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San Diego State is facing a real “boom or bust” season this year that could determine the future of the Aztecs football program.

While the Aztecs finished last season with a 9-4 record, they also had a pretty easy schedule. Against teams that finished with winning records, the Aztecs went 2-4. Close wins against Boise State and Nevada were impressive, but the competition should get even stronger in 2013.

Of the 12 opponents SDSU faces this season, seven finished 2012 with winning records. Five of those teams received votes for the preseason Top 25 (SDSU received zero votes). Fortunately, three of the games against those five powerhouseprograms will be at home, at Qualcomm Stadium, where the Aztecs went 6-1 in 2012 (not counting the loss to BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl, which is also played at Qualcomm Stadium).

Gone are seniors Leon McFadden — the star cornerback was taken in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns — and Ryan Katz, who is trying to make it as a third-string quarterback with the Denver Broncos. Gavin Escobar, the talented junior who led the team in catches last season, left school early and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. Hoping to take their place are quarterback Adam Dingwell, wide receiver Colin Lockett and cornerback Nat Berhe. It will be a tall task, but those players are very talented.

Rivals.com ranked the Aztecs’ recruiting class 78th in the country, and third best in the conference. They’re going to need to do better than that if they want to continue to grow and work toward filling up their home stadium. One way to improve future recruiting classes is by playing big-name teams, and possibly beating them. It makes sense, then, that SDSU decided to once again accept Ohio State’s invitation to play a few early season games over the next couple of years, starting in 2013. The Aztecs’ performance in that game, where they don’t need to win but don’t want to look like a doormat, could do a lot to improve future recruiting classes.

Alsoboosting the Aztecs’ profile is the new partnership between the Mountain West Conference and ESPN. Aztecs football games, which used to be nearly impossible to find on TV in San Diego, will now be easily accessible to Southern California and most of the nation.

If Rocky Long’s team can manage to stay healthy, they could surprise a few people and end up in the top 25 at the end of the season. Whenever a mid-level team puts teams like Ohio State and Oregon State on the schedule, though, they’ve put themselves awfully close to the razor’s edge.

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John Gennaro

I'm John Gennaro, contributor to Active Voice and managing editor of Bolts from the Blue. You can tweet me @john_gennaro...

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