Normally, this would qualify as a big game. But when they’re all become big, that distinction loses its meaning.

Air Force (6-1, 3-1 Mountain West) hosts No. 22 San Diego State (6-0, 2-0) at 5 p.m. Saturday. The winner greatly increases its odds of qualifying for the conference championship game and will stand a good chance of earning a spot in the national rankings next week. Three Falcons teams have appeared in the rankings this century – 2002 (as high as No. 18), 2010 (23rd) and 2019 (22nd).

Air Force vs. No. 22 San Diego State | Subplots we'll watch

And what’s more, this game carries the intrigue of featuring the No. 1 rushing offense (Air Force) and the No. 1 rushing defense (San Diego State). It’s a chance for the Falcons to end an eight-game series losing streak and it’s the last home game of the season with the cadet wing in attendance (the only remaining game at Falcon Stadium after this is a visit from UNLV on the day after Thanksgiving).

So, big game. Right?

Well, Air Force had a big game before a national audience on Sept. 11 at Navy. It was a big matchup two weeks ago when unbeaten Wyoming came to the academy. Going to Boise State last week, and winning, was big. It will certainly a big game on Nov. 6 against Army in Arlington, Texas for another CBS broadcast with the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy there for the taking.

And if the wins keep piling up, so will the size of the stakes.

“Having so many big games in one season for us really helps us when it comes down to paying a Top 25 team like this and helps us stay focused,” Falcons junior nose guard Kalawai’a Pescaia said.

“It’s a pretty tough stretch that we’re in the midst of right now. As long as we just stay focused, stay as a team and continue to focus on us, we’ll be better at the end of it for sure.”

Air Force vs. No. 22 San Diego State | By the numbers for the Mountain West showdown

The goal for the Falcons will be to make San Diego State’s visit as miserable as the last time they came to the academy, only this time through the action on the field instead of the weather.

The game in 2018 included monsoon-like rain that led to a 1-hour, 28-minute delay in the action.

“We were all just standing in the showers with our pads on because we were so cold,” said Aztecs cornerback Tayler Hawkins, who was making his first start in that game three years ago.

Air Force WR Brandon Lewis, a San Diego native, could factor large against his hometown team

A loss would complicate the road to the championship game for either team. San Diego State hosts Fresno State next week and will welcome Nevada and Boise State later this year. Plus, it must travel to Hawaii. Air Force will know a lot more about the Mountain Division outlook after the late game on Friday between Colorado State and Utah State, but a trip to Nevada is among the conference challenges still ahead for the Falcons.

But Air Force players are well-versed at this point in not looking ahead or getting too high or low. With so many big games on the schedule, that ability to stay level-headed has become a team strength.

“We’re trying to keep spirits high, stay motivated,” Air Force receiver Brandon Lewis said. “But at the same time, it’s just another game. Pretty much all of us have been playing football our whole life, so we try not to make the situation bigger than it is. It’s just another game, we’re going to go out there and give it our best shot.”

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