SAN DIEGO — No one is claiming that a Holiday Bowl berth is on the line when San Diego State's football team plays Colorado State today at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
But the Aztecs are pinning their bowl hopes on the Western Athletic Conference season, which they open against the Rams. And while the Aztecs may be able to afford their 34-16 nonconference loss to 12th-ranked UCLA last week, they don't believe they can afford a loss to Colorado State, which is coming off a 17-3 defeat to eighth-ranked Louisiana State.
Running back Casey Brown, an Aztec offensive captain, has been talking of a Holiday Bowl berth since preseason.
"Our No. 1 goal is the Holiday Bowl," he said. "I think a 10-2 or 9-3 record could probably get us there. We could probably only lose one game in conference."
Realistically, Coach Doug Scovil sees his team in a three-way scramble for third in the WAC with Utah and Hawaii. Brigham Young and Air Force again appear to be the conference's dominant teams.
Would third place in the WAC be good enough for a Holiday Bowl bid?
"If we have a winning season, there's a good chance we could go," Scovil said. "We have a tough schedule. If you play good people and do well, you should be considered."
BYU has represented the WAC in the initial seven Holiday Bowls, but the bowl is not obligated to take the WAC champion in 1985. BYU, a Mormon school, will not play in the game this year because it is scheduled for a Sunday.
"Our board would love nothing better than to see San Diego State have a great record and come into the bowl," said John Reid, executive director of the Holiday Bowl. "One nice thing a WAC team does is guarantee ticket sales. If San Diego State was in, our ticket problems would be over."
If Air Force does well in the WAC, it would be given consideration. However, Reid said the Falcons might opt to play in a bowl game that offered more money.
"If San Diego State was available with the same record as other teams, we'd have to consider other tangibles--name, tradition and ticket sales, which would help San Diego State," Reid said. "We'd hate to get in a position where San Diego State had a marginal record and there was pressure on us because we are the local bowl. Then, we'd have to make some difficult decisions."
If the Aztecs hope to be a factor in the WAC, they will have to get by Colorado State. The Rams, who won their first WAC game against lowly Texas El Paso, figure to finish in the conference's bottom third.
Last season, SDSU's Todd Santos completed 26 of 33 passes for 418 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 41-24 win over Colorado State. However, the Rams have switched from man-to-man coverage to a zone defense in 1985.
"We gave up a lot of easy touchdowns throughout last year, not just against San Diego State," Ram Coach Leon Fuller said. "We're trying to force people to drive the ball on us this year. We haven't faced anybody who throws as well as San Diego State yet."
Last week, Colorado State's defense played well in the Rams' loss to LSU. However, the offense was unable to score on four drives inside the LSU 10.
Against San Diego State, the key for Colorado State will be to stop Santos.
"Last year, their secondary went to a lot of man coverage, which left deep patterns wide open," Santos said. "They've changed to zone coverage, but I think this year's game could be just as wide open. You don't really know until you get out there."