SAN DIEGO STATE AZTECS (8-1, 4-1) vs NEVADA WOLF PACK (7-2, 4-1)
WHEN: Saturday, November 13th. Kick off is set for 7:30pm PT
WHERE: Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, CA
HOW TO WATCH: CBS Sports Network
HEAD-TO-HEAD: SDSU has an overall record of 7-6 vs Nevada, dropping their last three in a row to the Wolf Pack dating back to 2018. Their last meeting in the shortened season of 2020 resulted in a Nevada win by a score of 21-26, on November 21st, 2020.
Now, it is homecoming week and the Aztecs are set to host the Nevada Wolf Pack in what has turned into a battle for first place in the West Division of the Mountain West Conference.
The Aztecs are coming off a win in Honolulu, Hawai’i last week, beating the Rainbow Warriors by a touchdown, 17-10. This improved SDSU’s conference record to 4-1 to match Nevada’s as the top two teams in the West Division.
Nevada suffered a tough conference matchup loss to Fresno State in Week 7 but stepped it up and have won two conference matchups in a row since. Nevada plays worse when they are on the road, but beating the Aztecs would be a huge statement coming into the final games of the season, getting that much closer to a Mountain West Conference Championship.
Keys To Victory For SDSU
The Aztec defense leads the conference in points allowed (16.7) while the Nevada offense averages the most points (36.4) per game. If the Aztecs can stop the explosive offense that Nevada has, they will take sole first place of the West.
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Aztecs are favored by 56.4%, with a 3.0 point spread. It will come down to who’s defense comes alive in this one. Nevada has been notoriously slow to start on defense, in which SDSU will have to take advantage of.
The Aztecs are still the best rushing defense in the conference, so Nevada quarterback Carson Strong will likely throw more than usual, despite that not being an issue in past games. Both Nevada and SDSU have the defense to win the conference, each ranking in the top 3 for interceptions and sacks. Strong, who has thrown 7 interceptions this year may be inclined for more mistakes. The Aztecs will need to capitalize.
SDSU must get the run game going early, which hasn’t been much of a problem all year as they are ranked second in the Mountain West for rushing yards and touchdown’s, behind Air Force. Senior running back Greg Bell and the other fellow senior back’s will be utilized to the max against a Nevada defense that has allowed the 5th most rushing touchdowns on the year (12).
It is likely Aztec quarterback Lucas Johnson will get the start, who has been decent this season, though not used as much for passing. He has completed just 66 passes on the year for 625 yards, 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. For a win against Nevada, the passing game will need to be executed to drive the ball. Clean offense and big stops on defense will be the key to victory for SDSU in this one.
Keys To Victory For Nevada
One way Nevada can punch their ticket to a Mountain West Conference Championship is winning this game. As one of their toughest matchups this year, the Wolf Pack will have to be at their best.
Quarterback Carson Strong will need to be on point, point blank period. Nevada is ranked dead last in rushing in the Mountain West, averaging only 70 yards on the ground per game, so expect Strong to drop back plenty of times this game. Through the air, Strong has completed 289 of 410 passes for 3,197 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Not utilizing the run game as much this year hasn’t kept the Wolf Pack from winning, although it will be a problem against the best rushing defense in the Conference.
Mistakes must be limited on offense as a perfect game will need to be achieved to walk away with a win on the road. Zero interceptions and a few passing touchdowns will be the number one ingredient for a victory recipe.
Wide receiver Romeo Doubs has led all Wolf Pack receivers with 55 receptions, 726 yards and 5 touchdowns. He will be a key player to watch in this one as well as corner endzone specialist, tight-end Cole Turner. Escaping the Aztec secondary will be crucial for the Pack as the air raid will certainly take place on Saturday.
A defensive game is upon us; expect to see plenty of three and out possessions. Which actually won’t be a bad thing for SDSU, since the Aztecs Special Teams prodigy, Matt Araiza, will be able to pin the Wolf Pack deep in their own territory from any spot on the field. Araiza, a Ray Guy award semifinalist and Mid-Season All-American, now has as many 80-yard punts this season (2) as all NFL punters have had in the last decade. This kid is for real, and we might see him hit a game-winning field goal, if it’s close enough.
The Wolf Pack are scoring machines, thanks to QB Carson Strong. They will put up some points, but being consistent will allow the defense to follow up and make stops.
The Aztecs are 52-2 in their last 54 games when rushing for over 200 yards, which they’ve done in 4 of 9 games this year. This can be achievable if the Nevada defense decides not to show up, which has happened in the past.
This game will be a close one, and will come down to the last few possessions.
SDSU 27, Nevada 24