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San José State Spartans vs. UNLV Rebels: Keys to Victory for Spartans

Can the Spartans get the Silver State sweep for the first time?

NCAA Football: Nevada at San Jose State Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Week 9: San José State (2-6, 1-3 MWC) vs. UNLV (3-5, 2-2 MWC)

When: Saturday, October 29, 2016

Where: CEFCU Stadium, San José, Calif., 7:30 p.m. (PT)

TV: CBS Sports Network

Series History: San José State leads the series, 14-5-1 on the field. The series history between these teams does not reflect a UNLV forfeitk, due to ineligible players, to San José State from the 1984 game won on the field by the Rebels.

The Spartans have wins in the last six meetings between these teams including a 33-27 overtime victory at Sam Boyd Stadium in 2015. UNLV's last win in the series was a 23-10 victory in Las Vegas on October 29, 1994, the same day as this year's contest.

Spartans’s Keys to Victory

Spartan Offense Needs to Prevent Turnovers

San José State enters the UNLV game playing eight consecutive quarters and two complete games without committing a turnover. The last time the Spartans gave away the football was on a pass interception in the fourth quarter of the October 8 loss to Hawai'i.

UNLV’s LB Tau Lotulelei has a team-leading 72 tackles and his average of 9 tackles per game is tied for fourth in the conference and 33rd in the country. He leads the Mountain West in tackles for loss, with 11½, and is tied for seventh in the nation. The Spartans are going to need to keep him out of the backfield.

San José State’s QB Kenny Potter has struggled this year behind an offensive line that has allowed the most sacks (38) in the nation. Potter has an accuracy rating of 96 of 171 (56.1 percent) for 1,252 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions this season. He’s also rushed for four scores. Potter is going to need to show the grit he displayed against Nevada to help pull out the victory and not turnover the ball.

Spartan Defense Needs to Force Turnovers

On the opposite side of the ball, San José State stays in top-25 for turnovers gained for an eighth week in a row. The Spartans' are tied for 16th among Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools with 15 turnovers gained. The Spartans are going to need to force UNLV’s QB Dalton Sneed, who has alternated good and bad outings, into forcing turnovers. Sneed threw 279 yards passing and two touchdowns in a comeback win at Hawaii two weeks ago before throwing for 14 yards and an interception in the first half of Saturday’s 42-23 loss to Colorado State. A consistently strong runner, Sneed is third on the team in rushing with 360 yards.

The Spartans will need to make sure they have good pass coverage for UNLV’s WR Devonte Boyd to allow time for pressure on Sneed. Boyd leads the team in receptions (29) and receiving yards (483) this season. Last week’s performance against Colorado State, helped Boyd reach 2,367 career receiving yards, which moved him into eighth place in school history.

Stop the Rebels from Running

UNLV’s RB Lexington Thomas leads UNLV in rushing (614 yards) and touchdowns (10) but was held to a season-low 13 yards rushing on four carries against the Rams, though he did contribute a 37-yard touchdown catch. Thomas has compiled four 100-yard games this season. The porous Spartan defense needs to contain Thomas from having another 100-yard game for the season.

End Game Prediction

UNLV has been having ups and downs consistently every week against opponents, with last week being down against Colorado State. Hopefully the Spartans will be able to stop the up-trend from occurring against them for what is to be an up week for the Rebels. Lacking faith in the Spartan leadership, I see the Rebels bringing home the win, 28-14 Rebels.