San Diego State and its vaunted defense joined the national rankings this week but all it cares about is a Mountain West Conference title as it hosts Nevada on Saturday. The No. 24 Aztecs, who have a commanding lead in the MWC West Division, won at UNLV 20-17 their last time out for their fourth straight victory but were left out of the initial College Football Playoff rankings that were released Tuesday.
While the MWC title is the focus, finishing as the top-ranked Group of Five conference team and the New Year's Day bowl game that comes with that distinction would be nice. "If you don't take care of business today and tomorrow and the following days and weeks, then it's all for nothing,'' San Diego State senior defensive lineman Myles Cheatum told reporters. "That would just be an empty conversation to even think about it." The Aztecs are eighth nationally in points allowed at 14.1 per game and third in rushing defense at 69.9 yards. The Wolf Pack snapped a two-game slide with a 21-10 victory over New Mexico last week behind freshman quarterback Carson Strong's two touchdown passes.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2. LINE: San Diego State -17.5
ABOUT NEVADA (5-4, 2-3 MWC): Strong threw for a season-high 305 yards last week and is completing 62.6 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and six interceptions. Sophomore wide receiver Romeo Doubs (35 catches, team-most 574 yards) recorded career highs of 11 receptions and 167 yards last week while scoring his second TD. Sophomore defensive end Dom Peterson is tied for second in the MWC with a club-high six sacks while sophomore defensive back Tyson Williams paces the team with 54 tackles and five passes broken up.
ABOUT SAN DIEGO STATE (7-1, 4-1): Senior cornerback Luq Barcoo - a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award given to the nation's top defensive back - leads the MWC and is tied for second nationally with five interceptions. Senior quarterback Ryan Agnew (10 touchdowns, three INTs) is 13-2 as a starter after overcoming a pick - the team's first turnover since Sept. 21 - and a pair of sacks last week. Sophomore Kobe Smith paces the receiving corps with 41 catches, 514 yards and four TDs while senior running back Juwan Washington (432 yards, two TDs) is the top ground threat.
1. The Wolf Pack snapped a three-game series slide with a 28-24 victory in 2018.
2. The Aztecs have committed one turnover or fewer in each game this season.
3. Group of Five teams that appear in the CFP rankings are No. 20 Cincinnati, No. 21 Memphis, No. 24 Navy and No. 25 SMU of the American Athletic Conference, and No. 22 Boise State, which leads the MWC Mountain Division.
Key Players to Watch
San Diego, California, USA.