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Nevada Football: Keys to a Win against San Diego State

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Nevada Wolf Pack close up the regular season at the San Diego State Aztecs, who currently sit at #1 in our Mountain West Power Poll. The Aztecs are 8-3 this season, and are currently undefeated in conference play. Last week, they clinched the West Division with a win over UNLV. With conference positioning all wrapped up, both teams are playing for better bowl positioning in this game. There's only 7 bowls affiliated with the Mountain West, and 7 teams currently bowl-eligible. However, it is likely that BYU could take the spot of a Mountain West team, potentially leaving one team on the outside looking in. If Nevada can pull out a win, they would all but guarantee themselves a spot.

1. Slow down Donnel Pumphrey

SDSU features the best running back in the conference with Donnel Pumphrey. Only three teams have held Pumphrey under 100 yards, but the last time it happened was in Week 4. He's an absolute force on the ground, and everything in the Aztecs' offense revolves around him. QB Maxwell Smith has been a solid game manager for them, but he hasn't been forced to throw the ball much.

The defensive line, especially DT Rykeem Yates, needs to step up big in this game. The Wolf Pack have one of the better run defenses in the conference, and it will need to show up if they want to limit Pumphrey.

2. Mix it up on offense

San Diego State ranks at the top of the conference in run defense, as well as fourth in pass defense. By no means will it be easy for the Wolf Pack to move the ball, so they will need to give the Aztecs some different looks on offense to move the ball. They should still use James Butler and Don Jackson as the center of their offense, but they will need to mix in some passes in situations they would normally run, as well as play action.

3. Keep the offensive momentum going

The Wolf Pack have seemed to find a rhythm in their offense for the past few weeks, scoring 27+ points in each of their last four games. They've done this by running the ball well, and using their receiving weapons such as Hasaan Henderson and Jarred Gipson more. San Diego State will be a good benchmark for how far this offense has come along in recent weeks, but if Nevada can continue putting up points, not only will they have a chance for an upset, but it will help them as they head into a bowl.

Prediction:

Although it's possible SDSU rests some of their starters for the championship game, I think the Aztecs will be gunning for the perfect conference record. The Aztecs are the best team in the conference, and I think they win this one handily.

SDSU 31, Nevada 24