No. 21 San Diego State can clinch a spot in the Mountain West Conference championship game when it hosts Boise State on Friday morning in Carson, Calif.
The Aztecs (10-1, 6-1 MW) control their fate in the West division as they own a one-game lead over Fresno State. However, a loss could potentially be a problem, as the Bulldogs own the tiebreaker by virtue of their 30-20 victory over San Diego State on Oct. 30.
The Aztecs have won 10 or more games in five of the past seven seasons but haven’t played in the Mountain West title game since 2016.
Boise State (7-4, 5-2) certainly needs a win as well. The Broncos are part of a three-way tie for first in the Mountain division and the other two teams (Air Force, Utah State) play their games on Saturday.
“It’s a huge opportunity for both teams for there to be a lot of things on the line,” Boise State coach Andy Avalos said.
In a unique occurrence, the game will start at 9 a.m. local time (noon ET) so that it can air nationally on CBS. Aztecs coach Brady Hoke said his team will have their pregame meal at 5:30 a.m.
“We’re up in the morning all the time year-round so our guys are used to it,” Hoke said of the early wakeup time.
Avalos sang a similar tune.
“We practice in the mornings, we operate in the mornings,” Avalos said. “The wake-up is a little earlier. … We’re going to need (to be ready) bright and early on Friday morning.”
San Diego State has won three straight games but wasn’t all that sharp in a 28-20 road win over UNLV on Nov. 19.
The Aztecs were outgained 394-290 but prevailed on the strength of three touchdown hookups between quarterback Lucas Johnson and Jesse Matthews.
“I didn’t think we played Aztec football, especially on the defensive side,” Hoke said. “We’ve got to do a better job. We can’t give up big plays thrown over our heads. We’ve got to coach better. We as a staff, we got to look at some things.”
Boise State routed New Mexico 37-0 last Saturday for its fourth consecutive win. The Broncos held the Lobos to 101 total yards and scored two touchdowns on blocked punts.
George Holani rushed for 114 yards, marking his third straight 100-yard outing.
Star receiver Khalil Shakir caught seven passes for 116 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown from Hank Bachmeier on the final play of the first half.
Shakir ranks fifth in Boise State history with 2,804 receiving yards and sixth with 202 receptions. He has 71 catches for 1,043 yards and six touchdowns this season and has indicated he will likely leave for the NFL after the season.
“There’s so much that he does behind the scenes as a leader, a person and a man,” Avalos said. “He’s one of the humblest guys on the team as well, and we’re very grateful he’s been a part of this brotherhood and part of this program.”
The teams have split six all-time meetings. San Diego State notched a 19-13 win at Boise State in 2018 in the most recent matchup.
–Field Level Media