After a long off-season without Ohio football, the team will be back this weekend on the road with a non-conference matchup at San Diego State for its first week-zero game in the Tim Albin era.
It’s been nearly eight months since Ohio’s walk-off Arizona Bowl game victory, and the team is looking to carry that momentum right into the 2023 season and get off on the right foot.
San Diego State is the first team to stand in Ohio’s way back to a winning season. This is everything you need to know about the Aztecs before kickoff on Saturday.
Brady Hoke has been at the helm for the Aztecs for a combined total of six years now, this being the fourth year of his second stint as head coach for the university. Hoke is a two-time Mountain West Coach of the Year and has garnered huge success in the program.
In 2021, Hoke led the Aztecs to one of the best seasons in program history with a 12-2 record.
Jalen Mayden will return for his fifth year in college football and third at San Diego State. Mayden made the change from safety to quarterback during last season when the lefty was able to throw for 2,030 yards and 12 touchdowns in only seven starts at the quarterback position.
Despite only seven starts, Mayden was able to earn All-Mountain West Conference honors as an honorable mention. Mayden is considered a mobile quarterback as he was able to tally 231 yards on the ground with three rushing touchdowns in 2022.
The Aztecs will enter 2023 without their leading rusher from 2022, Jordan Byrd. Byrd tallied 433 rushing yards in 2022 and three touchdowns.
Senior Kenan Christon is expected to be the Aztecs' starting running back after being named a team captain during fall camp. Christon tallied 247 rushing yards in 2022 and one touchdown after playing in 11 games last season.
San Diego State will also be without its leading receiver from 2022, Tyrell Shavers, who had 643 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
The Aztecs' top returning receiver will be Mekhi Shaw, a junior who appeared in 13 games last season while recording three touchdown receptions of his own.
San Diego State’s defense was the strong point of its team last year, allowing just over 20 points per game. However, just like their offense, the Aztecs suffered several key departures after the 2022 season including the team's top four sack leaders from last season.
Dallas Branch will return to the Aztec defense as a senior cornerback who led the team in interceptions last season.
The big news of the week is that Ohio’s star quarterback and reigning MAC Player of the Year Kurtis Rourke will make the start at San Diego after being sidelined with an ACL injury back in November, according to a tweet from ESPN’s Pete Thamel.
Ohio’s defense got off to a slow start in 2022 and will have to be better early in 2023 against the Aztecs if they want to keep pace with one of the best defenses in the group of five. The defense can't let the game get out of hand early as Rourke and the offense try to get rolling against the Aztec defense.