San Diego State’s Rocky Long is a football coach, so of course he’s going to downplay the emotions his players might experience seeing their former coach for the first time since he left.
The Aztecs visit No. 22 Michigan on Saturday, and the Wolverines are coached by Brady Hoke, who turned around the San Diego State program before returning to the Midwest.
Hoke, in his first season at Michigan, led previously woeful San Diego State to a 9-4 record last season.
"I don’t know how emotional it’s going to be," Long said Tuesday. "We talked about before the season started and we talked about after the victory over Washington State (Saturday) that coaches don’t play. We’re going to line up and approach this game like the rest."
Long said he didn’t believe there was "any animosity" among his players toward Hoke because Michigan "was his dream job."
This is an interesting matchup on its own merit, because both teams are undefeated but with plenty still to prove.
The Aztecs are 3-0, with victories against Cal Poly, Army and Washington State. The first two wins weren’t eye catching, though the win over the Cougars got some attention.
Michigan is ranked, but how soon the Wolverines return to form as a Big Ten Conference power is uncertain.
Long has expressed some concern that Hoke knows San Diego State’s personnel better than Long knows Michigan’s, but Long otherwise seems happy to get the chance to go to Ann Arbor.
Hoke semi-joked he wished Michigan could have bought out the game.
"I think our team’s excited about playing in The Big House," Long said. "I think our team’s excited about the opportunity to play against a really good football team. I think we’re all for the game."
AROUND THE MWC
In another battle of 3-0 teams between the Mountain West and Big Ten, Wyoming welcomes ninth-ranked Nebraska. Cowboys coach Dave Christensen said the atmosphere already is "getting to be crazy. Everybody’s been anticipating this game. Fortunately for us, we had three games to focus on, but this town’s been getting ready for this game for three years." …. Former UNLV coach John Robinson visited Rebel Park on Tuesday and spoke to coach Bobby Hauck and the team. Robinson, a College Football Hall of Fame inductee for his stellar career at Southern California, coached the Rebels to their last winning season and bowl appearance, in 2000. … Boise State’s Kellen Moore was named the Davey O’Brien Quarterback of the Week after passing for 455 yards and five touchdowns in a 40-15 victory at Toledo.
RANKING THE TEAMS
1. No. 4 Boise State (2-0) vs. Tulsa (1-2). Nine Broncos receivers caught passes in each of the past two games.
2. No. 20 Texas Christian (2-1) vs. Portland State (2-0). A victory would give the Horned Frogs the outright conference record of 22 consecutive home wins.
3. San Diego State (3-0) at No. 22 Michigan (3-0). The Aztecs’ five-game winning streak is their longest since winning six consecutive games in 1995.
4. Air Force (1-1) vs. Tennessee State (1-2). The Falcons could have a big day on offense — Tennessee State gave up 707 yards, including 630 passing, to Murray State last week.
5. Wyoming (3-0) vs. No. 9 Nebraska (3-0). The Cowboys have won four games in a row for the first time since 2005, and a victory would give them their first five-game winning streak since 1998.
6. Colorado State (2-1) at Utah State (1-1). The Rams haven’t given up a point in the first quarter this season.
7. UNLV (1-2) vs. Southern Utah (2-1). This is the first meeting since 1970.
8. New Mexico (0-3) vs. Sam Houston State (2-0). Deon Long totaled 258 all-purpose yards against Texas Tech.
GAME OF THE WEEK
San Diego State at No. 22 Michigan. There is more at stake than bragging rights between the coaches. An Aztecs victory probably would propel them into the rankings, and a win by Michigan would show coach Brady Hoke has the Wolverines on the right path.
Five defenses in the Mountain West held their opponents last week to 98 yards rushing or fewer. UNLV topped the list, limiting Hawaii to 6 yards.
ON THE HORIZON
Saturday is an excellent chance for the Mountain West to make a statement for its two-year Bowl Championship Series waiver. If San Diego State or Wyoming beat ranked Big Ten foes, that would help the conference’s argument. But if they get blasted, the Mountain West might come up short when the committee votes, probably in December.
MARK ANDERSON/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL