1. The Aztecs are all the buzz as a playoff sleeper. What are the ways San Diego State can work their way into a New Year's Six Bowl game?
In my opinion if SDSU succeeds in going undefeated, which will be very difficult, there is a chance. Undefeated alone might not be good enough to be selected for NY6. Houston is a media darling, and in the spirit of many sports commentators who do not give equal attention to non-power 5 west coast teams, SDSU must over-prove to be undeniably worthy. So, Houston must stumble while SDSU plays perfectly. There's a good chance Houston won't stumble. If not, SDSU will probably have to settle again, as we did last year in the Hawaii bowl, where we were under-matched by Cincinnati whom we proceeded to blow out 42-7. If so, then we will have our shot.
2. What are the biggest weaknesses of San Diego State that could keep them from winning the conference?
The biggest weakness could be overconfidence. We took the game against University of New Hampshire very seriously. We playing this season one game at a time, and nothing ahead matters until the next match is complete. Many commentators predict a Boise State v. San Diego State MW championship. While the final match is a distinct possibility, a lot can happen throughout the season. Some teams have greater depth than others, and some teams rely on a key tactic to win. Boise State is another media darling, and despite the fact that last year they failed to even make the MW Championship after they were defeated by a formidable Air Force team, sportscasters still give Boise State best odds to win the MW Championship even though this year is a reconstruction year for them. This year they have sound offense with a solid passing game, but their defense is a work in progress. Nonetheless, SDSU could potentially achieve a lot of success and be overconfident going into a championship, and stumble. No team can ever be underestimated. In football, nothing can be taken for granted, as preparation is a massive factor in winning and losing.
3. What makes Rocky Long such a good coach for San Diego State?
Rocky Long has had his ups and downs, but he has great chemistry for San Diego State. He relates to players remarkably well. He has put together a very formidable coaching staff, and his ability to recruit talent (both identifiable and overlooked talent) is keen. Hence, he has laid a very sound foundation for SDSU, and the program has built on top of that. San Diego State plays a power game.
4. What made SDSU's defense so dominant last year, and how much of that will carry over to this year?
SDSU has made defense a core focus in all of its sports. Our basketball program has been built around elite defense. No matter how good offense is, without formidable defense it's hard to win. A good defense can win games, even if offense is in reconstruction. I have a lot of confidence in SDSU's defense this year. We have a lot of players this year who will make their mark in the NFL down the road.
5. Which 1-2 young players would you expect to make an outsized impact this game, and this season?
Taylor Dodds and Kaelin Himphill will undoubtedly do really big things in 2016. These two guys are the key to the future, and if I were playing San Diego State I'd stick to these guys like glue. Dodds is known as "the Destroyer" and Himphill is called "Legs."
6. Is Cal SDSU's biggest threat to an unbeaten season? If not, who is?
With all due respect, I believe Boise State will be our biggest threat. We have to defeat them to be recognized as the #1 Mountain West football program, and they're not going to give it away. Boise State owns the present, because of what they have done in the past. We hope to achieve now, so that we can own the future. San Diego State is dominant in many sports. We presently have the number one football and basketball program in the MW, and we lead in quite a few other sports. Our soccer team currently plays Pac-12. In addition to dominating all sports in the Mountain West, we have aspirations to join a P5 conference.
7. San Diego is not a state. Please explain.
While California IS a state, it has a population of nearly 40 million people- more than Poland. If it were its own country, California would have the seventh largest GDP in the world. San Diego county is close to the same size and population as Connecticut. It is bigger than Rhode Island and Delaware (combined), and it is bigger than the islands of Hawai'i, and Puerto Rico. While San Diego is not a state, it certainly could be. It is a U.S. top 30 TV marketplace, and the city is the eighth largest in the U.S. San Diego culture is different than that of Los Angeles and other parts of California. So, you never know, right? And although San Diego is not a state, we are the Aztec Nation, and we're 350,000 strong nationwide- and growing!
8. Who do you want to punch in the face?
The short answer is "nobody." If you need a victim, then here it goes. Every twenty years, some agitated SDSU grad student declares full-bore that Monty, the Aztec is an offensive depiction and launches a full-scale attack on our beloved mascot. While I don't want to punch anybody in the face, I would love to have a spirited debate over coffee with one of these politically charged "activists," seeking further explanation. San Diego State has undergone remarkable measures to make Monty's apparel/costume true to form, and properly representative of the Aztec culture- so as not to offend. Monty's depicted to be a very handsome, muscular warrior in traditional garb. Given that, the last Aztec walked the earth some 450 years ago, a person has just as much right to take personal offense to an Aztec as I have the right to take offense to the depiction of a Trojan warrior or a Japanese Samurai. So . . . POW.