It’s now 10 days since the last SDSU football game, meaning we’ve gone from basking in our shiny new ranking to panicking about things that are completely our of our control. Say, on that note, did you notice what’s happened to our strength of schedule recently?
Yeah, pretty much that.
What qualifies as a strength of schedule porto-john inferno, you ask? The FBS schools on SDSU’s schedule went a combined 1-9 over the weekend, as our rivals fell to such vaunted opponents as Idaho, Tulsa, Eastern Michigan, Western Illinois and IUPUI-Elkhart.
That last school I listed doesn’t exist, as I just made it up. But you believed it beat San Jose State, didn’t you? Hell, I’m starting to believe it, too.
Oh, and that one triumphant win? That was courtesy of our next opponent, South Alabama. By one point. In overtime. Against an FCS school.
USA! USA! USA!
Somehow, the voters did not hold it against the Aztecs, as SDSU has risen to No. 19 in the AP and cracked the coaches’ poll for the first time. So it’s very likely that whatever opponents do, SDSU will continue to creep up in the polls so long as it stays undefeated. But in terms of who might host the MWC Championship game? Or who might get a New Years Six bid when the competition is a one-loss Houston or an undefeated Western Michigan?
It’s going to start to matter.
Which brings us to an inconvenient fact: There is a real possibility that the Aztecs could finish the regular season 12-0 without having beaten a single FBS team with a winning record.
Obviously, this is putting the manure cart before the horse you don’t look in the mouth, because it’s a gift horse and that’s rude. The Aztecs could lose to the Jaguars on Saturday or one of the several tomato cans on the MWC slate. But for the sake of this exercise, let’s assume they don’t.
Going 12-0 against a bunch of .500 or worse nobodies would be a pretty big strike against our résumé. I think we need one, or preferably two or three, 2016 opponents to hit seven wins so people won’t see the Aztecs’ season as a mirage. Hell, so we don’t see it as a mirage.
Let’s take a look at which of our opponents might catch fire and provide us the fig leaf we so desperately need (ranked from least to most likely):
11. Northern Illinois (0-4, must go 7-1 the rest of the way)
Likelihood: The Huskies have dominated MAC play in the past, but seven wins is an enormous lift for a team that just lost to an FCS school. Especially considering WMU and Toledo are going to smash them good.
10. UNLV (1-3, must go 6-1 vs. non SDSU opponents the rest of the way)
9. San Jose State (1-3, must go 6-1 vs. non SDSU opponents the rest of the way)
8. Fresno State (1-3, must go 6-1 vs. non SDSU opponents the rest of the way)
Likelihood: LOLOLOL oh my god the MWC West is such garbage
7. Hawai’i (1-3, must go 6-2 vs. non-SDSU opponents the rest of the way)
Likelihood: LOLOLOLOLo … wait, no maybe. The Rainbows have games against SJSU, UNLV, New Mexico, Fresno and UMass. And they can put up points. Unlikely, but there’s a path there.
6. Utah State (2-2, must go 5-2 against non-SDSU opponents the rest of the way)
Likelihood: The Aggies, as always, are fine. Their schedule, however is brutal. Remaining road games include: Boise State, Colorado State, Wyoming, Nevada and BYU. If they make seven wins they should be ranked. Seriously.
5. Cal (2-2, must go 5-3 the rest of the way)
Likelihood: Oh man that ASU loss was a killer. Yes, they can score points, but tell me where you see the Bears collecting two wins from these remaining opponents: Utah, USC, Washington, Stanford, UCLA. Yeah, I don’t see it either. Moral: Maybe don’t give up 31-point fourth quarters? Aw shucks, I’m just a Cal State alum so what do I know?
4. South Alabama (2-2, must go 5-2 against non-SDSU opponents the rest of the way)
Likelihood: Seems rather achievable for the Jags, a team that beat Mississippi State, until you realize they have a remaining game against LSU. Interesting to see Rick Bay is now in charge of South Alabama’s scheduling (old guys: I wrote this joke for you ❤ ).
3. Wyoming (2-2, must go 5-2 against non-SDSU opponents the rest of the way)
Likelihood: A very meh team with a meh schedule remaining. If they beat CSU this weekend the Cowboys have a shot.
2. Colorado State (2-2, must go 5-2 against non-SDSU opponents the rest of the way)
Likelihood: A very meh team with a meh schedule remaining. If they beat Wyoming this weekend the Rams have a shot.
1. Nevada (2-2, must go 5-2 against non-SDSU opponents the rest of the way)
Likelihood: Fresh off their moral victory against Purdue, the Wolf Pack have a slate of MWC West cupcakes and they conveniently (like us) give Boise a miss. I think they can do it. Let’s just hope they don’t upset the Aztecs in Reno, or Nevada might be the team playing on the Xtreme Neon Glacier Freeze blue turf in December.
I think Nevada and Colorado State will be the 7-5 teams of our dreams. This weekend will illuminate a lot in terms of who we need to root for moving forward. Colorado State plays Wyoming and Nevada plays Hawai’i. Root for the winners of those games moving forward. Root for us to beat South Alabama, but not injure any of their players. Root for Cal to score 90 points and somehow beat multiple teams that are better than them.
Mostly though, root for our deliverance from the MWC, sadly the unlikeliest scenario of all.