenge for the MWC Crown and place them at the 8-9 win range. Circle that game against Boise because the Broncos are going to want revenge.
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