Dale Money | December 20th, 2019
Entering the New Mexico Bowl, Central Michigan is looking for a big pick me up. The 8-5 Chippewas are coming off a tough 26-21 loss in the MAC title, to Miami-Ohio two weeks prior. Former Gator head coach Jim McElwain has done a bang job since being hired on at Central Michigan. It was only one year ago this Central Michigan club sported a dismal 1-11 record and missed its first bowl game since 2013. Along with winning the MAC West division title, McElwain would be rewarded with the MAC coach of the year.
They face a San Diego State team that finished the year with a solid 9-3 record good enough for second in the MW division. However, due to a winner take all loss to Hawaii in late November that would come down to just three points, they missed out on a chance to play Boise State in the conference title game. This is the 10th straight bowl appearance for San Diego State, their last bowl win being two years ago against the Houston Cougars.
The game kicks off on Saturday at 2:00 PM ET, on the University of New Mexico campus.
San Diego State
Aztec coach Rocky Long gets an opportunity to return to where his College career all got started and come away with a bowl win. It was with the New Mexico Lobos that Long was the starting quarterback from 1969 to 1971. He would return in 1997 as head coach which would last for the next 11 seasons. Should they manage to get the victory on Saturday, it would give Long his fourth 10-win season with San Diego State.
This is an Aztecs club that doesn’t score a ton of points, only 19 per game on average, but thanks to a team defense that has held opposing teams to just under 13 points per game which is good for fourth in the NCAA, they’ve been able to soldier on. Four of the five Aztecs named to the first-team All-Mountain West team were on the defense. Key linebacker Kyahva Tezino and junior safety Dwayne Johnson Jr. lead the Aztecs with 96 and 86 tackles respectively.
Senior cornerback Luq Barcoo had a monstrous season and will be a player to watch against Central Michigan. Tied for second in interceptions and first in passes defended respectively. Barcoo was named Walter Camp second-team All-American, the first time an Aztec defensive back has been given the distinction.
As of now, it is looking probable Ryan Agnew will get the start at quarterback. Agnew suffered a calf injury missing the season finale against BYU. This is a team that loves to run the football but has not been able to get much going this season. Juwan Washington led all San Diego State running backs with 500 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 150 touches. To be fair to Washington he was only able to play just nine games.
He is currently questionable for Saturday, Chase Jasmin would likely get the nod if needed. Jasmin leads all Aztec backs in yards per rush with 4.6 along with the most touchdowns.
The Chippewas certainly didn’t start off the season in the best of sorts. They would start out 2-3 after consecutive losses to Miami and Western Michigan in back-to-back weeks before they were able to kick into gear, winning six of their next seven. They’ll be looking to break a four-game bowl losing streak.
This is a club in Central Michigan that is centered around the offense ranked 28th in total offensive scoring. In those eight wins, they scored at least 38 points in each of them. It starts with the ground game. Jonathan Ward and Kobe Lewis lead a vaunted two-man rushing attack that has combined for over 2,000 yards on the ground as well as 26 touchdowns.
They’ll be led by quarterback Quinten Dormady, who has thrown for 2,148 yards and 14 touchdowns, completing 66 percent of his passes. If Dormady can continue the success he was able to have against Miami-Ohio in the MAC title, and just spread the football around as best he can, it would do a lot to balance out the offense. He’ll be aided by a receiving core which includes Kalil Pimpleton, JaCorey Sullivan and Tyrone Scott. Each player has over 600 yards through the air, and they all have at least three touchdowns.
However, Sullivan will be questionable for this game, due to a foot injury. So expect tight end Tony Poljan to pick up some of the slack if Sullivan is unable to play. Poljan is second on the team in average receiving yards.
While the offense is known for being one of the better units in College football. That certainly isn’t to say their defense is slacking by any means. Ranked 20th in rushing defense, with an average of 115.1 yards allowed per game. Linebacker Troy Brown leads the team in tackles, and interceptions, Brown is also tied for first in fumble recoveries.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images