Arizona State’s second home game in its newly renovated stadium will be San Diego State of the Mountain West Conference on Sept. 8.
San Diego State’s 2016 season
The Aztecs had a terrific 2016 season as they went 11-3, winning the Las Vegas Bowl against Houston. Most of the Aztec wins came on backs of blowouts, outscoring their opponents 493-283; however, they still won close ones. Beating California 45-40 and sliding past Wyoming, 27-24.
Though they blew out their opponents, other than the Houston game, the Aztecs’ competition wasn’t as nearly as high as the Sun Devils.They faced just one power five opponent, being California, while ASU faced 10.
In the three losses San Diego State had, two of them were by at least two touchdowns. They fell to against Colorado State (63-31), South Alabama (42-24) and another at the hands of Wyoming after the Aztecs came back with a minute left, but failed to score a two-point conversion and fell 34-33.
Before their first loss, the Aztecs were in ranked No. 19 in the nation, but three losses sank their chance of staying in the top 25 until after the bowl season when the Associated Press and US Today polls listed them No. 25.
Senior RB Rashaad Penny - The Aztec’s offense is built on their running game as they ran for over 3,500 yards and 34 touchdowns last season. One of the men behind this force was Penny. He rushed for over 1,000 yards on 135 carries, hitting 11 touchdowns while catching 15 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns. With Donnel Pumphrey in the NFL, Penny looks to be the top runner for the Aztecs.
Junior QB Christian Chapman — Though the offense is mainly through the running game, the quarterback is still needed to perform and that’s what Chapman did last season. After struggling his freshman season, the California native did a fine job for the Aztecs, throwing for 1994 yards, 20 touchdowns and only six interceptions. If he continues to progress the way he has, the offense could add another dynamic to exploit teams on.
Senior CB Kameron Kelly — While the Aztecs lost their best playmaker on the defensive side in Damontae Kazee, they kept one of their leaders in the secondary. Kelly recorded four picks in the 2016 season and will be a key piece for this defense if they want to recreate their success from last season.
RB Donnel Pumphrey — Losing the 2016 NCAA leader in carries, rushing yards and all time FBS leader in career rushing yards is a big loss no matter where you are and that’s certainly the case for San Diego State. Pumphrey was the heart and soul of this team and not only will it be tough for the team to replace his production, it’ll be even tougher to replace his leadership.
S Damontae Kazee — Kazee snatched 15 picks in the matter of two years before he got drafted by the Falcons, the most in the two year span. That knack for play making is tough for anyone to replicate.
DL Alex Barrett — Barrett was the Aztecs leader in sacks racking up 7.5 last year on a team that had 38 sacks all last season. This, plus the loss of the three other leaders in sacks (Kyle Kelly (6), Calvin Munson (4.5) and Austin Wyatt-Phillips (3)) leaves this team lacking in proven pass rushers.
Reason for optimism
In the four games ASU has faced San Diego State, they’ve won each them. In 2007 they put 34 points on the Aztecs, winning 34-13. The Sun Devils should slip by the Aztecs, but it won’t be a blowout like before.
Reason for Pessimism
ASU’s defense was second to last in total yards allowed behind only Texas Tech last year. Though this was due to ASU’s pass defense, in their final game of their season, U of A ran over 500 yards on the Devils. This game against San Diego will be the first test of the defense side. If they play like last year, the Aztecs may run all over them.