- San Diego State is a four-point favorite in the New Mexico Bowl over Central Michigan
- The Aztec defense is allowing fewer than 13 points per game
- The Chippewas were 1-11 in 2018 but improved to 8-5 this season under first-year head coach Jim McElwain
The San Diego State Aztecs (9-3, 5-3 MW) are a four-point favorite in the 2019 New Mexico Bowl over the Central Michigan Chippewas (8-5, 6-2 MAC). The game will be played December 21 in Albuquerque at Dreamstyle Stadium with a 2:00 PM ET kickoff.
The Aztecs come in with the fourth-best scoring defense in all of college football, surrendering just 12.8 PPG. Meanwhile, the Chippewas have orchestrated a remarkable turnaround, going from 1-11 in 2018 to 8-5 under first-year head coach Jim McElwain.
Central Michigan vs San Diego State Odds
|Central Michigan||+160||+4.0 (-110)||O 41.0 (-110)|
|San Diego State||-180||-4.0 (-110)||U 41.0 (-110)|
Odds taken Dec. 11.
Rocky Long has quietly built one of the most consistent programs in the college game at SDSU, guiding the Aztecs to a bowl game in all of his nine seasons at the helm (including double-digit win totals from 2015-17).
Jim McElwain may not have been the right fit in Gainesville, but the former Florida head coach proved he knows a few things, leading the Chips to a seven-game turnaround in 2019.
Which team will take the New Mexico Bowl trophy back to campus? Is betting the total the play here? Let’s break it all down and make a selection.
Prior to taking over the San Diego State program in 2011, Rocky Long coached at New Mexico for 14 seasons and was the Lobos head coach from 1998-2008. Long also played for the Lobos between 1969-71.
As the venerable head coach told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “I’ve got a lot of friends back there … I have a whole bunch of ex-teammates who still live there and they’ll expect me to take care of them. I’m sure they’ll want (SDSU) sweatshirts and T-shirts, and they don’t plan on paying for them.”
Will Long’s homecoming be a distraction? Doubtful. This is a coach who has built solid programs in two different spots in the Mountain West. I fully expect the Aztecs to be focused for a noon kick.
Rise and Shine
About that kickoff time. It’s early and will amount to an 11 AM PT start for a San Diego State squad that plays most of its games under the lights. That said, the one day game the Aztecs did play this year was a historic one: SDSU knocked off Chip Kelly and co. at the Rose Bowl for the program’s first-ever win over UCLA. That one got underway at 1:15 PM PT.
Meanwhile, the Chippewas are day trippers. Central Michigan played 12 of its 13 games during the day, including four with noon kickoffs. We’ve seen West Coast teams struggle — or at least start slowly — when traveling east to play non-conference opponents.
This is an odd early kickoff in the Western part of the country due to television, but it might favor CMU.
Injuries and Everything Else
Aztecs starting quarterback Ryan Agnew missed SDSU’s Week 14 game against BYU due to a calf injury. Backup Carson Baker got the call in a 13-3 Aztecs win. Agnew should be good to go for the bowl game.
The outlook isn’t as positive for running back Juwan Washington. Washington tweaked his ankle in the season opener against Weber State, missed all or parts of half of San Diego State’s games this season, then re-aggravated the injury Week 13 against Hawaii. He’s unlikely to play Dec. 21.
Washington’s absence means SDSU will be a full-blown running-back-by-committee against CMU. And this is a run-first team. That plays right into Central Michigan’s hands. The Chips allow a paltry 115 yards per game on the ground. Of course, the Aztecs are even better, allowing just over 72 yards rushing per game to opponents. That’s second-best in the NCAA.
Look at the scores from the Aztecs games this season. All were fairly low. While Central Michigan can score, the Chippewas haven’t faced a defense like SDSU’s since they played Wisconsin. That game ended in a 61-0 win for the Badgers.
Long’s desire to play this one close to the vest, the early start time, and an injury to a key offensive player have me fading the over big time.
Pick: Under 41 (-110)