Can the Aztecs hold onto their Top 25 ranking?
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) The San Diego State Aztecs have more on their minds than maintaining the program's highest ranking in nearly four decades.
The 19th-ranked Aztecs (3-0) visit South Alabama Saturday night with fresh memories of last season's overtime loss that snapped a nine-game home winning streak.
''The score was close, but in reality they completely dominated us, especially up front,'' San Diego State coach Rocky Long said.
That will be hard to do this season. The Aztecs climbed three spots in the rankings during a bye week after debuting in the polls. They haven't been ranked this high since finishing the 1977 season ranked No. 16.
San Diego State's 13-game winning streak is second only to No. 1 Alabama's 16-game stretch.
The fast start has been powered by the nation's leading rusher, Donnel Pumphrey.
Now, the trick will be sustaining it against a team that hasn't hosted a ranked opponent since the program's inception in 2009. South Alabama (2-2) has also already pulled off a road upset over the Southeastern Conference's Mississippi State.
Jaguars coach Joey Jones figures Long's team will have double the motivation from last year's game and from wanting to hang onto their poll position.
''They understand this is a big game for them,'' Jones said. ''They just got in the top 20, I'm sure they don't want to lose that ranking. They will be ready to play for sure.''
Here are some things to watch in the game:
CONTAINING PUMPHREY: Pumphrey has racked up 501 rushing yards and six touchdowns in his last two games. He gained 281 yards - the most of any FBS back this season - against California and gained 220 against Northern Illinois. South Alabama ranks 117th nationally in stopping the run.
STREAK ON THE LINE: San Diego State has seldom been challenged during its winning streak, when only two opponents have come within 14 points.
REVENGE GAMES: San Diego State has won its last four games against teams that beat the Aztecs the previous meeting, including a 45-40 win over California. South Alabama won last season's meeting 34-27 in after Aleem Sunanon's tying field goal on the final play of regulation forced overtime.
''I'm sure they have a lot of confidence because they've beaten us before and beaten us bad,'' Long said. ''At least physically they beat us bad.''
JAGUARS' CHALLENGE: Not only has South Alabama never hosted a Top 25 team, but this is only the second Jones's young program has faced. The Jaguars lost to No. 23 Mississippi State 30-10 on Sept. 22, 2012.
CONFIDENT JAGS: South Alabama doesn't seem to lack confidence after an up-and-down start that includes losses to Georgia Southern and Louisiana-Lafayette and an overtime win over Nicholls State, sealed by a defensive stop on a two-point conversion attempt.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org