At 4-0 and ranked No. 21 nationally, San DiegoState owns the second-highest rank among teams outside the Power Five. TheAztecs will put that unblemished record and poll position on the line Saturdaynight when they host Northern Illinois, which will be looking for its secondmarquee road win after knocking off Nebraska 21-17 two weeks ago in Lincoln.
San Diego State has won 25 of its last 28 gamesoverall, including back-to-back wins over the Pac-12’s Arizona State (30-20)and then-No. 19 Stanford (20-17) earlier this month. And after opening MountainWest play last Saturday with a 28-24 victory at Air Force, the Aztecs are nowset for their first home game as a nationally ranked team since 1995. “(Beingranked in the) top 25 is recognition, but at the same time, it’s a target,” SanDiego State safety Parker Baldwin said Tuesday. “It’s like a warrant for your arrest – everybody is coming for you –and Northern Illinois is definitely going to want to knock us off, especiallyafter they knocked off Nebraska two weeks ago.” In between, the Mid-American Conferenceteam had a bye week so the Huskies are sure to be rested and ready for theirnon-conference finale Saturday.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, CBS SportsNet. LINE: San Diego State-11
ABOUT NORTHERN ILLINOIS (2-1): The Huskies openedthe season with a narrow 23-20 loss at Boston College but have since followedwith a home blowout of FCS foe Eastern Illinois (38-10) and the 21-17 win atNebraska, in which Northern Illinois returned a pair of interceptions fortouchdowns in the opening quarter and then scored the winning TD in the fourthafter the Cornhuskers had taken a 17-14 lead. Including a win over Kent Statelast season, sophomore Daniel Santacaterina is 3-0 as the starting quarterback andhas completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 380 yards, three scores and aninterception since taking over for injured starter Ryan Graham during the lossto Boston College. Defensively, the Huskies have allowed only 50 points, haveintercepted six passes and feature the FBS leader in tackles for loss indefensive end Sutton Smith, who has 9.5, including three sacks.
ABOUT SAN DIEGO STATE (4-0): Senior running backRashaad Penny notched his fourth straight 100-yard rushing game with 128 yardsand a career high-matching three TDs against Air Force and ranks secondnationally in rushing yards per game (179.0), all-purpose yards (230.0) andtotal TDs (nine). Penny’s presence has opened passing windows for quarterbackChristian Chapman, who has completed 66.7 percent of his attempts for 660yards, five scores and one interception. Baldwin (28) and fellow safetyTrey Lomax (25) are the leading tacklers for a defense, which ranks in the top35 nationally in points (19.5), passing (167.3) and total yards (291) allowedwhile standing 15th with a plus-1.25 average turnover margin.
1. San Diego State has won all five games in theseries, including a 42-28 road victory last season in which Donnel Pumphreyran for 220 yards and three TDs.
2. The Aztecs are 4-0 for the first time since1981 and only the second time in the program’s last 42 seasons.
3. San Diego has won 34 straight games whenrushing for 200 or more yards and will be up against a Huskies defense ranked 24thin the FBS at 97.7 yards per game.
PREDICTION: San Diego State 26, Northern Illinois17