San Diego State squares off with the Nevada Wolf Pack this Saturday looking to continue their two game winning streak. To prepare for the Mountain West conference game we spoke with Dan Hinxman of the Reno Gazette-Journal. Give him a follow on Twitter for Wolf Pack updates.
1. SDSU has won 26 consecutive games when holding its opponent to 20 points or less, while the Wolf Pack have scored at least 26 unanswered points in consecutive games this season. Will they score more than 20 point on Saturday and why?
-- I think they will for two reasons. One, their offensive line has gotten better and better the last few weeks. Three freshman play substantial minutes on the O line and they're starting to mature. It has led to an improved run game (they've been good at pass protection all year). Two, Nevada, under quarterback Cody Fajardo's leadership, has put points on the board against SDSU the last two years (38 in 2012 and 44 in 2013), albeit both in overtime losses. I think SDSU's defense is better this year, but this is a hard offense to keep under 20 points when it's balanced.
2. Senior quarterback Cody Fajardo has been compared to now 49ers starting quarterback and Wolf Pack alum Colin Kaepernick. He is also about to surpass 9,000 passing yards. How key is Fajardo in this game?
-- Along with Nevada's ability to slow down the SDSU run game, he is imperative. Part of it is his ability, but against SDSU's difficult-to-scheme-against 3-3-5 defense it is even more important. The best hope an offense has against the Aztecs' defense is a quarterback who has experience against it, and Fajardo has that.
3. Since Oct. 9, SDSU is fifth nationally in points allowed per game (12.0) and seventh in total offense allowed (263.5). Who has to come up big for the Wolf Pack on offense?
-- The running game is the biggest factor. If the Wolf Pack can muster a consistent rushing attack early - and that's on both backs in the single-back backfield (Don Jackson and James Butler) as well as the offensive line - it should be able to have more success than Hawaii and New Mexico did.
4. Defensively for the Wolf Pack guys like Duran Workman, Matthew Lyons, and Nigel Haikins really hold this unit together. Who has to shine on defense to stop Rocky Long's Aztecs?
-- The biggest key on defense is the front seven. They're going to have to handle the power run game, and that's a tall order. They can't let Pumphrey get free in the open field.
5. San Diego State leads the Mountain West in conference wins (3-1) while Nevada is 2-2. How key is Saturday's conference for determining the rest of the season?
-- There are still 3-4 conference games left for most teams, so there is a lot to be determined. But it appears the winner of this game will have the inside track to the West Division title. SDSU still has key games against Boise State, Air Force and San Jose State, and Nevada still has Air Force and Fresno State, but certainly a two-loss team is going to win the West, maybe a three-loss team.
6. How key is home-field advantage for the Wolf Pack?
-- Honestly, I'm not so sure it's a big deal. SDSU won here two years ago, and in its last five games Nevada is 0-2 at home and 3-0 on the road. The weather may play a bigger role. It's supposed to be in the low- to mid-40s with possible snow.
5. Nevada will win if....
-- It limits the SDSU run game to about 175 yards or less or has a plus-two (or better) mark in turnover margin.
6. San Diego State will win if...
-- It makes Nevada one-dimensional. The Wolf Pack offense operates much better if it has some success running and throwing.