Preston’s Predictions: Stats give Sac State the advantage in Causeway

Russell Preston

With one week left in Sacramento State’s roller coaster of a season, the Hornets will host the UC Davis Aggies for the 60th edition of the Causeway Classic showdown.

While we can ask each team mind-numbing questions about how they feel going into this game or what they have been working on all week, I want to look into what they have done so far this season to predict Saturday’s outcome.

First, let’s start off with the fact Sac State has a high-scoring offense during its three Big Sky Conference home games this season. In those games, the Hornets have averaged 41 points per game. They haven’t played any chumps either – No. 5 Montana and No. 10 Northern Arizona left Hornet Stadium with victories by a combined four points.  

As for UC Davis, it plays conservatively with a strong running offense and a passing defense to make any quarterback cringe. During away games in conference play, the Aggies have allowed just 12.6 points per game while scoring 24.

These two teams provide an intriguing matchup as they are both opposite to one another in terms of the style of play.

Sac State puts up 313.6 passing yards per game – good for third best in the Big Sky. On the defensive side of the ball, the Aggies have only allowed 214.6 passing yards per game – again, third best in the conference.

The two teams are led by two junior stars, Garrett Safron, the general of the Hornets’ third-ranked passing offense, and Gabe Manzanares, the Aggies workhorse and Big Sky’s leading rusher (145 yards per game).

In terms of offense, I’ll give the nod to Sac State. They have put up huge numbers at home, with Safron leading the way. Consider Davis and their rushing game outplayed by the high-flying passing attack from the Hornets.

Defensively, well, Davis is the clear winner. They have not allowed more than 18 points on the road against conference opponents this season. Let me be the one to say, “holy smokes.” The last time Sac State allowed fewer than 20 points on the road was Oct. 19 against North Dakota. Since then, they have given up an average of 42 points per game.     

The Hornets can play two games against UC Davis: in the air, or match them up on the ground. If Sac State plays the latter, they are, in every way, going to lose the game. If they start a passing shootout and command the flow of the game, they should take the cake.

If the game is even, there is only one decider: special teams.

The Aggies have the most field goal attempts, field goals made and the No. 1 punt return and the No. 3 kick return units in the conference. The Hornets fall flat in all of those categories, causing a bit of concern.

The Aggies have the edge in defense and special teams, but the Hornets offense is firing on all cylinders and there is no sign of them slowing down for the last game of the season.

My final prediction for this game, the Hornets win back the cement block of a trophy, 34-28, with Safron runnin’ and gunnin’ his way to a Causeway Classic win.