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Aztec Football 2013 Season Outlook: Preview

Aztec head coach Rocky Long wants to win another conference championship and continue to improve as a football program.
Aztec head coach Rocky Long wants to win another conference championship and continue to improve as a football program.

Aug 14, 2013

SAN DIEGO -

The first installment of Mick McGrane's season outlook focuses on the program's recent success and general expectations heading into the season.

Not every facet of administering a facelift to a football program is conducted on the field.

Ultimately, the renovation reaches into the realm of aesthetics, where success is also measured by the house you keep.

So if the summer refurbishing of San Diego State's football offices can be perceived as purely superficial, its relevance cannot.

In a cluster of rooms where losing had once set in like a stubborn stain and breaking even was embraced as a boon, there now resides a champion. In capturing a share of the Mountain West title last season, SDSU laid claim to its first crown since finishing as co-champion of the Western Athletic Conference in 1998. The Aztecs also won nine regular-season games, a feat last accomplished when they posted a mark of 10-1 in 1977.

But there's a trend here. SDSU enters the 2013 campaign having won seven straight regular-season games, its longest such streak in 32 years. The Aztecs are 26-13 since the beginning of the 2010 season. The 26 wins equals the total number of victories SDSU posted in 80 games prior to the 2010 season, a period during which the team went 26-54.

In earning an invitation to last season's San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, the Aztecs played in their third consecutive postseason game for the first time in school history.

But SDSU isn't about to get comfortable resting atop its laurels. As always, there is work to be done, including identifying suitable replacements for the program's latest NFL Draft selections, tight end Gavin Escobar and cornerback Leon McFadden, both of whom were first-team All-Mountain West selections last season.

The Aztecs, who have produced 26 NFL Draft picks since 2000, return 17 starters and 49 letterwinners. There is a new offensive coordinator in place in former UCLA head coach Bob Toledo, whose accomplishments with the Bruins included a school-record 20-game winning streak, two Pac-12 titles and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. There is the challenge of a non-conference schedule that includes Ohio State, the only unbeaten Football Bowl Subdivision team in the nation last year, and Oregon State, which finished 19th and 20th, respectively, in the USA Today Coaches' and Associated Press polls last season. There is the competition of the Mountain West's new West Division, where Fresno State returns to defend its 2012 share of the league title along with newcomer San Jose State, the nation's No. 21-ranked team at the close of business last season.

Mostly, however, there is the confidence that comes from winning, the byproduct of a head coach who will accept nothing less than one's best, whose idea of success is well-rooted in the notion that responsibility and respect will ultimately be met with reward.

"I think the recent success of our program has raised our expectations higher," said Rocky Long, the 2012 Mountain West Coach of the Year who is entering his fifth overall season at SDSU and his third as head coach. "And as we go into this season, our expectation won't be any different. We want to win the conference championship and we want to continue to improve as a football program."

Tomorrow: The quarterbacks