Aztec Keshawn Banks, left. Photo credit: goaztecs.com

San Diego State, ranked 25th in the latest Associated Press poll, returns to action Saturday for its first conference showdown of the season, against New Mexico.

The game also reunites head coach Brady Hoke with two defensive coordinators – the Lobos’ Rocky Long, who he replaced at SDSU, and Danny Gonzales, who held the post in San Diego before taking over New Mexico’s program.

Hoke snagged the top job when Long departed SDSU in January 2020 after nine seasons as head coach and three Mountain West championships. Gonzales left San Diego State after the 2017 season.

“I don’t know if there’s anyone who benefits more,” Hoke said, of the teams’ familiarity. “We’re both going to prepare like normal. Both know each other’s defense.”

Which could complicate the Aztecs’ ability to contain New Mexico (2-3) quarterback Terry Wilson.

“We are focused on keeping him in the pocket and getting pressure on him,” said defensive end Keshawn Banks. “Just taking away the ability to allow (Wilson) to extend plays.”

As for the AP poll, the senior said, “being ranked is cool, but we’re not here to be ranked. We are here to win.”

It’s the 11th time the Aztecs (4-0) have made the poll since the 2016 season. The last time? They landed at No. 24 in the fall of 2019.

SDSU had 111 points in the AP Top 25, up from 57 a week ago despite having a bye.

Alabama tops the list, while Georgia sits at No. 2.

SDSU also received 103 points in the Coaches Poll, to finish just outside the Top 25.

San Diego State ranks among the top 20 teams nationally in 10 major categories, with players on offense, defense and special teams all represented.

On defense, the Aztecs are second in rush defense (46.0), fifth in tackles for loss (8.8) and ninth in third-down conversion percentage (27.9). On offense, they are eighth in rushing (254.8), and on special teams, they are tied for first in punt return touchdowns (2) and third in net punting yards (45.25). 

As far as individuals, kicker Matt Araiza continues to lead the nation in punting with a 55.1-yard average. Left tackle Zachary Thomas, meanwhile, ranks fourth among tackles in Pro Football Focus’ blocking grades.

The New Mexico game starts at 6 p.m. Saturday at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson. The park remains the Aztecs’ temporary home during Mission Valley stadium construction.

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