Nevada vs. San Diego State Odds & Picks: Our Guide to Betting Saturday Night’s Mountain West Contest (November 13)
Justin Fine/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Matt Araiza.
- Nevada takes on San Diego State in Carson, California, in Saturday night Mountain West action.
- With punter Matt Araiza continuing to be a star, the Aztecs enter as 3-point favorites, according to updated odds.
- Stuckey breaks down the MWC game and shares a betting pick based on his analysis.
Nevada vs. San Diego State Odds
-110o / -110u
|San Diego State Odds|
-110o / -110u
We’ll be treated to a good one late Saturday night when Nevada heads nearly 500 miles south to Carson, California, to take on San Diego State. A little Mountain West After Dark, if you will.
There’s certainly plenty on the line in regard to the Mountain West standings. The winner will move into sole possession of first place in the West Division and control their own destiny for a spot in the conference championship game.
For what it’s worth, SDSU travels to UNLV and hosts Boise State to close out the season, while Nevada hosts Air Force and travels to Colorado State.
If the winner of this weekend’s game trips up again, Fresno State (3-2) could eventually come out on top since the Bulldogs have head-to-head victories over both the Wolf Pack and Aztecs. It should be an exciting race to the finish.
So, who has the edge on Saturday night? Let’s take a closer look.
Can Nevada Throw on the SDSU Secondary?
Nevada has an explosive offense, but one that is completely one-dimensional. It’s led by potential future NFL quarterback Carson Strong, who has a bevy of weapons to look to on the outside.
However, Nevada simply can’t run the ball. The Wolf Pack average only 2.8 yards per rush, which ranks 125th in the country. They also rank in the bottom 10 nationally in Line Yards and Opportunity Rate. The offensive line simply can’t generate a push up front.
That said, they don’t even try to run the ball in their Air Raid offense, averaging only 25.4 rush attempts per game. Only three teams average fewer.
Considering Nevada can’t run the ball against anybody, don’t expect anything on the ground against a perennially elite San Diego State run defense. The Aztecs are one of only nine teams in the country that have held teams to below three yards per carry.
Therefore, this all comes down to Strong’s ability to move the ball through the air against the San Diego State secondary. The problem is we don’t know much about this Aztec pass defense.
It has tremendous metrics but has faced one of the easiest schedules of opposing pass offenses in the country. Just take a look at some of these teams and their respective passing yards per game rankings:
- Arizona (86th)
- Utah (85th)
- New Mexico (126th)
- San Jose State (76th)
- Air Force (129th)
- Hawaii (48th)
And that list doesn’t even include FCS Towson. Also, Utah played almost the majority of that game with Charlie Brewer, who has since transferred. Cameron Rising came in midway through the third quarter and threw three touchdown passes.
The only two teams SDSU has faced that rank in the top 40 in passing offense are Fresno State and New Mexico State. Jake Haener threw for 300 yards in a 10-point victory, and NMSU quarterback Jonah Johnson even threw for over 300.
This San Diego State secondary did lose some key pieces from last season, so it could be much more vulnerable than its season-long metrics suggest.
Can San Diego State Gash Nevada on the Ground?
Nevada’s pass defense has been a strength both on the back end in coverage with the likes of Berdale Robins and in regards to getting after opposing quarterbacks.
The Wolf Pack rank in the top 30 nationally in both Pass Efficiency Defense and Sack Rate. They have players along the defensive line (Dom Peterson, Kameron Toomer, Tristan Nichols, Daniel Grzesiak) who excel at generating pressure but struggle at defending the run. It’s the same story with the linebacker corps.
Nevada’s 4-2-5 base defense does a good job in limiting explosive plays and creating Havoc with those pass rushers and defensive backs. However, it can be gashed up and down the field by opposing ground games, as evidenced by a ranking of 120th in EPA per Rush.
The Pack also rank outside the top 100 in both Opportunity Rate and Stuff Rate.
Can the San Diego State offense take advantage? I’m not entirely sold. It’s an anemic unit that averages 5.0 yards per play (109th), which I have rated outside of the top 100 nationally.
Don’t expect it to do anything through the air. The Aztecs have one of the least explosive passing attacks in the country. They average only 137 yards passing per game. For reference, only Colorado and New Mexico average fewer among non-triple option teams.
Now, workhorse back Greg Bell — who gets to run behind an offensive line that grades out fairly well in run blocking — can jump-start the Aztec offense. For the season, they average 4.5 yards per rush, which is about average.
