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SDSU Aztecs and UNLV Rebels game preview

Aztecs looking to rebound against the Rebels.

NCAA Football: UNLV at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Aztecs need to figure out a way to bounce back from a potentially season threatening game.

One week can sure make a difference. Feeling confident after the 23-7 win against Nevada, the Aztecs got a taste of reality and a severe case of “what the hell just happened’ in their 32-28 loss against Fresno State last week. They find themselves in a place where they are continually bouncing between a good game, a bad game. If that pattern plays out, the Aztecs will find a way to regroup for the homecoming game against the Rebels. Standing in their way is the return of signal caller Doug Brumfield. He enters after three weeks on concussion protocols since being knocked out early against San Jose State. The Aztecs look to be battling for second place in the West Division as Fresno State controls their destiny. The Aztecs have two remaining division games, this week against UNLV and next week against San Jose State. The best they can hope for is 4-1. They would need Fresno State to lose twice against either Hawaii, UNLV or Nevada. Odds are the Bulldogs win at least two of their remaining games. So the next best goal to reach is becoming bowl eligible. They need to win two out of their remaining four games. The final two games are against New Mexico and Air Force. They should win at least two games to reach a bowl game. Of immediate concern is how the coaching staff responds after last week's heartbreaking loss. People say that football can mirror real life and a constant theme is how to bounce back from disappointment. The coaching staff will need to both address the player's mindset as well as their own. Most will agree that the coaching and play calling were determining factors in the loss. After a successful first half, why was it important to become more conservative in the play calling? One might argue to just play the game, pedal to the metal and see where things land. There should be some real soul-searching during practice this week to ensure that the Aztecs do not fall into a similar ending,

UNLV Rebels (4-4, 2-2 Conf., 0-1 division) vs San Diego State Aztecs (4-4, 2-2 Conf., 2-1 Division)
Location: Snapdragon Stadium, (35,000), San Diego, California

Line: San Diego State -6 (Provided by DraftKingsSportsbooks) Over/Under 49 points. The Aztecs are favored against the Rebels who are coming off of a bye week. Using this formula, their expected score is about 27-21. The oddsmakers are expecting that it should be a fairly close game.

Date/Time: Saturday, November 5 at 4:00 PM PST

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio: San Diego Sports 760

History: This is the 32nd meeting between the two teams with the Aztecs holding a 21-10 advantage. They are 8-2 in the last ten meetings including a 28-20 win last year in Las Vegas. Three of the last four games have been decided by one score. The first game between the teams was in 1977 with the Aztecs coming away with a 31-7 victory. The Aztecs have averaged 27 points in each of their games against UNLV.

Unlocking the Keys to the Game

  1. UNLV Quarterback Doug Brumfield is slated to start on Saturday. A Look at the Rebels. Coach Marcus Arroyo must be excited with this news. Brumfield is a dynamic player that can immediately change the program, as was seen during the first 5 games. He was 106/155 passing for 1,231 yards, 8 TD’s and only two interceptions. This works out to a 68.9% completion percentage. He also contributed 137 yards on the ground and 5 TD’s. His stats are among the league leaders, but it is the intangibles he brings. At 6’5” and possessing elite quickness, he can easily scan the field and make the quick throw or tuck and run. The only cause for concern is the propensity to injuries. He missed a few games last year and the aforementioned game against SJSU left him out of the lineup for 3 weeks. He has a number of weapons to throw to including Ricky White, 37/485, 4 TD, Kyle Williams, 22/270, 4 TD and Nick Williams 16/230. The Rebels, as a team have only three interceptions and 6 fumbles, coming in with a +5 on the turnover margin. Adding to the Rebels offense, their ground game has featured Aidon Robbins who has rushed for 591 yards on 125 carries and 8 TD’s. His counterpart in the backfield is Courtney Reese with 359 yards on 48 carries. The Rebels are 3rd in the conference in scoring, 3rd in passing and 5th in total offense. The defense has been sketchy, ranking towards the bottom in most categories except interceptions, where Rebel defenders have grabbed 12 picks. They are led by LB Austin Ajiake with 87 tackles including 8 TFL, 3 sacks and 2 Int. Complimenting him are LB Fred Thompkins with 44 tackles and 1.5 TFL and DL Adam Plant with 34 tackles, 6.5 TFL and 3 sacks. The Rebels are a program on the rise after years of being relegated to basement dwellers. Coach Arroyo, the former Oregon Ducks assistant and San Jose State quarterback, has got momentum for the big picture. He’s recruited transfers and others from out of state to help envision a winning program. Showing off Allegiant Stadium is a bonus, but realizing they play in a stadium that’s only a third filled could cause some to give pause. Trajectory is up, momentum is up with Brumfield and company. The Rebels look to be a team on the rise. This is good news for the conference as a whole as well.
  2. Next steps in the Aztec to-do-list. This week's practice will be finding what is at the core of this team. Some good decisions have been made in the last few weeks, namely adding Jeff Horton as OC, Ryan Lindlay as QB coach and moving Jalen Mayden to QB. Everyone is giving effort and it just might be this is what a team, a mediocre team, has to struggle through. With high hopes at the beginning of the year, it has become obvious that the team is a good team, but not as good as last year. The coaching is not as good as last year either. Coach Hoke says that the coaches need to do better. He’s already made coaching changes, Is more needed? At what point does the head coach become accountable for the team's results? These are all questions that will need to be discussed during the offseason. The Aztecs have been hitting the recruiting trail pretty hard already, getting verbal commitments from several players in the San Diego area. All that aside, they need to find a way to contain Brumfield. Pressure, containment and controlling the line of scrimmage should be keys to the game. The Aztecs need to find a way to sustain drives, avoid panic throws that could result in interceptions and close out the game. Finish strong.

Analysis/Prediction: My preseason pick of this game was a 27-23 Aztec win. Oddsmakers have said it should be fairly similar and I’m inclined to agree on this with an Aztec win 28-21. Chance Bell needs to get into a rhythm. Jordan Byrd needs to get the ball more often out in space. Mayden needs to throw deep on occasion to help stretch the field. The Tavais’ and McDonalds’ need to do what they do best on defense. Finally, Coach Brady Hoke needs to be the head coach and coach to win. Fans are very upset about how the team would become too predictable. How bad would it be to surprise UNLV. A big strike would really set the tone for the game. I expect the Aztecs will have an unconventional play ready at the most opportune time. It would take a lot of pressure off the offense if they weren’t so darn predictable. The weather Saturday looks to be great. Another wonderful day to go to Snapdragon and see two teams that are diametrically opposite from each other. UNLV with the offense and SDSU with the defense. Usually it’s the defense that wins and that’s how I’ve got this one.