Buffaloes scouting report
Head coach: Karl Dorrell, 1st season (2-0; 37-27 career)
2020 Record: 2-0, 2-0 Pac-12
Last week: Bye, game vs. ASU canceled
5 Players to Watch
RB Jaren Mangham, So.: The Buffs need someone to step up and take some pressure off Jarek Broussard. Mangham has 17 carries this year, but only 24 yards. Buffs would love to get him going.
Star Chris Miller, Jr.: Should be back after injuring his shoulder in the opener. He’s a key to the Buffs defense, as he provides support in the run game and in coverage.
WR KD Nixon, Sr.: A hamstring injury has kept him out of action this year, but it appears Nixon will make his season debut against the Aztecs.
QB Sam Noyer, Sr.: He’s played very well the first two games of the season. Can he keep it going against the best defense the Buffs have faced?
NT Jalen Sami, So.: Stopping the SDSU run will be crucial. The Buffs need Sami and the rest of the front seven to play well and control the line of scrimmage.
CU offense: To this point, the Buffs have the highest-scoring offense in the Pac-12, at 41.5 points per game. They’ve done it with great balance, getting 516 yards through the air and 441 yards on the ground. Senior QB Sam Noyer has been the catalyst. Noyer has been sharp as a throwing and dangerous – and aggressive – as a runner. In the run the game, the Buffs have leaned on sophomore Jarek Broussard and Noyer. The Buffs are short-handed and inexperienced at tight end, but they’ll need that group to step up in the run game. Success with running the ball will be important against the Aztecs.
CU defense: The Buffs have had success against the run this year, allowing just 122.5 yards per game (third in the Pac-12). Quarterbacks have led the opposition in rushing in both games, as tailbacks have managed just 101 yards on 30 carries (3.4 yards per carry). Their run defense will be tested against the Aztecs, who have one of the top rushing attacks in the country. CU has had some struggles in the secondary, including seven pass interference penalties, but also lead the Pac-12 in opponent completion percentage (53.1) and pass breakups (14) and rank second in yards allowed per attempt (6.6).
CU special teams: Evan Price has taken over as the primary kicker and he’s been reliable so far in his career. Price is 2-for-3 on field goals this season and 11-for-13 for his career (both misses were blocked. He’s also perfect on extra points. Punter Josh Watts has averaged 38.7 yards per punt, pinning opponents inside the 20 twice. On kickoff returns, Maurice Bell has averaged 23.8 yards and has been close a couple of times to breaking big plays.
CU keys to beating San Diego State
Stop the run: CU’s done a good job against the run this year, but hasn’t faced a team that commits to the run like the Aztecs. San Diego State ranks 11th nationally in rushing yards per game and is 47-3 the last 50 times it has rushed for 200 yards.
Red zone success: Getting to the red zone (inside the 20-yard line) will be the first priority, but when they are there, the Buffs have to capitalize. San Diego State doesn’t give up many points, but the Buffs have been great in the red zone, going 10-for-10 with nine touchdowns.
Grab an early lead: CU can set a tone early in the game by putting points on the board in the first few drives. Put the Aztecs in a hole, and it could become easier to come away with a win. Shaking off rust after a week off will also be important for the Buffs early in the game.
- CU needs one more win to secure bowl eligibility for the first time since 2016. The Buffs have lost 11 in a row when playing for bowl eligibility.
- This is the first time since 1972 that CU has played a non-conference game in November. That year, the Buffs won at Air Force, 38-7, on Nov. 18.
- Buffs running back Jarek Broussard could join Charlie Davis (1971) as the only players in CU history to rush for 100-plus yards in the first three games of their careers.
- Sam Noyer is just the 12th quarterback since 1959 to win his first two starts at CU. The last to win the first three was Mike Moschetti, who started 5-0 in 1998.
- Bryan Cook, a quality control coach for the Buffs, was the lead recruiter to get current SDSU quarterback Lucas Johnson to Georgia Tech in 2016. Cook was Johnson’s position coach in 2016 and the two were also both at Tech in 2018.
- CU director of player personnel Bob Lopez has spent six seasons working with San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke (2009-10 at SDSU, 2011-14 at Michigan).
Aztecs scouting report
Head coach: Brady Hoke, 1st season in 2nd stint at SDSU (16-14; 81-74 career)
2020 Record: 3-2, 3-2 in Mountain West
Last week: Lost at Nevada, 26-21
5 Players to Watch
DE Keshawn Banks, Jr.: An all-conference caliber player, he has produced 3.5 tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries this season.
