The 2004 San Diego State football team has been picked to finish third in the Mountain West Conference, earning 87 points, in a preseason poll of the con-ference’s media members released Thursday. The third-place nod matches the Aztecs’ highest ever placing in the poll since the con-ference’s inception in 1999.
Reigning MWC champion Utah was picked to repeat, garnering 127 points and 15 of the 16 first-place votes. Colorado State earned the other first-place vote and came in second with 98 points. SDSU edged fourth place New Mexico (86 pts.), while Brigham Young and UNLV tied for fifth with 54 points apiece. Air Force (42 pts.) and Wyoming (23 pts.) were seventh and eighth, respectively.
San Diego State has finished higher than its preseason forecast in each of the last two seasons and three times in five chances overall. In 2002, the Aztec were tied for last in the preseason poll, but went on to tie for third with a 4-3 record in head coach Tom Craft’s first campaign. Last year, SDSU was again selected to finish seventh only to come in tied for fourth with a 3-4 mark.
The Mountain West also announced its preseason all-conference squad at its annual media day in Las Vegas, Nev. Aztec offensive tackle Mike Kracalik (Oceanside, Calif.), senior linebacker Kirk Morrison (Oakland, Calif.), junior linebacker Matt McCoy (Tustin, Calif.) and sophomore running back Lynell Hamilton (Stockton, Calif.) are among the 25 honorees which were also selected by members of the MWC media.
The 2004 preseason team features an all-time record of 20 players who were all-conference in 2003, including 14 first-team selections. Utah (6) and New Mexico (5) had the most honorees. SDSU and Colorado State tied with four selections apiece, followed by BYU (3), UNLV (2) and Wyoming (1).
Kracalik was a second team all-conference performer a year ago and is one of 57 players named to the 2004 Outland Trophy Watch List, which is presented annually to the nation’s top interior lineman. The local product graded out as San Diego State’s best offensive lineman during the course of the 2003 season, starting in all 12 games.
A first-team All-American in 2003, Morrison was the conference’s defensive player of the year as a junior and is making his second consecutive appearance on the preseason all-MWC squad. Morrison is a two-time first team all-conference pick and is on the 2004 national preseason watch lists for both the Lombardi and Nagurski awards. He enters this year eighth all-time at San Diego State with 281 career tackles.
McCoy led the Mountain West in tackles per game (10.4) as a sophomore, earning second team all-conference honors in 2003. He also was tops in the MWC in solo tackles with 75, while recording double-figure tackles in six games. McCoy tallied a career best 16 tackles against league foes Colorado State and Air Force in 2003.
The 2003 MWC Freshman of the Year, Hamilton was once of seven unanimous selections to the 2004 preseason team. Despite missing the team’s final two games of 2003 due to injury, he ran for 1,087 yards and ranked 17th nationally in rushing yards per game (108.0). Hamilton earned freshman All-America honors from both The Sporting News and Rivals.com and became just the second freshman in MWC history named first team all-conference.
The Aztecs report to fall camp Aug. 10, with the team’s first game slated for Qualcomm Stadium on Sept. 4, versus first-time opponent Idaho State.