The player who has garnered all three of theMountain West Conference’s Offensive Player of the Week awards this season isthe same player who leads the nation in rushing at 196 yards per game. And that’swhy San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny has the undivided attention of host AirForce this week with the 25th-ranked Aztecs set to visit Saturdaynight.
”(Penny) has speed. He’s 220 pounds. He’s got vision. He’sdecisive in the hole,” Air Force defensive coordinator Steve Russ told the ColoradoSprings Gazette earlier this week. “... Not taking anything away from anybody,but I think Rashaad Penny is probably the best back in the country. … And thatoffense knows exactly how to use him.” San Diego State certainly didlast Saturday night as Penny had 206 all-purpose yards and a touchdown in theAztecs’ 20-17 win over then-No. 19 Stanford, but coach Rocky Long says his teammust refocus quickly with the Mountain West opener at hand Saturday. “I’mworried about Air Force,” Long said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “Idon’t have a feel or an opinion on how big of a victory that was for our fansor the media or anyone else. I’ve moved on, and I have more important things todo than worry about (how the win was perceived nationally).”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network. LINE: SanDiego State -3.5
ABOUT SAN DIEGO STATE (3-0, 0-0 Mountain West): Thewin over the Cardinal was the 24th in the last 27 games overall forthe Aztecs, who are seeking their third straight Mountain West title. Pennyalso is tops nationally with 774 total all-purpose yards and is tied for secondin the FBS with six TDs while quarterback Christian Chapman has completed 67.6percent of his passes for 480 yards, four scores and one interception.Cornerback Ron Smith has a team-leading 17 total tackles and two interceptionsfor a defense which ranks 18th nationally in allowing 91.7 rushingyards per outing.
ABOUT AIR FORCE (1-1, 0-0): The Falcons areplaying their second nationally-ranked foe in as many weeks after falling 29-13at No. 7 Michigan last Saturday. As usual, the Air Force triple-option ranksamong the nation’s top rushing attacks at 320.5 yards behind tailback Tim McVey(80.0 yards) and quarterback Arion Worthman (167.0 total yards). Defensively, linebackerJack Flor (19 total tackles) and safety Marquis Griffin (16) lead a unit whichhas allowed only one offensive TD so far – a 36-yard run by Michigan with 1:02remaining last week.
1. Air Force leads the series 19-15, but SanDiego State has won six straight, including a 27-24 victory in their lastmeeting which came in the 2015 Mountain West Championship Game in San Diego.
2. Penny has six career kick-return touchdowns – includinga 99-yard kickoff runback Sept. 9 at Arizona State – which is one shy of theFBS record.
3. Under coach Troy Calhoun, the Falcons are 5-15against ranked foes with their last win coming a year ago against No. 20 BoiseState (27-20) at Falcon Stadium.
PREDICTION: San Diego State 26, Air Force 20