RB Greg Bell, Sr.: Former Nebraska Cornhusker leads the Aztecs with 565 rushing yards and six touchdowns this season. He’s rushed for at least 100 yards four times this season.
QB Lucas Johnson, Jr.: He was named the starter before last week’s game at Nevada and threw for 184 yards and a touchdown and ran for 29 yards and a score. He injured his hamstring in the second half, but is slated to start against the Buffs.
DE Cameron Thomas, So.: After a team-high 5.5 sacks last year as a freshman, Thomas has 1.6 sacks and a team-high nine hurries this season.
S Tariq Thompson, Sr.: One of the best safeties in the Mountain West, he leads the Aztecs with 30 tackles.
San Diego State offense: It all starts with the run game, as 66 percent of the Aztecs’ offensive plays have been on the ground. They will use multiple players to get the job done. Greg Bell has been the leader of the backfield, but Chance Bell, Jordan Byrd and Kaegun Williams have also made an impact this season. All four of them have averaged at least 4.8 yards per carry for a team that ranks 11th nationally with 246.0 yards per game. At QB, the Aztecs have used two different different quarterbacks, with Carson Baker starting the first four games and Lucas Johnson getting his first start last week. It appears Johnson will get the nod again. Neither has been explosive as a passer, but Johnson, a graduate transfer from Georgia Tech, adds a running element that Baker doesn’t have. Jesse Matthews and Kobe Smith have been productive as receivers.
San Diego State defense: Over the past decade, the Aztecs have been one of the best teams in the Mountain West Conference, and their defense is a big reason for that. Dating back to the 2018 season, the Aztecs have held 19 consecutive opponents to 28 points or less. During that stretch, only five opponents have scored more than 17 points. Although much of that came under former head coach Rocky Long, the Aztecs have kept it going this year. They are giving up just 4.25 yards per play – which ranks second nationally to Marshall (4.22). SDSU is also third nationally in total defense (269.4 yards per game), seventh against the run (90.0) and eighth in points allowed (15.4). The two teams to beat the Aztecs, San Jose State and Nevada, both found success through the air.
San Diego State special teams: Sophomore Matt Araiza is one of the best kickers in the Mountain West, hitting 28 of 34 field goals (82.4 percent) in his career, including 6-for-8 this year. Punter Tanner Kuljian ranks third in the country with an average of 48.4 yards per kick. Jesse Matthews and Jordan Byrd have been solid as returners. Since the start of 2015, SDSU is tied with Kansas State and Memphis for the most kickoff returns for touchdown in the country (11).
San Diego State keys to beating CU
Win third down: This season, the Aztecs rank fourth nationally in third down conversion defense, giving up first downs just 25.3 percent of the time. That’s been a strength of the CU offense, which has converted 51.5 percent of the time. On offense, SDSU needs to be better on third downs than it has been (37.1 percent).
Pound the rock: One of the best running teams in the country, the Aztecs have been almost unbeatable when they can move the ball on the ground. This year, they have rushed for 287, 407 and 326 yards in their wins and only 101 and 109 yards in their losses.
Slow down Noyer: CU quarterback Sam Noyer is off to a hot start this season, not only as a thrower, but with his feet. The Aztecs often make life uncomfortable for opposing quarterbacks and they need to do that against the Buffs.
- Hoke returned to San Diego State’s head coaching position this year after nearly a decade away. Hoke was the head coach of the Aztecs from 2009-10, going 13-12. He left in 2011 to become the head coach at Michigan and has also worked at Oregon, Tennessee and with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. He was SDSU’s defensive line coach last year.
- Since the start of the 2016 season, the Aztecs are 5-1 against the Pac-12, defeating California in 2016; Arizona State and Stanford in 2017; ASU in 2018; and UCLA in 2019. They lost at Stanford in 2018.
- Running back Greg Bell has faced the Buffs before. In 2018, he played at Nebraska. In his debut with the Cornhuskers that year, he rushed for 104 yards on 13 carries in a 33-28 Colorado victory.
- San Diego State is one of only 13 teams in the country to play in bowls the last 10 years. Prior to 2010, SDSU had not been to a bowl since 1998.
- SDSU cornerbacks coach Demetrius Sumler played running back for the Buffs from 2007-09, rushing for 714 yards and nine touchdowns and catching 45 passes.