New Mexico State vs. San Diego State Odds & Pick: 2021 College Football Week 1 Betting Preview (Saturday, Sept. 4)
Kent Horner/Getty Images. Pictured: The San Diego State Aztecs.
- San Diego State kicks off its season Saturday against New Mexico State.
- The visiting Aggies lost last weekend to UTEP, while the Aztecs haven't played since their 4-4 season in 2020.
- Check out Mike Calabrese's full betting guide with odds, picks, and predictions for the game.
New Mexico State vs. San Diego State Odds
One of the hardest things to do as a sports bettor is embracing bad teams.
For instance, Arkansas finished its 2020 campaign 3-7 overall, behind a patchwork defense (103rd in Total D). Yet, at the betting window, Arkansas was one of the nation’s most profitable investments finishing 7-3 against the spread, and an even better 4-1 ATS as a road underdog.
The thing is, Arkansas was an incomplete team. Its defense hung it out to dry far too often, but the offense was more than capable of hanging around with the better teams on its schedule.
That imbalance presented savvy gamblers with an opportunity to seize value on a weekly basis. But what do you do with a team that is equally inept on both sides of the ball? That’s the question facing gamblers when they see New Mexico State on the board.
September 10th will mark the five-year anniversary of New Mexico State defeating an FBS program with a winning record. Dating back to 2016, they haven’t been much better at the betting window either, posting a 21-28-1 record against the spread.
The Battle of I-10 last week in Las Cruces was more of a pillow fight than a bare-knuckle brawl. UTEP soundly handled the Aggies 30-3 on their home field, limiting the NMSU offense to 190 total yards offensively.
Even when the Miners gifted the Aggies with field position off of an interception deep in their own territory, all NMSU could do was turn the ball over on downs. Doug Martin’s team would finish a ghastly 1-for-5 on scoring opportunities in the red zone.
The Aggies made the UTEP defense, previously ranked 128th by SP+’s preseason projections, look like the ‘85 Bears. Jonah Johnson and Weston Eget combined to go 9-for-33 for 89 yards. The running game was a bit more competent, averaging three yards per carry. But the unit that returned just two starters is clearly deficient across the board.
Despite just 67 offensive snaps, UTEP was able to generate six tackles for loss in this game. The minor miracle may have been the time of possession battle which was fairly even, favoring UTEP just 32:29 to 27:31. When the top of your bulletin board reads, “at least we didn’t get hammered in TOP,” you know you have a problem.
Where they did have major issues was on defense, particularly in the running game. UTEP cruised to 200-plus yards on the ground, despite its top ball carrier going down with an injury (Hankins). UTEP hit a pair of 50+ yard plays and four 30+ yard plays on the night, which will be a common theme for the NMSU defense this year.
On the positive side of things, the Aggies did generate five TFLs and an interception, while holding UTEP to just 10 points in the second half. I will point out that the scoreless fourth quarter probably had more to do with the injury to Hankins and UTEP’s desire to get Calvin Brownholtz game experience, than a brilliant second-half game plan by the NMSU staff.
All in all, however, the NMSU defense played more like an SP+ team in the 105-110 range than its predicted finish as the absolute worst defensive unit in the nation.
Before Brady Hoke took over for Rocky Long, the Aztecs were in the midst of a five-year run that saw them collect 49 wins against just 18 losses. Last season’s 4-4 clunker exposed their weaknesses through the air, an issue they hoped to address through the transfer portal this offseason.
Jordon Brookshire takes over as the Aztecs’ QB1, after starting a pair of games last season for Hoke. While he doesn’t possess a big-time arm, he has the kind of sneaky athleticism and willingness to put his head down that makes him a strong fit in this RPO-heavy offense.
Brookshire has been running a version of the RPO since his high school days and at Laney College, and he’ll have four returning skill position players to grow with in 2021.
Along the offensive line, SDSU returns four players with starting experience including All-Mountain West honoree Zachary Thomas.
The key will be unlocking the potential of former four-star running back Greg Bell (637 yards, 5.6 ypg, 6 TDs). At times he had the look of the next great Aztec bellcow, but he’ll need to stay healthy this fall.
If former SEC wide receiver Tyrell Shavers (6-foot-6) can help OC Jeff Hecklinski create mismatches on the perimeter, I predict this offense to make a jump scoring from the mid-90s nationally, where they spent last year, to the mid-50s. The idea of pairing their lights-out defense with a balanced offense capable of scoring 30 points point game is tantalizing.
You simply could not run on this team last fall (98.2 ypg, 7th). And when you look at its recently released depth chart, there are so many familiar faces it’s hard to foresee anything but an encore performance in 2021.
Kurt Mattix’s 3-3-5 defense has the flexibility to take away just about everything from a modern college football offense, and if he can replace a pair of safeties he’ll have this unit humming again.
This game will play out with SDSU suffocating the NMSU rushing attack and then pinning their ears back as the Aggies turn to the air. The Aztecs spent the majority of last season in the top five nationally in defensive Havoc and that will be the major storyline in this game. Cameron Thomas, in particular, should have a huge game at defensive end.
New Mexico State vs. San Diego State Betting Pick
Considering how poor its quarterbacks played, I was impressed that New Mexico State didn’t lose by more to UTEP last week.
The roof could cave in on them this week, but I’d rather bank on the Aztecs salty defense vying for a shutout in this contest.
It will take gift-wrapped field position or a non-offensive touchdown for the Aggies to flirt with double-digits in this game.