WASHINGTON STATE AT SAN DIEGO STATE
Time: 3:30 p.m. (PST) Saturday, Qualcomm Stadium. TV: The Mtn.
Records: WSU (2-0, 0-0 in Pac-12); SDSU (2-0, 0-0 in Mountain West)
Last week: WSU defeated UNLV, 59-7.
San Diego State defeated Army, 23-20.
Last time: WSU defeated San Diego State in Seattle, 45-17, in 2007
The line: San Diego State by 6.5.
What it means for WSU: Respect. Though the Cougars are undefeated after the first two games for the first time since 2005, every bit of praise has come with a caveat. Though they lead the nation in scoring and are in the top quarter in most major offensive and defense statistics, the quality of their opponents – Idaho State and UNLV – seem to be mentioned prominently in every conversation. So the Aztecs, coming off a 9-4 bowl season, represent to some the Cougars’ first test. Win Saturday in Qualcomm and there should be no more caveats.
What it means for San Diego State: Maybe a bit of the same. The Aztecs haven’t played the toughest schedule either, with Cal Poly, an 0-2 FCS school, and Army, also 0-2, as opponents thus far. Under first-year head coach Rocky Long, who made his reputation as a defensive coordinator, SDSU’s offense has yet to click in the passing game, despite the return of senior quarterback Ryan Lindley, seventh in the nation in passing yardage last season. Sophomore running back Ronnie Hillman has taken up the slack, as he’s second in the nation in rushing, averaging 153 yards per game.
Key matchup: Hillman vs. WSU middle linebacker C.J. Mizell.
Mizell is the type of middle backer who can run from sideline to sideline, but chasing down Hillman is a tougher task than he’s faced this season. Some have compared the La Habra (Calif.) High product to Aztecs great – and NFL star – Marshall Faulk, though at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, he’s a bit slighter. Mizell led the Cougars in tackles against UNLV despite playing just a bit over half the game. He’ll have to be sure of his assignments and wrap up this week or Hillman will make WSU pay.