1 Take care of the ball. One of the byproducts of the defensive style San Diego State plays is turnovers. The Aztecs have forced 11 fumbles in their first two games – albeit against higher-risk triple-option teams – and have recovered four. But another byproduct of San Diego State’s attacking style is opportunity for the offense. Take care of the ball, catch the overaggressive Aztecs out of position and the big play is possible.
2 Speaking of big plays, quarterback Marshall Lobbestael has to identify coverage and attack it. With their 6-foot-4 twin towers Jared Karstetter and Marquess Wilson on the outside, the Cougars need to take their shots downfield, especially when the Aztecs’ cornerbacks play press coverage. Both of San Diego State’s starters are less than 6-foot and should struggle to guard the fade route, a WSU staple.
3 Make-sure tackles. There was a play in the Idaho State game when middle linebacker C.J. Mizell came through untouched and absolutely blew up the running back. But he didn’t wrap up. And the back stayed up, gaining an extra 3 yards. Do that today and Ronnie Hillman might just take it to the house. The goal of the Cougars defensive linemen is to free up linebackers Mizell, Sekope Kaufusi and Alex Hoffman-Ellis. All three need to tackle well.
4 There should be a good-sized crowd in Qualcomm Stadium this afternoon, though many may not arrive until the fourth quarter. There is a long and dynamic fireworks show after the game, and it draws nearly as many fans as the football game. It behooves the Cougars to start fast, not only to build confidence but to also silence the crowd. It would be a lot easier to gain a road win and a perfect 3-0 record with a fourth-quarter lead – built before the firework folks enter – than try to come from behind in front of an ever-growing crowd.