SDSU’s football schedule is a lesson in literature

Credit: Don De Mars/ EVT Sports

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Ryan Lindley coaches the QBs at SDSU spring practice (Don De Mars/EVT)

A tale of two halves

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” is how Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities opens. It is a fitting description of SDSU’s football schedule, released on Thursday. The Aztecs could be underdogs in five of their first six games and favorites in five of their final six.

They open at home against the University of Ohio, a ten-win team a season ago, on August 26. The Bobcats return a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher, and three receivers who had 45 or more receptions in 2022, including Sam Wiglusz, who paced the team with 73. Ohio lost to Toledo, who SDSU defeated last year, in the MAC Championship Game before defeating Wyoming 30-27 in the Arizona Bowl.

Following a contest at Snapdragon against FCS Idaho State, SDSU welcomes UCLA for what promises to be a sold-out affair. The Bruins will be replacing their QB, but as always, have highly regarded replacements waiting in the wings. UCLA started 8-1 in 2022 before losing three of its final four to end the year.

On September 16, the Aztecs travel to Corvallis, Oregon, to take on Oregon State. The Beavers created a lot of off-season buzz by adding Clemson transfer QB DJ Uiagalelei. The former five-star recruit from St. John Bosco in California threw for 5,681 yards and accounted for 51 touchdowns with the Tigers.

SDSU opens conference play the week following its contest against Oregon State with a Friday Night home game against Boise State. They will be looking to avenge last year’s 35-13 defeat to the Broncos, also on a Friday night. BSU finished 10-4 last year, capping the year with a narrow victory over North Texas in the Frisco Bowl.

SDSU will have revenge on its mind as it closes out the month of September with a trip to Colorado Springs to take on Air Force. The Falcons capped a 10-win season with a 30-15 pummeling of Baylor. They will be replacing their starting QB, Haaziq Daniels, who entered the transfer portal.

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This grueling six-game stretch magnifies the work the team is presently doing. They need to be at their best right away. Unlike the NFL, where teams can sneak into the postseason the second half of the year, if the Aztecs fail to win at least three or four of their first six, San Diego’s attention might turn away from the Red and Black. Conversely, should SDSU win five or six of these contests, they will be ranked in the top 25.

All for one and one for all, united we stand, divided we fall.

Taking a page from Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, the Mountain West is forgoing the divisions that have demarcated it for years. 2023 marks the first year of the MW’s change to selecting who participates in its championship game. The top two teams, regardless of geography, will face off for a chance to win a title on December 2. The most notable difference for the Aztecs is that UNLV is not on their schedule. SDSU had played the Rebels annually since 1999.

Jalen Mayden competes in practice (Don De Mars/EVT)

Ironically, eliminating the division structure facilitated a change in the schedule some have clamored for previously. In years past, the final game on the schedule occurred between rivals from the opposite division, setting up a possibility that the two division champions could play in back-to-back weeks. This potentiality rarely actualized.

SDSU ends its season against CSU rival Fresno State. The annual Battle for the Old Oil Can is scheduled for November 25 in San Diego. It allows the two schools to participate in college football’s Rivalry Week. Across the country, conferences have aligned rivalry games on the final week of the year. The MW previously prioritized other considerations. 2011, FSU’s first year in the conference, was the only other time the two universities met in the final game of the year.

Sandwiched between the first MW games against the Broncos and the last against the Bulldogs, the Aztec play at Air Force, at Hawai’i, Nevada, Utah State, at Colorado State, and at San Jose State. Six months out, this looks to be the most fortuitous portion of SDSU’s slate.

Parting is such sweet sorrow

With less emotion than Shakespeare’s Juliet as she parted ways from Romeo, 2023 will be the final time the Aztecs’ schedule will have its current configuration. Conference realignment promises to once again change the membership of the Mountain West. While it certainly has not always been smooth, the Aztecs’ time in the MW has been very beneficial for the school.

SDSU football and men’s basketball sport the best-combined record in the NCAA, Snapdragon Stadium opened as the start of a multi-billion dollar campus extension, and an invite to the Pac-12 is within reach. Each of these occurred as a member of the Aztecs’ current conference. While it never attained its goal of fighting its way into the upper echelon in the sport, the MW exceeded expectations at every turn and proved innovative in starting its own network and staging its men’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

With SDSU’s exit fee increasing from $15 million to $45 million midway through the summer, it will be known ahead of time if 2023 is in fact, the MW swan song for the university. If it is, the schedule will be a goodbye and a victory-tour for the Aztecs.

The Los Angeles Rams hired Ron Gould away from the Aztecs. (Don De Mars/EVT)

Needing a new Associate Head Coach and Running Back Coach

Late Friday, news broke about Ron Gould leaving the program for a position with the Los Angeles Rams. Officially hired less than a month ago, the impact of his loss will not be significant in the short term. Losing someone halfway through spring camp is less than ideal, but finding another coach to pace running backs through drills will not be impossible.

The potential of what his voice could have meant for the offensive staff down the road is the most unfortunate aspect of his departure.

If and when SDSU moves to the Pac-12, Gould could have provided valuable insight into the game day routines on the road, past tendencies of the school, and how teams adjust as the season plays out. His experience under David Shaw at Stanford could have also proved invaluable as offensive coordinator Ryan Lindley creates an offense similar to what the Cardinal ran. Finally, the Rams clearly thought enough of his ability to develop running backs that they gave him that role in the NFL. SDSU’s RBs would have benefitted from that expertise.

The silver lining of Gould’s choice to leave America’s Finest City is it shows head coach Brady Hoke still has the knack for recognizing and partnering with elite coaches. In addition to leading SDSU to its first bowl game in twelve years, the biggest splash in Hoke’s first tenure was the impressive list of assistants he brought in, most notably Rocky Long. With the turnover on the offensive side of the ball, since his second stint with the program began, some questioned his ability to bring in top offensive coaches.

Hassan Mahasin at SDSU’s practice. (Don De Mars/EVT)

The Rams hiring of Gould provides a definitive answer and should raise the profile of the rest of SDSU’s assistants. The best in the business want to work for Hoke. While bringing in the best people does not guarantee success, whomever he brings in to replace Gould will undoubtedly be of high quality.


– Gould’s replacement will not be the only coach added. Tahj Capehart was rehired as a recruiting analyst. Capehardt spent 2022 as a graduate assistant at UNLV. His hire is not official, but he was on the sidelines watching practice this past week with numerous “welcome back” statements offered to him.

– The details of the annual Spring Game were announced. On March 23 at 6 pm, Snapdragon Stadium’s doors will be open to the fans to get their first look at the 2023 squad. Admission is free, but parking costs $10. An interesting element to the game is it might coincide with men’s basketball playing in the Sweet Sixteen at the same time if the team makes it that far in either the West or East regionals. With the televisions and concession options available, it could provide an amazing and memorable viewing experience for Aztec Nation.

– Next week should reveal the impact individual players are having in spring camp to this point. On the first day of practice, Hoke pointed to the end of the second week as an important evaluation time for the staff. This weekend, they are re-ranking all of the players in the program. Which team athletes are competing with should have more importance in the final few weeks before the Spring Game.

– Friday was a huge recruiting day for the program. Social media was littered with posts about prospects from the 2024 through 2027 classes coming for a visit.

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