No. 19-ranked San Diego State reached the midway point of its schedule firmly in contention for the Group of Five conferences' automatic berth into one of the New Year's Six bowl games.
The Aztecs (6-0, 2-0 Mountain West Conference) cruised to a 41-10 rout of UNLV on Saturday, getting closer to matching the best-ever start in program history 8-0 in 1975 and keeping on pace to earn an invitation to one of college football's most prestigious postseason contests.
Such an accomplishment would mark a historic milestone for the program. Not so for San Diego State's opponent on Saturday, Boise State.
The Broncos (3-2, 1-0) won the first of their three Fiesta Bowl appearances at the culmination of the 2006 season. Boise State landed the first Group of Five bid into the New Year's Six in 2014, the first season of the College Football Playoff, after winning the Mountain West Conference championship.
San Diego State claimed the next two conference titles, and aims for a third straight this season. But 2017 marks the first campaign in which the Aztecs have been in the hunt for the New Year's Six at this juncture.
The 31-point win in San Diego State's return to conference competition was a departure from the previous two weeks, when matchups with Air Force and Northern Illinois went to the final possession. Nevertheless, Aztecs head coach Rocky Long said his team got all it could handle from UNLV.
"For the longest time, for three quarters, and in the fourth quarter we were able to pull away, so it doesn't look like it was a very competitive game, but let me tell you, it was a very competitive game," he said.
Boise State's Oct. 6 win at Brigham Young followed a different script. The Broncos scored 17 second-quarter points, which effectively made the difference in a 24-7 win.
"We have 24 hours to enjoy it, and then we'll go back to work on Sunday," Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin said in his post-game press conference following the BYU win. "That will be the first practice towards San Diego State and finding a way to beat them."
The late-night contest at San Diego State's SDCCU Stadium, kicking off at 10:30 p.m. ET, should be a defensive struggle. Aside from the 44 points it scored in a triple-overtime loss at Washington State on Sept. 9, Boise State has scored fewer than 30 points in its other four games. However, the seven points to which the Broncos held BYU marked the third time this season a Boise State opponent scored 14 or fewer.
Similarly, San Diego State's 10-point yield at UNLV marked the fifth time in six outings the Aztecs held an opponent to 24 points or fewer.