San Diego, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Attempting to move to 7-0 for the first time in more than two decades, the 15th-ranked Fresno State Bulldogs take the field at Qualcomm Stadium against fellow Mountain West Conference member San Diego State on Saturday night.
Fresno State hasn't been this high in the Associated Press poll since the team checked in at the eighth position back in 2001, but head coach Tim DeRuyter not only has his team at the top of the West Division of the MWC standings, he also has the Bulldogs ranked No. 17 in the initial BCS standings that came out last Sunday, the highest ranking of any team from a non-automatic qualifying conference.
The Bulldogs, who had a meeting with Colorado postponed back in September due to weather issues, returned home last weekend and crushed an upstart UNLV program, 38-14.
"I was really pleased with our effort this past weekend over a much-improved UNLV team," coach DeRuyter said in his weekly news conference. "I liked how our guys started, how we finished ... it was a good, hard-fought win."
As for the Aztecs, they came out of the gate in late August somewhat sluggish, losing three straight games to kick off the campaign. However, head coach Rocky Long has gotten his group back on track and now they are an even 3-3. San Diego State has been out of action since Oct. 10 when it slipped by Air Force on the road in a 27-20 final, but the long layoff shouldn't be an issue according to coach Long.
"I think 16 days is a little longer than you would normally have on a bye week, so there might be a concern about a little rust going into the game. But I think if our momentum is stopped in any way, it will be because Fresno State's really, really good."
San Diego State actually controls the series versus the Bulldogs by a 27-21-4 margin, although the team did bow to Fresno State last season, 52-40, on the road.
Of the 12 teams that now make up the Mountain West, only FSU and SDSU are undefeated in conference play, sporting records of 3-0 and 2-0, respectively, heading into this week's showdown.
Derek Carr continued his assault on the Fresno State record books last weekend as he extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one passing touchdown to 26, the longest active run in the nation. More than that, Carr also set the school record for most touchdown passes in a career with 86 as he completed 33-of-48 passes for 412 yards and four TDs, all of the scores going to Davante Adams who caught eight balls for 221 yards.
Carr, the owner of 15 school records and 17 MWC marks, is now the third player in FSU history to throw for at least 10,000 yards even though he hasn't played a full 60 minutes in every start. The signal caller is second in the nation in passing yards per game (379.8) and is among the best with 23 aerial scores as he continues to raise his visibility for postseason recognition.
"He was an NFL-type player last year," coach Long says of Carr. "He's even more prepared for the NFL now. I was hoping he would come out (into the NFL Draft) early. He reads defenses really well, he's very calm in the pocket and he's very accurate with the ball. What else can he be? He has a strong arm, throws the deep-ball well and he has three outstanding wide receivers that go get it."
Ranking fourth in the nation in offense (555.2 ypg) and fifth in scoring (45.8 ppg), there's very little the Bulldogs cannot accomplish when they are hitting on all cylinders, although their defense can be a bit sketchy with 278.0 ypg allowed through the air. Then again, much of that yardage can probably be attributed to the fact that opponents have had to play from behind more often than not.
As for the Aztecs, they rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter and won for just the second time in program history and the first since battling back from a 17-point deficit versus the same Falcons back in 1993, but one has to remember that Air Force is a team that at this point in the campaign has yet to defeat another school from the FBS.
With the victory over the Academy, SDSU became the only one of 13 FBS teams to go from a 0-3 start to a 3-3 record through six games, so there is certainly hope for the Aztecs moving forward, although they will need a big effort out of quarterback Quinn Kaehler who is still a bit rough around the edges.
In his five appearances, Kaehler has completed an impressive 64.1 percent of his passes for 246.2 ypg and nine touchdowns, but still there are only three players that have double-digits receptions at this point. Ezell Ruffin gets most of the attention with 30 grabs for 477 yards, but he has just a single TD to his credit.
Nevertheless, Kaehler has a lot of faith in Ezell given his first half of the season.
"I think he's a great player. He runs really good routes and he always goes up and fights for the ball. You can count on him because he'll always fight for the ball for you."
Instead, the SDSU offense gets a bit more of a push from running backs Donnell Pumphrey and Adam Muema, who have combined for close to 800 yards and eight of the unit's 10 rushing touchdowns.
On the defensive side, the Aztecs have shown an inability to slow down opposing passing attacks, giving up 280.2 ypg to rank 109th in the nation. That same group has been victimized over and over again when pushed back into the red zone, allowing foes to score on each and every one of their possessions inside the 20-yard line.