(Sports Network) - San Diego State will test its unblemished record in Ann Arbor this weekend, clashing with 22nd-ranked Michigan in a non-conference matchup between two unbeatens.
San Diego State is 3-0 for the first time 30 years, and it pulled the short streak off after beating Washington State 42-24 last weekend. The win snapped a 22-game losing streak against BCS conference schools and broke a 19-game losing streak to teams part of the Pac-12. San Diego State scored the game's final 28 points after trailing 24-14 at halftime to the Cougars.
"There were several turning points in the game. That was a crowd's game. There were ebbs and flows, you're happy one minute and then 10 seconds later you're sad because a guy is running 80 yards for a touchdown," said San Diego State head coach Rocky Long. "It was a great game for the fans and obviously we're happy because we won."
Michigan, meanwhile, is also 3-0. The Wolverines used two defensive touchdowns to beat Western Michigan in a weather-called game, used Denard Robinson's heroics to rally and beat Notre Dame in the first ever night game at the Big House and walloped Eastern Michigan 31-3 behind sound defense and Robinson's 198 yards rushing last weekend.
It's been quite the three weeks for Michigan and new head coach Brady Hoke. San Diego State represents a dangerous last non-conference matchup before Big Ten play commences on October 1st, when Minnesota visits Ann Arbor.
Michigan leads the series 1-0, winning 24-21 over the Aztecs in 2004 in Ann Arbor. Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke coached at San Diego State from 2009-2010 prior to replacing Rich Rodriguez at Michigan.
The Aztecs are led offensively by running back Ronnie Hillman, who has scored 14 touchdowns in his last six games and who played like a bona fide star last week against the Cougars - running for 191 yards and four touchdowns. Hillman has now rushed for 497 yards and eight touchdowns through three games (165.7 yard average) and is second in national rushing to South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore.
Quarterback Ryan Lindley has completed 44-of-82 passes for 622 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception, and his top target is Colin Lockett, who has caught 12 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns through three games.
The Aztec offense, which has outscored opponents 58-20 in the second half, is averaging 428 yards per game and is scoring 38 points per game.
Heading into last weekend's game, San Diego State was facing the highest scoring offense in the land in Washington State, which had posted 61.5 points per game in its first two wins. The unit made adjustments in the second half after the Cougars dropped 17 first half points, allowing just one score in the second half and picking off Washington State quarterback Marshall Lobbestael twice and recovering one of his fumbles late in the fourth quarter.
The Aztec defense is surrendering 383 yards of total offense per game, and has proven to be an aggressive unit in the first three game, registering 20 tackles for loss and nine sacks.
San Diego State will get its toughest test of the young 2011 season in Ann Arbor Saturday when it faces the multi-dimensional Robinson, who had another stellar game last weekend against Eastern Michigan.
With last season's struggles to keep Robinson healthy still fresh in memory, Michigan fans had to be holding their collective breath last week when Robinson rushed 26 times. That produced 198 yards on the ground and one score, and Robinson completed 7-of-18 passes for 95 yards two touchdowns and one interception in the win over the Eagles. Robinson has now rushed 50 times for 352 yards this season, while he has completed 27-of-55 passes for 531 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions.
Michigan has scored 100 points in three games, and is putting up 403.7 yards per game this season. Robinson is the leading rusher, but Vincent Smith and Toussaint Fitzgerald have shown promising flashes at running back, combining for 258 yards and Fitzgerald scoring three times. The leading receiver is Jeremy Gallon. who has caught seven passes for 135 yards and a touchdown.
The Michigan defense struggled at times when Notre Dame came to Ann Arbor two weeks ago, but is still only allowing 14.7 points per game and a modest 342.7 yards of total offense. The squad is +6 in the turnover margin as well, and has played well after recess, outscoring opponents 59-14 in the second half.
Hoke said at a press conference earlier this week that he doesn't think his team will take the Aztec's talent lightly.
"They're undefeated. They're 3-0; beat Washington State last week. SDSU is a very talented team, a team that's going to play with a lot toughness and team that's well coached, so we got our hands full."
Hillman is a game-changer, and he should be able to give the Michigan defense fits. Still, he won't overwhelm the unit like Denard Robinson will overwhelm the Aztec defense. Michigan wants him to settle down more as a passer and establish the aerial game, but his ability to make plays with his feet is undeniable. This game may be similar to the 2004 matchup in that it could be close for two or three quarters. Michigan will own the second half though and win going away.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan 31, San Diego State 20