On the surface, that’s a good sign against an atrocious Nevada run defense, especially with the Aztecs recently making the switch to a more mobile quarterback in Lucas Johnson, who is much more adept at creating with his legs than he is throwing the ball.
However, if you dig a little deeper, most of that rush success came early in the season. Here’s what San Diego State has done on the ground in the past four games:
- 39 carries for 157 yards against Air Force (4.0)
- 33 carries for 165 yards against Fresno (5.0)
- 36 carries for 70 yards against SJSU (1.9)
- 43 carries for 128 yards against Hawaii (3.0)
That’s a total of 151 carries for 520 yards or an average of 3.4 yards per rush, which would put it in the bottom 20 nationally. Teams have started to load the box in order to sell out against the run, knowing San Diego State has no downfield passing attack to speak of whatsoever.
I expect we will see Nevada do something similar.
The Punt God
You can’t talk about San Diego State this year without mentioning punter extraordinaire Matt Araiza, who has been the team MVP by far. As a Ray Guy Award voter, I can tell you it’s his to lose. He is having one of the most dominant punting seasons in NCAA history.
He’s averaging 51.9 yards per punt. To put that into perspective, the single-season NCAA record is 50.3 and the NFL record is 51.4. And it’s not just the overall average, it’s the ability to completely flip the field with 15 punts of over 60 yards on the season, which is a new NCAA record.
He even punted a ball 90 yards in the air last week in Hawaii.
— San Diego State Football (@AztecFB) November 7, 2021
And yes, he has multiple punts over 80 yards.
ATH Matt Araiza’s long punt for each game this season:
— Jamie McConeghy (@McConeghySDSU) November 8, 2021
Just on punting alone, he’s worth about three points to the spread — just an unheard of number for a punter — although a punter is obviously much more important to a bad offensive team like San Diego State that relies on its defense and field position. Only three quarterbacks in the country have a higher EPA (Expected Points Added) per pass than Araiza’s EPA per punt.
Did I also mention he has been good on kickoffs and kicking field goals? He’s arguably worth four points to the spread for SDSU as its most valuable player.
I do expect teams to adjust some and go way back to return punts. In the right circumstance, that could provide an opportunity for an elite punt returner to get a big return. Earlier this season, Utah’s Britain Covey — one of the best in college football — took one 80 yards to the house after a 60-yard Araiza punt.
That’s certainly in play on Saturday as Nevada has one of the most explosive punt returners in the country in Romeo Doubs, who actually scored a touchdown on his first-ever punt return as a freshman in 2018.
*Romeo Doubs stan account
— Nevada Football (@NevadaFootball) November 21, 2020
I can’t wait to watch the chess match between those two, as field position will be a major key, as always, with SDSU. And one broken return for a TD can make all the difference when playing the Aztecs.
Nevada vs. San Diego State Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Nevada and San Diego State match up statistically:
Nevada Offense vs. San Diego State Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
San Diego State Offense vs. Nevada Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||65||17|
|Plays per Minute||34||113|
|Rush Rate||34.7% (128)||65.6% (8)|
Nevada vs. San Diego State Betting Pick
These two teams are polar opposites. Nevada only wants to throw and play fast, while San Diego State wants to run and play slow.
This one will come down to how effective Nevada can stuff the box to improve its run defense and how much success Strong can have throwing against an Aztec secondary that hasn’t been tested much this year.
I personally think this San Diego State is overrated in the market. It has four wins over teams rated outside the top 100 and has gone 4-1 against the rest of its schedule with all four wins coming by one possession — including one in double overtime and one in triple overtime.
I would not lay three points with the horrific SDSU offense in a game I think is a true coin flip. Plus, remember this game is played in Carson — two hours away from the Aztec campus, which certainly diminishes the home-field advantage.
From a line value perspective, the play is Nevada, in my opinion.
However, there’s one piece of critical injury news I’m waiting on. Nevada star tight end Cole Turner (who I think will play at the next level) took a nasty hit to the head last week against San Jose State and had to leave the game.
He’s in concussion protocol, and his status is unknown for Saturday. He would be a massive loss for the Pack passing attack. Doubs is the deep threat, and Turner is the reliable possession guy that Strong leans on in third-down and red-zone opportunities.
If Turner can play, I think the Wolf Pack make it four straight years with a win over San Diego State, and it will probably have to come by a margin of five or less, as it has in each of the past three victories.