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Cal at San Diego State first looks: Golden Bears, your feelings on the Aztecs?

What can we expect from SDSU in 2016?

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

LeonPowe: Pumping the sunshine pump a bit because although I know SDSU had a good year last year and they're returning quite a few players more than we are, I still think we should win comfortably like we did last season. I think in year 3 we're starting to see the results of having real P5 athletes in our system—the defense will be green and thin, but we had very few hiccups last year against a similar team.

Avinash: San Diego State has a really good shot at repeating at Mountain West champs. They have a great running back in Pumphrey who will pound the rock. They return most of their receiving corps and offensive line. They are replacing their starting quaterback, who was dreadful against Cal last year. It will be a much closer game.

However, I feel like they're a really good matchup for Cal this season. The Aztecs only managed 7 points against the Bears last season. Cal's defense showed up with their best performance of the year and battered the Aztecs into submission. I don't think San Diego State will improve that much with a new quarterback.

Additionally, if the Bears commit to the run, this should bode well. Cal's strength this year offensively figures to be their run game and their offensive line and San Diego State runs a 3-3-5 that is more suited to stop a pass-first attack.
What do you think will be the biggest trouble spots for the Bears in this game, based on what you saw last year?

Nik Jam: This is one game no one should take for granted. It's a road game and San Diego State really improved a lot after getting blown out by the Bears last season. Revenge will surely be on their minds. Plus, I learned on this very website that apparently Vegas favors the Aztecs! I admit that was a wake up call for me as I was thinking this one would be an easy one for a while.

We could find out a lot about the Bears here. If they falter, it's an indication that our defense and our new QB might not do a whole lot in the Pac-12. However, a win could make expectations a lot better.

As said earlier, if our run game is our team's strength, this is a good match-up for us. The run game really helped us out last year, and I remember Lasco having a great game before he suffered a season-ruining injury. Hopefully our Three-Headed monster at RB have a great game AND finish without any injuries.

boomtho: Given how strongly SDSU ended the season, I am pretty worried about SDSU. It feels like a classic trap "B" game where we won't get much credit if we win, but will get a lot of negative publicity if we lose. Their D looks pretty legit (they were 6th in the country in points allowed/game; not pace-adjusted, but that's indicative of their quality) and our D looks kind of shaky.

I'm hoping for a win that demonstrates a few things. Number one, that the offense is only taking a half step back vs a full step without Jared Goff. Number two, that new guys are capable of stepping up on the defensive side of the ball to replace all the talent we lost. Number three, how the team reacts to what will presumably the first real competitive game of the year. Lastly, if Sonny's game management and clock management have improved.

Oh, and ever the cynic, I'm assuming this is our only chance to win a game against a California school this year, so I'd like one of those as well.

Piotr Le: In this case, I do not follow the Vegas or Bill Connely projections. This is due to the fact that Cal absolutely dominated the Aztecs last year. And despite the loss key offensive players for Cal, I think that we will not slow down by the time we get to playing SDSU. With all due respect to the 2015 WRs, the 2016 group looks to be a half a standard deviation more athletic than them.

In 2015, Cal performed on a 95th percentile of performance against them. Which means out of 128 FBS teams we're in the top 7 of possible performances. While as SDSU performed at a 1oth percentile level. I have a good feeling about the SDSU game—I think we will continue the reputation of a team that beats the teams it ought to beat and I agree with Avi in the assessment of SDSU's 3-3-5 defense. We can simply pound the ball with our four-deep RB rotation and then use the play-action as a basis of our passing offense to get Robinson/Stovall/Hansen on deep routes the moment SDSU decides to run Cover 1 with the SS in the box. I am confident that the SDSU's NB will not succeed in covering Stovall.

Nick Kranz: One aspect of Cal's 2015 win over SDSU gives me pause regarding Cal's chances in 2016. And that was the performance of SDSU's quarterbacks in what was functionally the season opener for both teams against legitimate opponents. To put it simply, SDSU's quarterback play against Cal was ABYSMAL. Two different QBs combined to average 5.4 yards/attempt with 2 interceptions. Take away one easy 29-yard touchdown on a blown coverage and SDSU was completely toothless through the air.

As much as I'd like to credit Cal's pass rush or secondary, I think it was much more a function of two quarterbacks who were both inexperienced and both played games well below their (admittedly average) ability level. It allowed Cal to stack the box against SDSU's run threat and completely neutered their offense. And I'm a little bit nervous about this game because it's really really unlikely that SDSU's quarterback play is similarly bad this year.