The San Diego State Aztecs will try to get one step closer to a Mountain West championship when they play host to the Nevada Wolf Pack this weekend. Game time is at 10:30 EST on Saturday, November 9 at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
The Week 11 college football odds list the Aztecs as 17-point favorites at home. There is also an over/under of 39.5 points.
The Aztecs are currently 7-1 and in the driver’s seat of the West division of the Mountain West with a 4-1 conference record. SDSU’s only loss this season came at home to Utah State. But since that loss, the Aztecs have rattled off four straight wins to become bowl eligible and climb into first place in the West division. However, it’s not a done deal just yet. The Aztecs still have to play both Fresno State and Hawaii, two teams that could catch them atop the division. If San Diego State loses this week, the West division becomes wide open, so it’s vital that the Aztecs hold serve at home if they want to take home their first conference title since 2016.
As for Nevada, after starting the season with an upset of Purdue, the Wolf Pack has endured an up and down season. However, Nevada is fresh off a win over New Mexico that got them to 2-3 in conference play and 5-4 overall. If Nevada can win out and get a little luck, they could surprise everyone by winning the West division. Of course, Jay Norvell and the Wolf Pack would surely settle for just going to a bowl game for the second straight season. That would require at least one more win in their final three games, which may not be easy with road games against San Diego State and Fresno State left on the schedule.
On the bright side, Nevada’s confidence should be high after they knocked off San Diego State last year. The two teams have met in seven straight seasons with the Wolf Pack managing just two victories. But they were able to pull out a 28-24 win over the Aztecs on their home field last year. However, Nevada hasn’t won a road game against San Diego State since 1946.
The longer the season goes along, the more Nevada’s win over Purdue in the season opener looks like an aberration. Of course, beating the Boilermakers also looks less impressive now than it did at the time. Nevada’s four losses this season have come by an average of 44 points, with their closest loss coming by 26 points. When the Wolf Pack doesn’t measure up, they typically get blown out. But I think that changes this week against SDSU. I can’t promise a win, but I think they put up a fight and beat the spread.
To be fair, I’m leaning toward Nevada in this game more so because of San Diego State than the Wolf Pack. The San Diego State offense can best be described as methodical, which is the closest to a compliment I can get. Despite being 7-1, the Aztecs are averaging just under 22 points per game, which isn’t even among the top-100 teams in the country. To put their offense in perspective, San Diego State opened the season with a 6-0 win over FCS opponent Weber State. Meanwhile, all four of their Mountain West wins have come by no more than 14 points.
In past years, the Aztecs have leaned on their potent rushing attack to carry them, but that hasn’t been the case this season. As a team, San Diego State is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. Lead rusher Juwan Washington hasn’t even eclipsed 500 yards over eight games while gaining less than four yards per carry. Meanwhile, quarterback Ryan Agnew has been solid if unspectacular. The senior has been able to play mistake-free football most of the season, which has helped the Aztecs. But he’s averaging less than 200 yards passing per game, which isn’t a great combination with a sluggish rushing attack.
That profound lack of scoring and explosiveness on offense is the biggest reason why I can’t justify eating the points for the Aztecs. Evan against a Nevada defense that’s allowing close to 35 points per game, I don’t think the SDSU offense can suddenly wake up. After all, the most points the Aztecs have scored this year is 31, and that came against New Mexico State, a team that’s 0-8 and gives up over 42 points per game.
Of course, the San Diego State defense is a force, which is why the Aztecs are 7-1. However, they haven’t been as dominant as they need to be to cover 17 points. SDSU is allowing close to 18 points per game against Mountain West opponents, and that number just doesn’t mix well with a 17-point spread. Even with some poor offensive performances on their resume, the Wolf Pack should put up a reasonable point total.
In fairness to San Diego State, they have a good formula for winning games. They have a functional running game, an intelligent and safe quarterback, and an outstanding defense. However, the Aztecs just aren’t built to blow teams out, which is why I feel more comfortable taking Nevada and the points in this matchup.