After beating San Diego State and New Mexico, it appeared that Nevada was back on track. An embarrassing loss to Hawaii last week ruined all that momentum and confidence, and Ken Wilson needs to make some kind of change to save the season (and potentially his job.)
Before Nevada is set to take on Utah State this Saturday, Wilson was non-committal on who would start at quarterback. Brendon Lewis has been starting so far, but his inability to get the passing game going calls for a change. AJ Bianco could be lined up to make his first start at the college level, although he’s appeared in six games for Nevada.
Whoever the QB is on Saturday, the Wolf Pack have to get back into the win column.
Nevada (2-7) (2-3) @ Utah State (4-5) (2-3)
Location: Maverik Stadium
Date/Time: Saturday, Nov. 11 at noon
Broadcast: Nevada Sports Network/Mountain West Network
Betting Line: Utah State by 16 points. The over/under is 56.
History: This will be the 22nd time these programs have faced. Nevada currently leads the series 14-7, with the most recent matchup being a 34-9 Nevada victory in 2020.
Keys to the Game
- QB needs a good game, whoever it is
As I mentioned, there’s a chance we see Bianco start this game. We’ve seen flashes of what he can do throughout the season. It’s a fair argument to say Bianco is a better passer than Lewis (both QBs have two passing touchdowns this season) but he isn’t perfect.
The passing game in general has been a huge problem for Nevada. They rank third-to-last in the nation in passing efficiency. Ever since Wilson took over as head coach, Nevada has thrown 11 touchdowns compared to 16 interceptions. Not a lot of points or wins are going to come out of that.
I also believe Nevada is in a position to use both QBs. Lewis is great with his legs, and I believe Bianco can do more damage in the air. Some type of Taysom Hill-level play-calling with both Lewis and Bianco could benefit this offense.
2. Continue to silence the Aggies’ run game
Utah State has a bowl game in their sites, so the Aggies will throw everything they have at Nevada. Utah State’s run game has been in a funk, however, and Nevada will need to keep that going for the chance of an upset.
The Aggies haven’t had a rusher go over 100 yards since the beginning of October against Colorado State. The Wolf Pack is allowing an average of 5.2 yards per attempt and will need to find a way to keep it low.
3. Don’t let Utah State’s record fool you
The 4-5 record for the Aggies may not look good on paper. Four out of those five losses have come against teams that are either currently ranked (James Madison) or had been ranked before (Fresno State, Air Force, and Iowa.)
Utah State is still in the mix for a bowl game, and they officially committed to a QB this week. Cooper Legas is going to be the QB going forward after winning the double-OT thriller against San Diego State last week. Legas went 11-15 with 167 passing yards and two touchdowns.
The Aggies are also tied for 26th in total offense and tied for 20th in scoring. Coming off the win last week, Utah State has all the confidence in the world going up against Nevada.
With a potential change at QB and Utah State fighting for a bowl game, I don’t see Nevada coming out of this one victorious.
I’m going to say 34-21 Utah State. I do think if Bianco starts, we’ll see the passing game shine a bit more. That allows more touchdowns to happen compared to just field goals, but the Aggies have too much on the line to crumble against the Wolf Pack.
Never say never, an upset could always happen. Don’t get your hopes up, but let’s try to finish off this season strong.