San Diego State (8-3) at Wyoming (4-7) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: War Memorial Stadium (29,181) -- Laramie, Wyoming. Television: ROOT Sports. Home Record: SDSU 6-1, Wyoming 1-4. Away Record: SDSU 2-2, Wyoming 3-3. Neutral Record: SDSU 0-0, Wyoming 0-0. Conference Record: SDSU 6-1, Wyoming 3-4. Series Record: Wyoming leads, 18-15.
GAME NOTES: Holding on to hope that they can somehow come away with the Mountain West Conference title, the San Diego State Aztecs prepare to close out the 2012 regular season on Saturday versus the Wyoming Cowboys at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.
San Diego State, which rested last week after defeating Air Force on Nov. 10 by a score of 28-9, is currently tied with both Boise State and Fresno State at the top of the MWC standings with a record of 6-1. The squad has strung together six straight wins, the longest streak since 1995 and a win in this outing would not only give the program its longest win streak since 1980-81, it would also ensure the Aztecs of at least a share of the conference crown.
As for the Cowboys, while they may have believe they had a chance to keep up with the elite schools in the league, the fact remains that Wyoming is just 3-4 in conference and that has the team sitting all alone in sixth place. Granted, the team has come on strong lately with three straight victories, thanks to a 28-23 triumph over UNLV on the road last weekend, but prior to that the Pokes had won just one of their eight contests.
The Cowboys lead the all-time series, 18-15, thanks in part to a surprising 30-27 win in last year's meeting at Qualcomm Stadium.
Aside from their current win streak and their ability to keep up with the best teams in the league, the most astounding part of the Aztecs at the moment is that they are getting the job done with backup quarterback Adam Dingwell who was thrown into the fire when Ryan Katz went out with a season-ending ankle injury.
Dingwell has been more conservative of late throwing for only 105 yards against mighty Boise State and a mere 90 versus Air Force in their 28-9 win over the Falcons on Nov. 10. The young signal-caller has thrown a modest six touchdowns and just three interceptions, his job now more of a game manager rather than an attacking quarterback.
With Dingwell coordinating the SDSU attack, those who will work their way into the spotlight will likely be running backs Adam Muema and Walter Kazee. Muema is averaging close to six yards per carry and has scored 12 times while running for 1,100 yards. Toss in Kazee with his 787 yards and eight TDs and it is easy to see why the Aztecs are one of the better running teams in the country.
There have been times when the SDSU defense has been stretched to the limit, particularly against Fresno State when the team permitted a season-high 52 points, but as of late the Aztecs seem to have gotten a hold of that aspect of their game. In fact, in the last three outings the team has permitted a combined 41 points which is just three more than it allowed to Nevada on Nov. 20.
Since sitting out the game against Air Force in the middle of October, Brett Smith has been slowly rebuilding his resume as the Wyoming quarterback, gradually increasing his passing total each week and culminating with his career-high 412 yards in the win over UNLV on the road last weekend. Smith, who tossed three touchdowns and now has 11 in his last three outings, without a single interception during that span, was named the MWC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
Smith currently owns a 160.33 pass efficiency rating which is tops in the conference and ninth in the nation, thanks to having tossed 25 TDs and just six INTs, four of which came in the first two games of the season against Texas and Toledo. But more than just throwing the ball, Smith can also be a threat with his feet, having scored four times running the ball.
Unfortunately, as good as Smith can be, it is the defense that has so often led the Cowboys down by allowing 461.7 ypg and 36.1 ppg, the latter being the eighth in the conference and 95th nationally.
With so much on the line in this game, the Aztecs cannot afford to get caught up in the rumors circulating that their expected move to the Big East Conference might be on hold, but even the players can be distracted by such whispers. As long as head coach Rocky Long can keep his troops focused, expect a win to be in the works.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: San Diego State 38, Wyoming 27Game Date and Time
Saturday, Nov. 24, 3:30 pm (et).