FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Some football situations are based on numerous contingencies. Others, such as what San Diego State faces today against Colorado State, are cut and dried.
It wouldn't be the end of the world if the Aztecs lost today, but it would end their hopes for a Western Athletic Conference title.
"There are no secrets," said Tim McConnell, SDSU defensive coordinator. "We have to win the rest of our games to be in the hunt. You can't hide that. We haven't been in a must-win situation yet. It'll be interesting to see how we react."
Last week, the Aztecs lost their first game against a conference contender as the Air Force Academy won, 22-10.
All week, Coach Denny Stolz has told his players that they are still in first place, which is true only in the loss column. Air Force (5-1) leads the WAC. SDSU, Colorado State and Brigham Young are tied for second at 3-1.
Colorado State also lost to Air Force, which is the best team to lose against this season. Since Air Force plays one fewer game than the other contenders, SDSU or Colorado State could win the conference title by winning the remainder of its games.
After this week, the Aztecs play at home against middle-of-the-road Wyoming and Hawaii teams and perennial power Brigham Young. Colorado State, which has already beaten BYU, concludes against the WAC's three weakest teams--Utah, New Mexico and Texas El Paso.
"No other team is in as good of a situation as we are," Colorado State Coach Leon Fuller said. "San Diego State and Air Force haven't played BYU yet."
SDSU has played well on the road, winning three of four games. It beat the WAC's three weakest teams and lost to Stanford, 17-10.
Colorado State has won three straight games, is 3-0 at home and won road games against Colorado and BYU. Colorado won at home against Nebraska last week.
Before this season, SDSU was 2-13-1 on the road in three previous seasons.
"After our first win at Utah, we knew we could win on the road," defensive tackle Duane Pettitt said. "A lot of it has to do with our confidence level now. I look forward to playing on the road. I like to shut up the other team's crowd."
The Aztecs have been quiet offensively the past three weeks, scoring 35 points. They have been penalized 25 times in the past two games, and frequently have been unable to score from inside the opposition's 40.
Quarterback Todd Santos has been ineffective the past two weeks playing with a broken right wrist. Santos thinks he may throw the long ball better today because his wrist won't be taped as heavily as the past two weeks.
However, weather conditions could prevent either team from throwing long. There is a possibility of snow flurries today and the temperature is expected to be about 35 degrees. SDSU might be forced to revert to its controlled passing game.
Colorado State may not be the best team to expect an offensive resurgence against. The Rams are allowing 17.7 points a game, less than any other WAC team. Cornerback Jim King, a graduate of Patrick Henry High School in San Diego, leads the nation with seven interceptions in seven games.
"We'll have to play an outstanding defensive game to beat San Diego State," Fuller said. "I think they have a very explosive team. Above and beyond that, our offense needs to control the ball and keep it away from them."
Air Force beat SDSU by controlling the ball for 34:05. The Falcons threw three passes, an all-time low against SDSU.
Though the Aztec offense has slipped, the defense has improved since allowing 34 points against New Mexico. SDSU has allowed 49 points in its last three games.
"They are real aggressive as far as going to the ball and hitting people," said Steve Bartalo, Colorado State's fullback. "They won't sit back and wait for you to do things. On defense, they're actually more offensive."
The Aztec defense must key on Bartalo, the WAC's all-time leading rusher and this year's national scoring leader. Bartalo has rushed for 777 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. He also is tied for the team lead with 23 receptions.
Colorado State uses a single-back offense and frequently passes. Quarterback Kelly Stouffer has completed 118 of 207 passes for 1,360 yards and 2 touchdowns. He has thrown nine interceptions.
"Because of their one-back offense, they may throw even more than we do," Stolz said. "The difference is that you know who they'll get the ball to. And you know they will try to keep the ball away from us."