San Diego State is 2-0 and coming off a 38-14 demolition of Arizona. The Wildcats aren’t a great program, but keep in mind they only lost to nationally-ranked BYU by eight points, so maybe people need to be giving the Aztecs a little more credit for going into Tucson and whipping another Pac-12 team.
Since 2016 the Aztecs are 6-2 against the Pac-12, making them the most successful team in the nation against that conference. A decent program by the name of Notre Dame is right behind them at 5-3.
On Saturday the Aztecs host Utah, another Power-5 school, and they aren’t shying away from talk that games like this for a Mountain West Conference team mean just a little bit more.
“I can tell you what I felt going into Arizona is I’d better not let the record down,” says SDSU offensive coordinator Jeff Hecklinski. “That’s the pressure I put on myself is, I’ve gotta live up to those expectations and we’ve gotta beat Arizona. That’s the same thing going into this week.”
Utah started the year in the Top-25 but last week lost at BYU and fell out of the rankings. Still, San Diego State is an 8 ½ point underdog, at home, most likely because of the conferences these teams play in. A little more national recognition would be great but the Aztecs say that’s not a motivating factor when they get a shot at a Power-5 school.
“We’re built to win and that’s all that matters,” says Hecklinski. “(Utah) just happens to be the next team that comes before us and we’ve gotta continue that mentality.”
Coach is very likely referring to their season opener against New Mexico State, a program that didn’t even play a football season last year. The Aggies led 10-0 at halftime before SDSU rolled off 28 unanswered points and took that momentum into a 35-point first half in Tucson. That same level of focus has to be the norm, not something contingent on who they’re lining up against.
“It can’t be playing to your opponent, it’s gotta be playing, whoever the opponent is that week, with that same mentality, same toughness, same energy, and same expectations.”
Playing out behind the scenes of this game is the drama surrounding college football realignment. With the SEC and Big 12 adding schools in the next few years there’s speculation the Pac-12 will do the same, perhaps expanding to 16 teams. If the Aztecs keep winning games like this against Utah they’ll have a seat at the table to try and make their case as an expansion candidate.
Kickoff is set for 4:00 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson.