With the possibility of a conference championship now out of reach, the Rams must focus their attention toward a possible bowl birth. First, the Rams must become bowl eligible by winning at least one of their final two games. While the Rams need just one win to be eligible, the Rams know two wins would make them much more attractive to bowl sponsors than just one.
"I would think two (wins) would be what we need to do to guarantee a bowl," said head coach Sonny Lubick. "Of course we better just worry about the next football game. We'll have everything we can do to get through this week."
This week brings in a type of team the Rams haven't seen for quite awhile in pass dominant SDSU. Like virtually every other team in the Mountain West Conference, the Aztecs have talent at the running back spot in sophomore Lynell Hamilton.
Hamilton, who took a medical red shirt in 2004, was the 2003 MWC freshman of the year. That year Hamilton rushed for 1,087 yards before breaking his ankle in SDSU's 10th game of the season. Hamilton has returned, but is not the same as his freshman year, averaging just 55.9 yards a game this season.
With Hamilton struggling, the Aztecs have used more of a spread offense that includes four wide receivers at some point in the game. Despite the Aztecs formations, the Rams know that their weakness is stopping the run.
"They do throw it more than New Mexico and TCU," said sophomore defensive end Jesse Nading. "But at the same time BYU kind of had a similar thing (as SDSU), so we've still got to go out and shut down the run. That's our first priority, because we struggle when we give up rushing yards."
The Aztecs are another team that has struggled at stopping the run. SDSU ranks 100th nationally in run defense; still two spots better than the Rams. The SDSU pass defense is one of the best in the conference, and 36th nationally.
"They've got two linebackers again this year that might be as good as there is in the league," Lubick said. "Their defensive front has a couple injuries that they're fighting through, but their linebacking core is good, and their secondary has always been fairly talented. They're right in there with the best of us."
While the Rams currently rank as the MWC's top pass defense in conference games, allowing just 197.5 yards a conference game, this week will be a tough test.
Starting cornerback Robert Herbert left with a leg injury during last week's game against TCU. Herbert was limited in practice Wednesday and is listed as questionable. His replacement would be 2004 starter, junior Brandon Cathy.
Another problem the Rams face in their pass defense is the Aztec receivers. Senior's Jeff Webb and Robert Ortiz have combined to haul in 101 catches for 1,122 yards and eleven touchdowns. Webb leads the way for the Aztecs, and if Herbert comes into this game healthy enough to play the two of them might be matched up all afternoon.
When the Aztecs go into a spread set with four wide receivers the Rams will bring in their nickel package, by substituting a defensive back for a linebacker. The defensive back the Rams will bring in is true freshman Klint Kubiak.
"I feel comfortable (with the nickel back)," Kubiak said. "The last three games that I've played I've been at free (safety) and nickel, I'll get some more opportunities this week I've just got to make the best of them, and play team defense and swarm to the ball."
The Rams will host the Aztecs Saturday at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium at 1 p.m., the game will be televised on ESPN Regional.
Junior linebacker Luke Adkins (knee) out for the season
Senior defensive end Terrance Carter (knee) out 1-2 weeks
Junior blocking-back Tristan Walker (ankle) questionable
Senior offensive lineman Albert Bimper (hamstring) questionable
Senior linebacker Jahmal Hall (knee) questionable
Junior cornerback Robert Herbert (leg contusion) questionable
All 10,000 student tickets were given away by mid-day Wednesday. There are still tickets available to purchase for the north end-zone as well as reserved seating on the west side of the stadium.
Last Week: CSU lost to TCU 33-6 in Fort Worth
This Week: CSU vs. SDSU at Hughes Stadium at 1 p.m.
Next Week: CSU at UNLV in Las Vegas at 2 p.m. MT