San Diego State 2021 Season Preview

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Credit: Derrick Tuskan/SDSU

by Andrew Finley, Assistant Sports Editor

Football season is here and San Diego State football is coming in with high expectations heading into their full slate of games during this primarily in-person semester.

The Aztecs were disappointed with the results of their 2020 season and hope to improve upon that in 2021, and new challenges lie ahead. Senior linebacker Caden Mcdonald said he believes his team has what it takes to face those challenges and overcome whatever stands in their way. 

“I believe we have all the capability to run tables versus everybody this year,” McDonald said. “Just gotta take it week by week and one opponent at a time.”

The Scarlet and Black have 12 games lined up for 2021 with seven home games in Carson, California and five games on the road. Here’s what SDSU football is up against in 2021: 

Week 1 (Sept. 4): New Mexico State at SDSU

The Aztecs get their season started with a home game versus New Mexico State. The Aggies — whose 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19 — haven’t won an away game since Sept. 22, 2018 and have lost 11 straight games on the road since. Despite not having a 2020 season, NMSU was able to play two neutral site games in late February and early March, in which they won and lost a game. The last time SDSU faced NMSU was in 2019 in New Mexico, with the Aztecs crushing the Aggies 31-10. The Aztecs have only one loss in 12 total contests against the Aggies. 

Week 2 (Sept. 11): SDSU at Arizona

SDSU’s first road trip will be to Tucson to face the University of Arizona. The Wildcats lost all five of their games in 2020 and are on a twelve-game skid since Oct. 5, 2019. Arizona hasn’t had a winning season since going 7-6 in 2016. This matchup will be the first time these two teams have met since the 2001 season opener at Qualcomm Stadium, with the Wildcats defeating the Aztecs 23-10. SDSU has won just five of their 15 contests against U of A, losing their last four.  

Week 3 (Sept. 18): Utah at SDSU

The Scarlet and Black fly home from Tucson to host the University of Utah, who are ranked 24th according to the AP Poll. The Utes’ 2020 was riddled with canceled games due to COVID-19 and finished their season with a 3-2 record. Utah won their final three games while scoring over 30 points per game. In 2019, the Utes ranked as high as number five in the AP and Coaches Top 25 poll before losing in the Pac-12 championship versus Oregon. 

The Aztecs last played Utah in 2010 when the Utes played in the Mountain West Conference. Under head coach Brady Hoke in his first stint, the Scarlet and Black gave up 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to the 25th ranked Utes to lose 38-34 at Qualcomm Stadium. SDSU has won 12 of its 27 matchups against Utah. 

Week 4 (Sept. 24): Towson at SDSU

Before entering MWC play, SDSU welcomes the Towson Tigers of the FCS to Carson. The small Maryland university football team had its season canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. The Tigers typically play one FBS team per season and typically lose that game by a large margin. Their last win against an FBS school came in 2013 when they defeated the University of Connecticut 28-20 and would go on to lose in the FCS National Championship. This will be the first-ever matchup between the Aztecs and Towson.   

Week 5 (Oct. 9): New Mexico at SDSU

SDSU kicks off MWC play in Carson against the University of New Mexico. The Lobos were unable to play in their stadium in Albuquerque instead playing their home games in Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. UNM started last season losing their first five games before finishing their season with two wins. The Lobos were winless on the road in 2020 and haven’t won an away game since Oct. 6, 2018. 

The Aztecs haven’t faced the Lobos since week nine of 2018. The Scarlet and Black — being down by nine — scored 17 unanswered points at University Stadium to defeat UNM 31-23. SDSU owns the all-time series versus the Lobos 27-15. 

Week 6 (Oct. 15): SDSU at San Jose State

Similar to the 2020 season, SDSU will travel north to take on rival San Jose State. The Spartans are coming off of a nearly flawless 2020, in which they went 6-0 in the regular season, won the MWC Championship — their first in the MW — won their first conference title since 1991 and were ranked the 24th best team in the NCAA, according to the AP and Coaches Top 25 poll. The only blemish on SJSU’s 2020 season was a loss to Ball State in the Arizona Bowl. 

The flawless regular season came at the expense of the Aztecs, who lost to SJSU in 2020. The back and forth game ended on 14 unanswered points by the Spartans to pull out a 28-17 victory, spoiling SDSU’s seven-game winning streak over the Spartans dating back to 2017. 

Week 7 (Oct. 23): SDSU at Air Force

The Scarlet and Black will fly over to Fort Collins to take on Air Force. The Falcons were able to play in six games last season and pulled out a record of 3-3 in 2020. Their 2019 season ended with them having a fruitless 11-2 season in which they missed the MWC Championship game by just one game to Boise State — whom they lost to earlier in that season. 

The last time the Aztecs faced Air Force was in Oct. 2018 at SDCCU Stadium, where the Aztecs defeated the Falcons 21-17. SDSU currently holds an eight-game win streak against the Falcons dating back to 2010. 

Week 8 (Oct. 30): Fresno State at SDSU

After having to cancel the game last season, the battle of the Old Oil Can will continue as the Fresno State Bulldogs come to Carson to try to win it back. The Bulldogs went 3-3 last season after having two games get canceled due to COVID-19. 

The Aztecs last faced Fresno State in 2019, defeating the Bulldogs 17-7 at SDCCU Stadium, securing the Old Oil Can back after losing it in 2018.  

Week 9 (Nov. 6): SDSU at Hawaii

SDSU football takes its furthest trip of the season to Honolulu to take on the Rainbow Warriors. Hawaii was one of the few teams in the MWC to not cancel a game in 2020 and ended up next to the Aztecs in the MWC standings at 4-4, even winning the New Mexico Bowl over the University of Houston. 

The Aztecs faced the Rainbow Warriors in Carson in 2020 and beat them 34-10. When the Aztecs were in Hawaii, however, the Rainbow Warriors upset SDSU, taking the Aztecs’ spot in the MWC championship game where they’d lose to Boise State. 

Week 10 (Nov. 13): Nevada at SDSU 

The Scarlet and Black come back to Carson after two road trips to take on Nevada. The Wolfpack had a 6-2 regular season — just missing out on being in the MWC Championship — and defeated Tulane in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in 2020. 

The Aztecs traveled to Nevada in 2020 with each team sporting a 3-0 record and SDSU flew home with their first loss of 2020 after giving up 10 unanswered points in the second half and taking the 26-21 loss. The Wolfpack currently has a three-game win streak over the Aztecs dating back to 2018. 

Week 11 (Nov. 20): SDSU at UNLV

SDSU’s final road trip will take place at UNLV. The Rebels were winless in six games in 2020, and haven’t won a game since defeating Nevada in overtime in their final game of 2019. 

The Rebels were the Aztecs’ week one opponent in 2020. The Scarlet and Black convincingly defeated UNLV 34-6 in Carson. SDSU has won nine of their last 11 contests against UNLV. 

Week 12 (Nov. 26): Boise State at SDSU

The Aztecs will look to end their regular season on a high note with a matchup against Boise State on Senior Night in Carson. A historically successful team, Boise State finished their regular season 5-1 — their only loss being against No. 8 BYU — with an appearance in their fourth consecutive MWC Championship where they lost to SJSU. 

The last time SDSU met with Boise State was in 2018 at Boise State, when the Aztecs upset the Broncos 19-13 on the Smurf-turf at Albertsons Stadium. Both teams have defeated each other three times in their history dating back to 2011. 

What to expect

At first glance, SDSU’s schedule looks top-loaded with Pac-12 opponents in weeks two and three, with the rest of the schedule filled with casual MWC matchups. However, from week six to week 12, the Aztecs face the only two MWC teams that defeated them last season — SJSU in week six and Nevada in week 10 — their rivalry game against Fresno State in week nine, and the powerhouse Boise State to end their season. 

The Aztecs stumbled to the finish line last season, losing three of their final four games and opting to not play a bowl game. If the Aztecs expect to be a top dog in the MWC in 2021, they’ll have to finish strong in their own division. 

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