In 2021, San Diego State won a program-record 12 games, the last of which was a two-touchdown victory over UTSA in the Frisco Bowl, and finished the season ranked in the Top-25. They would have likely won the Mountain West Championship Game had they not been missing nearly half their starters due to a COVID outbreak.
This year they have eight players on the preseason All-Conference team, more than any other program, including Defensive Player of the Year Patrick McMorris and Special Teams Player of the Year Jordan Byrd.
And for some reason media-types who cover the conference don’t even think they’ll win their division.
The preseason vote has SDSU finishing 2nd in the West Division behind Fresno State. Head coach Brady Hoke was a bit miffed by that, but tried not to seem like he’s miffed by that.
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“It’s obviously good to be recognized. It is 2nd, though. I think as we go through the season there will be some reminders,” says Hoke.
Bulletin board material is real, and the Aztecs just got five months-worth of it.
“Obviously we won 12 games last season so to see that, you take it as a little bit of disrespect,” says running back Chance Bell.
“It’s just another time to prove people wrong. We always say we have a chip on our shoulder. We’ve always been seen as underdogs, for a long time,” says linebacker Caden McDonald.
The common refrain for the 100th season of San Diego State football where you start is not important. Where you finish is everything.
“You can’t win a championship based on preseason predictions, that’s the media,” says Bell. “You’ve just gotta have that chip on your shoulder, suit up and play.”
All eight players who landed on the MWC All-Conference team are seniors. This is an experienced, talented group that’s going to have a much better quarterback situation than 2021. Also, College Football News has the Aztecs as the highest-ranked team in the entire conference, not just the division.
There has never been a season as highly anticipated as this one, and not just because of the talent on the field. It’s because of the field itself.
Snapdragon Stadium will be open for business for the season opener on September 3 against Arizona in a national TV game that’s usually reserved for the mighty SEC. It’s the first time since 1966 that the Aztecs have had a stadium to call their own, and for the players who’ve been around the last few seasons while it’s been under construction cannot wait to finally have a high-energy sense of normalcy.
“We had COVID with no fans (in 2020). We’re up in Carson, two hours away, with minimal fans just because of the travel,” says McDonald. “So now being back, first year it’ll be open, the 100th season, and the fans only have to drive 10 minutes from campus … it’s going to be electric. It’s going to be a game-changing atmosphere, for sure. The home field advantage is gonna be unlike any other.”
Imagine the first time they run out of that tunnel in front a sellout crowd. McDonald has a pretty good idea of what that moment will be like.
“I’ve taken myself through it 100 times by now. I think about it every day. First game. 12:30 kickoff. I get chills. I’ve got goosebumps thinking about it right now. I can’t wait. It’s gonna be amazing. I’m kind of tearing up thinking about it. It’s really going to be awesome.”
And, very likely an extremely successful 100th season. Despite what us lame media types might think.