When previewing the college football season for the two schools that serve as settings for A COACH AT HEART, it was apparent that October stretches would be key for each team’s success. And so far, this has been a very good month for Stanford and San Diego State.
The Cardinal obliterated opponents in the first two of three straight home games that appeared in advance to be critical — routing Arizona 55-12 and drubbing UCLA 56-35. In so doing, their offensive line became an overwhelming force — especially with most defenses created to stop the spread offense — quarterback Kevin Hogan turned into the star that coaches saw when they made him the starter three years ago, and sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey emphatically barged into the Heisman Trophy conversation after gaining more than 200 all-purpose — rushing, receiving, kick returns — yards in four straight games.
And only now do we get to the catch. If you haven’t seen this by now, take a look at what might be one of the greatest college football touchdown receptions of all time.
The stretch has left Stanford 5-1 overall, and 4-0 in the rugged Pac-12, good enough for a one-game lead over Cal and Washington State in the North Division. The upcoming schedule includes each of those opponents, plus the annual showdown with weaker-than-usual Oregon and the finale against Notre Dame — which might have playoff implications if the two schools keep winning. The Cardinal don’t play Utah this year, though such a matchup is foreseeable in the Pac-12 championship contest.
Down south, San Diego State is pulling itself together following the predicted rough start. The season preview post suggested the Aztecs would enter this weekend at 3-3, and then run the table.
As it turned out, September was worse than expected when unsurprising losses at Cal and Penn State sandwiched a shocking home setback against South Alabama. That left the Aztecs at 1-3 and fans calling for head coach Rocky Long’s scalp.
But October has indeed been friendly. With quarterback Maxwell Smith and the offensive line improving, the Aztecs have run for more than 200 yards twice and 300 once, and the defense held Fresno State to 89 total yards and held San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin, who entered Saturday night’s match second in the nation in total offense, to 45 all-purpose yards.
After a three-game winning streak, the Aztecs are now 4-3 overall and have a 3-0 Mountain West record. Their West Division competitors are saddled with two conference losses each. So while they might stumble again along the way, they have some breathing room.
Two more tough games stand in the way: at home Friday night against Utah State, which upset Boise State this weekend and leads the conference’s Mountain Division, and at Colorado State on Halloween. Win one of the two, and their remaining schedule should leave them safe for their first appearance in the MW title game.