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San Diego State vs. Michigan Pick with Analysis

9/24/11

The 3-0 San Diego State Aztecs (1st 3-0 start in 30 years) will play Michigan in the "Big House" on Saturday afternoon in a matchup that can only be described as fascinating, due to the coaching matchup. Brady Hoke, who took over at Michigan this year, was the man who led San Diego State to a 9-4 season last year, their best in years. If anyone knows this Aztec team inside and out, it's Hoke. He created them. Michigan is a -10 point home favorite with an over/under total of 60.

The Aztec 9-4 mark last year was no fluke either. They lost by just 3 at Missouri, by 3 at BYU, they beat Air Force and lost by just 5 as a 28 point underdog at TCU, and they lost by 4 to Utah. Missing is that big signature win, but this was a tough team that wasn't overwhelmed one time and that was against some pretty stiff opposition.

Remember also that Hoke has taken over a Michigan team that was a mess. Rodriguez came in and tried to implement his spread attack with guys who were recruited to play another style all together. He went about recruiting guys to play in his offense, only to get canned, leaving guys recruited to play in one scheme, having to learn yet another. Who knows what we have here with Michigan. Hard to judge on just the Notre Dame game.

Both teams come in with similar stats and against similar competition. San Diego State is averaging 221 yards per game on the ground and 207 through the air while Michigan's numbers are almost identical. The Aztecs are giving up more yards defensively then the Wolverines, while both teams are +6 in turnovers.

The Aztecs are led by potential Heisman candidate Ronnie Hillman who ranks 2nd in the nation in rushing at 166 yards per game. He's joined on the offense with 7 other starters from last year's 9-4 team. But the defense is a question mark, having given up big plays in every game this year.

Head coach Rocky Long was the defensive coordinator under Hoke, and you know the old saying, if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it. So, not much has changed at SD State which is a concern here as no one on the face of the earth knows more about these players than Brady Hoke.

There's also the chance that some Aztec players will come into the game with a chip on their shoulders as a result of the way Hoke left last year. He took the Michigan job and notified his players via text message, and that was that. No team meeting. No, "I'm gonna miss you guys". Just, adios. But perhaps more likely, the players Hoke recruited will just want to prove that their former coach was right about them, with a big performance Saturday.

It's an intriguing game with plenty of sub plots. We think Hoke has his work cut out for him at Michigan. He's likely going to bring Michigan back to prominence, but there has to be a growing pain or two. Look for San Diego State to keep this one close behind the running Hillman in what amounts to a once in a lifetime opportunity for these Aztec players, providing they can handle the environment -  San Diego State +10

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