The Daily Aztec

SDSU stakes claim for New Year’s Six bowl

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Redshirt junior quarterback Christian Chapman throws a pass during SDSU's 20-17 win over Stanford.

Redshirt junior quarterback Christian Chapman throws a pass during SDSU's 20-17 win over Stanford.

Photo by Kelly Smiley

Photo by Kelly Smiley

Redshirt junior quarterback Christian Chapman throws a pass during SDSU's 20-17 win over Stanford.

by Mayer Pohlod, Staff Columnist

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Last year many fans were hoping to hear San Diego State football named as one of 12 teams to be in a New Year’s Six bowl, which only the best teams in the FBS are lucky enough to participate in.

Unfortunately, SDSU was instead relegated to the Las Vegas Bowl, held on Dec. 17, 2016, against the University of Houston.

Maybe the Aztecs 34-10 drubbing of the Cougars was a legitimate sign of what’s to come, and maybe it’s the committee’s snub that’s made them even hungrier for that elusive New Year’s day bowl bid.

Either way, SDSU has never been in a better position to finally play on the first day of the new year.

The Scarlet and Black have everything that a potential New Year’s Six pick needs.

You want flashy players? Look no further than senior running back Rashaad Penny, who has established himself as one of the most dominant running backs in the country. The successor to the all-time FBS rushing leader Donnel Pumphrey, Penny leads the FBS with 196 rushing yards per game to go along with four touchdowns ­– along with one receiving and one kick return score – through the Aztecs first three contests.

You want a resume showing that SDSU can compete with the best of the FBS?

Those who haven’t been living under a rock know about the Aztecs’ 20-17 victory over then No. 19 Stanford, one of the biggest wins in program history. Along with the game prior– a 30-20 road victory against Arizona State — marks two wins this season against Pac-12 programs, and three consecutive wins over Pac-12 opponents.

This doubles their win total against Pac-12 competition since 2000 – the Aztecs were previously 2-16 since the turn of the century, with one win coming against the University of California-Berkeley in 2016.

The win over the Cardinal also bumped the Men on the Mesa to the No. 22 ranking in AP Top 25 poll, three spots up from where they ended last year after their Las Vegas Bowl victory.

The Aztecs also have confidence, especially after their win on Saturday.

“(This game) definitely gave us national recognition, we are a team to play with,” Penny said. “I feel like everyone overlooks us because we’re in the Mountain West. Tonight proved it. We can match up with anybody.”

This isn’t to say that SDSU automatically deserves an invite to a New Year’s game, as head coach Rocky Long said.

The Aztecs will face many more tough tests this season, including an away game at Air Force Academy this upcoming week, and a home matchup against Boise State University on Oct. 14.

“I’m concerned about next week’s game because (the players) are going to get patted on the back about this game,” Long said. “I’m happy for them. I’m proud of them, but we (have) a whole bunch more football to play. Our number one goal is to win the conference championship.”

Just like the Mountain West championship, an appearance in a New Year’s Six Bowl also factors in how Stanford and Arizona State do.

If both teams are continually roughed up in their own conference it will reflect unfavorably on SDSU’s final strength of schedule. 

Regardless, one thing is for sure – the Aztecs haven’t had an opportunity like this in a long time. Whether or not they make the most of it remains to be seen, although their track record the previous three seasons point in a positive direction.

If SDSU can keep the momentum all the way through December, there’s not much more it can do to establish itself as a legitimate player in the college football landscape.

It can only hope the selection committee realizes that too.

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