San Diego State Aztecs Football: First Look at the 2018 Schedule
Now that the Mountain West football schedule has been released, what does it mean for the the Aztecs and their title potential?
Can the Aztecs register 10+ wins? Another Mountain West Championship?
By all statistical measures, Rocky Long’s Aztecs had a stellar 2017 season. For Aztecs fans the season was both great and terrible, with high high’s and low low’s and many felt a lot of frustration by season end. Call it a rare case of the disappointing ten-win record, which says a lot about the heights that the Aztecs have now reached.
The Aztecs expected to have a chance to three-peat as Mountain West Champions, especially after starting conference play on the heels of back-to-back statement wins against Pac-12 opponents Arizona State and #19 Stanford. A one-two punch by Boise State and Fresno State swiftly took the Aztecs out of Mountain West Championship contention. The Broncos banged up the Aztecs, who are now perceived as a top Mountain West program, and the Aztecs may have still been collecting their wits in the week following when the Bulldogs soundly defeated them as well.
While they won all other regular season games, and got an invite to play in the Armed Forces Bowl, the season just didn’t feel right. Next, the Aztecs had a third straight bowl victory stolen away by Army on a gutsy two-point conversion with 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The game was superbly entertaining, but the loss prevented an 11-win season three-peat. In truth, there is nothing at all wrong with a 10-win season three-peat.
There was an unabashed snub of the 2017 season / #5 all-time single season NCAA rushing leader Rashaad Penny. Not only did Penny not receive true Heisman consideration, but he was completely shut out of the Doak Walker Award finals, which only shows how out of touch Doak Walker has become. Fourteen carries turning into four touchdowns in the Armed Forces Bowl, and electrifying in the Senior Bowl, AND outperforming many better-known running backs in the NFL Combine prove that Rashaad Penny is likely the number one running back of the 2017 season- as his stats pointed out all along.
Since 2015, the Aztecs are 32-7; have won two Mountain West titles, and two of three bowl games. There is no reason to believe the Aztecs will lose any steam whatsoever during the 2018 season, given their return of key players including Christian Chapman and Groza-caliber John Baron, Juwan Washington along with a cadre of talented linemen, backs and receivers.
*SDSU Schedule Image Source: San Diego Union Tribune
What is notable about the 2018 Aztecs football schedule:
1. 2018 pre-conference play will test the Aztecs’ mettle with TWO Pac-12 grudge matches.
The Aztecs kick off their season on August 31st in Stanford, California, against the Stanford Cardinal whom they defeated last year. Stanford will be playing with a monster chip on their shoulder, and they will be at home. The only thing comparative to the ecstasy of Aztecs fans savoring the Stanford win- might have been the horror of Stanford fans, players and coaches alike when the Group of Five AZTECS got the best of them. If the Aztecs win this first match, San Diego State may have an epic season.
The Aztecs then play their three remaining pre-conference matches at home. The first match is with Sacramento State. This game is a 100% guaranteed win. Next they face Arizona State, whom they also defeated last year while visiting. This, too, will be a fierce battle. Finally, the Aztecs cap the pre-season against a middling Eastern Michigan team that went 5-7 last year.
If the Aztecs win their 2018 re-matches against Stanford and ASU they will become 5-0 in Pac-12 football play.
2. 2018 Aztecs regular conference play kicks off with a battle in Boise- another critical grudge match.
The biggest shock of last year for the Aztecs was how decisively they were defeated at home by Bryan Harsin’s Boise State Broncos after slaying both Arizona State and Stanford. This time, Rocky Long and company will be playing to win, and the win symbolizes more than a mere conference victory.
Make no mistake: a win against Boise State, in Boise Idaho- on that God forsaken eyesore of a football field-is about Mountain West dominance, pure and simple. There will be no passing of the torch. The torch will have to be ripped harshly from the broken, crushed former holder- and that is what the Aztecs must do to truly be on top of the Mountain.
3. 2018 Aztecs regular conference nearly ends with another key battle in Fresno against a Bulldogs team that can play football.
2018 will tell us if the Bulldogs’ “worst-to-first” transformation was just a miracle season, or if the program is returning to its former glory. This has yet to be proven. One thing is clear: Jeff Tedford is pretty impressive, and he has surpassed early expectations of critics some of whom predicted near-certain failure.
The 2017 Mountain West Coach of the Year will face a potential Mountain West Coach of the Decade, whose team will be locked and reloaded, and who will have been tested by some very powerful programs already.
One thing is for sure: there is a wicked rivalry between Fresno State and San Diego State, and it will be fun for that “Old Oil Can” to actually mean something in the seasons and years to come. . .
Hardest stretch: at Stanford, vs Sac State, vs Arizona State
Easiest stretch: vs San Jose State, at Nevada, at New Mexico
Guaranteed wins: vs Sac State, vs San Jose State, vs Hawaii
Guaranteed losses: None.
Worse than 50/50 games: None.
50/50 games: at Stanford, vs ASU, at Boise State
Better than 50/50 games: at Fresno State
Preliminary projected record: 10-2