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The Chargers could make the playoffs with an 8-8 record, even though it would be a disappointing year.

That oddity is the result of the Chargers (5-5) being the only AFC West team with a .500 record, although the Denver Broncos could match the Chargers with a win Monday night against the Tennessee Titans.

But San Diego State could finish with a promising 6-6 record, yet fail to reach the post-season with a bowl bid, even though the Aztecs would be bowl-eligible.

Even at 4-6, the Aztecs have shown progress in Head Coach Chuck Long’s second season, so they’re not enduring the type of disappointment enveloping the Chargers (you’d have to be blind not to see the Aztecs’ improvement this year).

The Aztecs’ odd situation starts with the Mountain West Conference’s four bowl tie-ins. The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl would love to invite a 6-6 SDSU team to play Navy (7-4) on Dec. 20 at Qualcomm Stadium.

But there are four MWC teams ahead of the Aztecs with seven wins: BYU (8-2, 6-0), Air Force (9-3, 6-2), Utah (8-3, 5-2) and New Mexico (7-4, 4-3). The Poinsettia Bowl is obligated to take a seven-win team ahead of six-win team.

In addition, TCU is 6-5 and 3-4. The Aztecs play TCU Saturday at Qualcomm and the Horned Frogs have plenty to play for since they still need seven wins.

Still, I thought it odd that six wins isn’t enough for a bowl bid as it is most years, so I thumbed through the standings of Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Div. I-A).

There are 80 teams ahead of the Aztecs on the bowl bid pecking order and only 64 slots in 32 bowl games.

Of the 80 teams there are 48 teams with seven wins and another 14 with six wins and games remaining on their schedule. There are two with 6-6 records that have completed their regular season and 16 more with five wins and games remaining on their schedule for a chance to get to six.

Of those 80 teams, most of them schedule a lot smarter than the Aztecs. SDSU’s schedule has been rated as high as the 10th toughest in the nation during the course of the season.

 —TOM SHANAHAN

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