San Diego State (4-3) at Nevada (6-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 20, 10:35 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mackay Stadium (29,993) -- Reno, Nevada. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: SDSU 4-1, Nevada 2-1. Away Record: SDSU 0-2, Nevada 4-0. Neutral Record: SDSU 0-0, Nevada 0-0. Conference Record: SDSU 2-1, Nevada 3-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 2-2.
GAME NOTES: With the Fremont Cannon firmly secured for yet another year, the Nevada Wolf Pack now turn their attention towards the San Diego State Aztecs when the two Mountain West Conference squads clash at Mackay Stadium in Reno on Saturday night.
The Wolf Pack has been seemingly scoring at will against the opposition this season, resulting in six wins in seven chances. However, last week the team appeared to have the tables turned on them when in-state rival and new conference foe UNLV opened their annual meeting with a 21 straight points before Nevada kicked it into gear. Eventually the Pack responded and in the end delivered a 42-37 victory in order to extend their win streak to five in a row since bowing to USF by a single point in the second game of the season.
As for the Aztecs, they picked up their second consecutive win in order to move a game over .500 thanks to a 38-14 defeat of Colorado State at home last weekend. Now 2-1 in conference play, SDSU is tied with Fresno State and Air Force for third place in the standings, while Nevada sits alone in first place with an unblemished mark of 3-0.
San Diego State won the most recent clash eight years ago, 27-10, and tied the all-time series at 2-2 in the process.
Scoring at least 34 points in each of the last six outings, the Aztecs were paced by quarterback Ryan Katz who threw for 181 yards and a couple of touchdowns and also ran for another score versus the Rams at home in Qualcomm Stadium.
Running back Adam Muema accounted for a team-best 105 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground for San Diego State as the team generated 218 yards on 38 rushing attempts. Not only did the team win by at least 24 points for the second straight game for the first time in more than a decade, the Aztecs also went without a single penalty for the first time since 1973 versus San Jose State.
Ranked second in the conference and 23rd nationally, the Aztecs have rebounded well since scoring just 12 points in the loss to Washington in the opener, producing 38.1 ppg to this point in the campaign. Even though head coach Rocky Long has been known as a defensive-minded leader, he has certainly enjoyed the fact that Katz has thrown a total of 13 touchdowns while completing better than 60 percent of his pass attempts. Add to that the 18 rushing TDs produced by Muema, Walter Kazee and Katz and this is one of the more balanced squads in the conference.
What coach Long can't be happy about is the fact that his defense is giving up 265.4 ypg through the air and has a pass efficiency defensive rating of 143.35, both of which have the group ranked 95th in the country.
That SDSU defense will be tested early and often this coming week by a Nevada offense that has few peers. Ranked sixth in the nation in rushing (285.7 ypg) and fifth in overall offense (549.9 ypg), the Wolf Pack has produced no less than 450 yards in any one game this season and, prior to last week, had rolled up at least 549 yards in five straight outings.
Earning himself MWC Offensive Player of the Week honors for the third time this season, Stefphon Jefferson stepped up and conquered the Rebels in last week's come-from-behind victory as he gained 185 yards and scored three touchdowns on 34 rushing attempts. As a whole, Nevada produced 329 yards and four scores on the ground, helping to take some of the weight off quarterback Devin Combs who was filling in for an injured Cody Fajardo.
Combs, who again might be under center this week depending on how Fajardo's back injury has progressed, responded by converting 14-of-19 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns, while tossing just one interception.
Obviously the Nevada defense had some issues with the Rebels early on as they gave up three rushing touchdowns within the first 17 minutes of action, but eventually the Pack buckled down and played well enough to capture the victory. However, after giving up less than 380 yards in each of the previous games, allowing the Rebels to generate 436 yards on a mere 68 plays was still a shock to the system.
Part of the problem for the Pack to this point has been an inability by the defense to apply consistent pressure in the backfield, resulting in just 4.14 tackles for loss per game which is not just seventh in the conference but also tied for 113th in the country.
Luckily, the offense doesn't need much attention at all as head coach Chris Ault just turns his players loose in the Pistol and watches the sparks fly. Even if the team has to wait another week for Fajardo to be ready for game action, leaning on Jefferson is certainly a great alternative since he does lead the nation in rushing with close to 163 ypg and is also first in the country with 14 touchdowns.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 45, San Diego State 27
10/17 10:44:43 ET