After two straight road conference games, the San Diego State Aztecs will return home this weekend to host the winless Nevada Wolf Pack. Coming off their best offensive performance of the season, the Aztecs will look to string two wins together as they continue their hunt for bowl eligibility. Once we preview the game, I’ll explain why I don’t think this is the week Nevada covers the spread for the first time all season.
During their four-game losing streak that was snapped over the weekend, the Aztecs only managed one solid offensive showing, but it seems as if a trip to the islands of Hawaii was all they needed to start scoring again. Against Hawaii, the Aztecs' offense managed to outpace their struggling defense by scoring 41 points.
Following their performance against the Rainbow Warriors, the Aztecs are 46th in the country in offensive success rate. Quarterback Jalen Mayden threw for 221 yards and a touchdown in the winning effort, which gives him a 6:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio headed into this weekend. Mayden has relied more on his legs to keep the offense moving, as he is one of three guys with over 230 rushing yards this season.
While Mayden and the Aztecs' offense will benefit from a stretch of weaker defenses, their defense is the real concern for their success moving forward. Ranking 119th in yards and 99th in points per game, the Aztecs are 120th in defensive EPA headed into this matchup. Luckily for them, Nevada’s offense is 125th in offensive success rate following their 45-27 loss to UNLV last weekend.
Transfer quarterback Brendon Lewis was able to throw his first two touchdowns of the season in the losing effort, but overall, he still has more interceptions, with six on the year. Lewis has the offense averaging 19.6 points per game and 4.7 yards per play, which has the team ranked 100th in offensive EPA.
In fairness to Lewis and the offense, the Wolf Pack defense has made their job incredibly difficult since they allow 40.8 points and 522 yards per game. Ranking in the 120s for both rushing and passing yards allowed per game, any style of game plan has worked for the Wolf Pack’s opponents.
San Diego State returns home as (-13.5) point favorites, and I’ll be backing them for my play. Nevada has yet to cover a game this season, and with how their defense has been playing, that trend is likely to continue. Ranked 132nd in defensive success rate, Nevada seems primed to let SDSU score 40-plus points for consecutive games.
The Aztecs lean on a more run-heavy approach with a 53.96% run play percentage, and they should be able to find plenty of success on the ground since the Nevada defense is 128th and 122nd in defensive EPA and success rate on run plays. Opponents are averaging 6.2 yards per carry on the Wolf Pack, so with Mayden’s ability to use his legs, SDSU should be able to generate a healthy amount of scoring drives.
Of course, the Aztecs' defense is a concern, but even with that, I don’t think Nevada can keep pace with their defensive inability. Brendon Lewis has not proven he can sustain consistent scoring drives, with Nevada ranked 94th in third down conversion rate, so with no real strength on that side of the ball, I think the Wolf Pack dig themselves into a hole they can’t get out of again this weekend.
San Diego State (-13.5)