TCU-SDSU: Can the Aztecs Burn Up the Horned Frogs and Stop TCU?
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The Aztecs ruled over a huge empire in Mexico largely through fear and conquest. They demanded thousands of victims for their human sacrifices from the various conquered groups. The Aztecs would rip out their victims hearts in ritual sacrifices.
In the end, a small group of greedy Spaniards conquered one of the biggest empires in the world, assisted by some of these same conquered peoples.
For many years, the San Diego State Aztecs appeared more to be sacrificial victims than cruel conquerors.
Since the Aztecs joined the WAC in 1978 and continued with their mountain state partners to form the Mountain West Conference, the Aztecs have one conference championship in 1986. Even in the Marshall Faulk years they only saw one bowl game.
San Diego State has always had great talent and the NFL is full of its former players. What San Diego State has lacked has been great coaches to make use of the talent and bring on the field success.
The Aztecs have been scheduling incredibly difficult out-of-conference games for years, usually leaving the players bruised and injured for conference play. In the BCS era, San Diego State has played Wisconsin, USC, Arizona, South Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Arizona State, Oregon State, Ohio State, Fresno State, Stanford, Michigan, UCLA, Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Missouri.
But even though SDSU downgraded the OOC schedule, the Aztecs had fallen so low that they even lost to an FCS school in 2006 and 2008.
Players would essentially give up and roll over for teams late in the season when all seemed lost and when the Aztecs became just another sacrificial victim to pad a schedule.
Enter Brady Hoke
After yet another disastrous season in 2008, the Aztecs fired yet another coach (who is still drawing a huge paycheck) and hired the flavor of the month, Brady Hoke, who had two winning seasons in seven years at MAC also-ran Ball State.
Hoke had got Ball State off to a 12-0 start and many questioned why he would jump from what appeared to be a building program to a perennial doormat in another second-tier conference.
Hoke knew better than those questioning him. He knew that the talent was there to be had at SDSU, speed and ability that could be molded into a powerhouse.
Hoke also was able to bring in two veteran and capable coordinators, former UCLA and Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges and former New Mexico coach Rocky Long, the guru of the unorthodox 3-3-5.
Looking at the stats, the turnaround on both sides of the ball has been remarkable.
In 2008, SDSU ranked No. 117 in rushing offense, No. 99 in total offense, No. 104 in scoring offense, No. 118 in rushing defense and No. 113 in total defense and scoring defense on the way to a 2-10 record. The season had only one bright spot—a season ending win over UNLV to deny the Rebels a bowl game.
SDSU had a couple of playmakers in DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown at wide receiver and a quarterback named Ryan Lindley who was red-shirted.
In Hoke's first season, the statistical improvement was good. The combination of Lindley, Sampson and Brown brought the Aztecs into the top 30 in passing offense in the nation, although the running game still left much to be desired.
On defense, the Aztecs used Long's 3-3-5 to improve 80 yards per game in total defense and cut seven points off per game from opposing teams.
While the Aztecs only won four games, two close losses by four points or less stood between SDSU and a bowl game.
This season, the Hoke Experience has made the Aztecs into contenders. SDSU is just six points from being undefeated, and both losses had considerable controversy regarding the opponents' victories.
Wayward red-shit freshman RB Ronnie Hillman has rushed for 1044 yards, helping the Aztecs to a top 30 ranking in total offense and scoring offense. Sampson and Brown are both in the top 25 for receiving. The Aztecs are ninth in the country for fewest sacks allowed.
Long's defense is even better. The defense is No. 7 in pass efficiency defense, No. 33 in total defense, No. 28 in scoring defense and No. 5 for tackles for a loss.
SDSU should finish no worse than 8-4 this year and are a likely candidate to face Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl.
But Hoke is not satisfied with just an 8-4 record. He is building a program and wants to upset the Frogs this weekend.
Hoke, whose name has come up in connection to the Minnesota and Colorado job openings, is building a winner and knows that a win over TCU would transform the program into a national contender, far earlier than even the best projections.
Ultimately, it is unfortunate for the Aztecs to be running into the buzz saw of TCU, which will be playing in the final home game before a $105 million stadium remodel.
The Frogs are looking to set records for defense this season and are not going to let SDSU get in its way. Moreover, the Frog offense will pound away at the Aztec defense and leave them without hope.
The Frogs will once again pound the Aztecs, a team which has never beaten TCU and will get their first victory over them this season.
TCU wins this one 52-7
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