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College Football Odds & Pick for San Diego State vs. Nevada: Betting Value Lies With Wolf Pack

College Football Odds & Pick for San Diego State vs. Nevada: Betting Value Lies With Wolf Pack article feature image

Jonathan Devich/Getty Images. Pictured: Carson Strong.

  • The Mountain West takes the big stage on Saturday when San Diego State makes the trek to Reno to take on Nevada.
  • Carson Strong and the Wolf Pack may take some time to get going, but Stuckey thinks they can make enough big plays to cover.
  • Check out Stuckey's full betting analysis with a pick and updated odds below.

San Diego State vs. Nevada Odds

San Diego State Odds -1.5 [BET NOW]
Nevada Odds +1.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -125/-102 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 46.5 [BET NOW]
Time 3:30 p.m. ET
Odds as of Saturday afternoon and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

The Mountain West decided to go with an eight-game conference only schedule this season with no divisions. Currently, Nevada is atop the conference at 4-0 — tied with another surprise undefeated team in San Jose State. Boise State also has yet to drop a league game at 3-0.

Meanwhile, San Diego State sits in second place at 3-1 along with Fresno State. If the Aztecs want to get back to the conference championship for the first time since winning back-to-back titles in 2015-16, they pretty much need to win this game.

Let’s take a closer look at each team. I will then dive into how I’m approaching this matchup from a betting perspective.

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San Diego State Aztecs

San Diego State went through a coaching change in the offseason but kept the job in house by promoting defensive line coach Brady Hoke, who previously served as head coach there a decade earlier.

Hoke didn’t alter much on the defensive side of the ball where the Aztecs were outstanding last year. Their 3-3-5 defense has stymied Mountain West offenses in recent years, and that looks to be the case once again.

Similar to the past few seasons, teams still can’t run on San Diego State. In 2019, it finished as one of only five teams to hold opponents under 3.0 yards per carry. And so far this season, its defense is one of only seven that can make that claim.

Not only can the Aztecs stuff the run, but they can also get to the quarterback with Caden McDonald and Jonah Tavai (16th in Passing Down Sack Rate, per Football Outsiders). They also feature an elite secondary that can lock down on the back end. They have three stars in the defensive backfield with lockdown corner Darren Hall and one of the best safety duos in the country in hybrid Dwayne Johnson Jr. and four-year starter Tariq Thompson.

Hoke did make a change on offense, bringing in Jeff Hecklinski as the new offensive coordinator. There were talks about opening up the offense, but this is still a very rush-heavy attack that ranks 10th nationally in rush attempts per game, led by the two Bells (Chase Bell and Nebraska transfer Greg Bell). The ground game has certainly been dynamic, as both backs average over 6.2 yards per carry for an offense that ranks 10th nationally in yards per carry.

By contrast, the passing game is still anemic. In last week’s win against UNLV, Carson Baker finished 4-of-13 for 30 yards with two interceptions. The Aztecs are averaging a sad 6.2 yards per pass, which ranks outside the top 100 in FBS. They are one of only 10 non-triple option offenses to average fewer than 150 passing yards per game.

So far, this looks like the same old San Diego State team with a top-25 national defense and an aerially-challenged bottom-25 offense.

Nevada Wolfpack

Nevada is in the midst of one of the most surprising turnarounds from last season to 2020. I actually was fairly high on this team coming into the season, as I expected a major jump in production from sophomore Carson Strong, who understandably struggled in Nevada’s modified Air Raid as a true freshman.

Strong has certainly looked much more comfortable this year. He ranks in the top 10 nationally in completion percentage and passing yards per game with 12 touchdowns to only one interception. He has plenty of weapons to choose from, but his favorite has been the explosive Romeo Doubs, who has put up astronomical numbers in each of Nevada’s four games so far:

  • 12 receptions | 117 yards | 1 TD
  • 7 receptions | 219 yards | 1 TD
  • 7 receptions | 137 yards | 3 TD
  • 5 receptions | 172 yards | 3 TD

The offensive line has holes (107th in Line Yards), which has led to a subpar rushing attack and put Strong in some precarious situations at times. It will certainly have its hands full with San Diego State on Saturday.

On the other side of the ball, Nevada has improved dramatically from last season after switching to a new 4-2-5 scheme. There were questions about this defense all over outside of stud defensive lineman Dom Peterson, but the scheme change has seemingly helped — albeit against some weak competition.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

Who will win out in a battle of the top offense (Nevada) in the conference against the top defense (San Diego State)? That’s the million-dollar question here in addition to how Nevada’s defense approaches this game from a scheme perspective, whether it’s overloading the box or bringing an extra linebacker against the run-heavy Aztecs.

For whatever reason, Nevada has started out super slow in its past two outings. It trailed 9-0 against Utah State before winning 34-9 and then trailed 7-0 at the end of the first quarter against New Mexico.

I think we could see another slow start for the Wolf Pack, primarily because going up against this San Diego State defense might be an early shock to the system after facing a cupcake schedule of defenses. Three of their four games came against bottom-15 defenses and the other against a fairly average 2020 Wyoming defense.

Ultimately, I don’t trust this San Diego State passing offense enough to back the Aztecs here, assuming Nevada sells out to stop the run. If that’s the case, I think Nevada’s offense will eventually hit enough explosive plays (most likely to Doubs) to pull this out.

I did take some Nevada moneyline in a round-robin parlay but would rather wait to take a bigger position in the live market after some of Nevada’s recent slow starts recently and the extreme jump in defensive competition level. We could see some ugly stalled drives from Strong and Company early on.

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