Cal running back Russell White who, like every other football player in the nation, trails Marshall Faulk in the Heisman Trophy race, figures he can gain some ground on Faulk with a good performance Saturday against No. 1 Washington.
And White apparently thinks the distance between the two should be closer than it is because of strength of schedules.
"I don't want to take any cheap shots at Marshall Faulk because he is an exceptional player," White told the Associated Press. "But, basically, it boils down to who you're playing against."
Somebody may need to tell White, though, that Faulk hasn't piled up his nation-leading 837 yards rushing against bargain-basement Western Athletic Conference teams. San Diego State is 3-1-1 this season against USC (1-1-1), Brigham Young (2-3), UCLA (3-1) and New Mexico (1-4).
No. 24 Cal is 3-1 this season against San Jose State (3-2), Purdue (1-3), Kansas (3-1) and Oregon State (1-3-1). White has 523 yards rushing.
For the most part, Faulk kept quiet about White's statements after SDSU's practice Thursday.
"I don't make any comments," Faulk said. "I just do it on the ball field."
SDSU is off this Saturday, but that's OK with offensive lineman Louis Zumstein. He's been off all season.
He started four games last season as a redshirt freshman, enough to excite Aztec coaches and allow Zumstein visions of being a three-year starter. But then he tore ligaments in his right ankle last October against Utah and missed the rest of the season.
It healed in time for spring ball, but Zumstein dislocated the patella and broke a piece of the bone off in his left knee and underwent surgery in May. The knee is still so weak that he hasn't played even one down this season.
"I'm at a plateau now," said Zumstein, a 1990 graduate of Chula Vista High. "I have to get over it. It just seems like it hasn't gotten any better.
"It's real weak. I've been lifting weights and everything; it just doesn't seem like it was before."
Had he been healthy, Zumstein probably would have been starting this season. Coming out of the spring, Zumstein led Chris Finch and Chris Rodahoffer in the battle for the starting strong tackle slot. By the time the season started, though, Finch won the job.
Zumstein, 6 feet 4, 275 pounds, has earned a spot on the travel squad but watches from the sidelines.
"Seems like I've worked twice as hard to get half as much out," Zumstein said.
Meanwhile, he slogs through endless practices and makes his way through hours of film sessions. One day--he hopes before the end of the season--he will actually play in another game.
At least, that is his plan.
Each year, one of SDSU's more versatile redshirts gets called on for a special duty: To perform as the scout team quarterback and run the option while the Aztecs prepare for Air Force.
This season, Texas El Paso is also running the option, so the Aztecs have started preparation early. The Aztecs host UTEP on Oct. 17, followed by Air Force on Oct. 24. Kevin Brown, a walk-on freshman from Lincoln, and Marlon Manassa, a redshirt freshman from Point Loma, are playing quarterback for the scout team.
"It's pretty fun," Brown said of his suddenly glamorous status in practice. "Tiring, but fun."
With the Aztecs off this week, three assistant coaches are packing their suitcases for scouting trips Saturday: Barry Lamb will watch Navy at Air Force; Ed Schmidt will see New Mexico at Wyoming; and Bret Ingalls will watch Hawaii at Utah.