San Diego State (4-3) at Nevada (5-3) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mackay Stadium (30,000) -- Reno, Nevada. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: SDSU 3-0, Nevada 2-2. Away Record: SDSU 1-3, Nevada 3-1. Neutral Record: SDSU 0-0, Nevada 0-0. Conference Record: SDSU 3-1, Nevada 2-2. Series Record: San Diego State leads, 4-2.
GAME NOTES: Winners of three of their first four Mountain West Conference games, the San Diego State Aztecs will try to improve upon their record outside of Qualcomm Stadium as they challenge the Nevada Wolf Pack at Mackay Stadium on Saturday night.
Despite being just one game over .500 on the season, the Aztecs find themselves in first place in the West Division of the MWC standings. The team spent some time off last week after taking out Hawaii on Oct. 18 by a score of 20-10 at home. The victory was the second in a row and the third in four tries for the program, already having enjoyed two weeks off in the schedule.
As for the Wolf Pack, they too recently locked up with the Rainbow Warriors, but in their case they were out on the island at Aloha Stadium last Saturday night, holding on for a 26-18 victory. The win was the second straight for the team, after having lost three of the previous four outings. With their 12-game schedule, a win this weekend would make the Pack bowl eligible.
The Aztecs have a 4-2 advantage in the all-time series with Nevada, thanks to a thrilling 51-44 overtime decision last season at Qualcomm Stadium.
Unfortunately for SDSU, the passing attack has taken several steps in the wrong direction after it was ranked in the top-40 nationally last season. Through seven games, the team is producing just 170.3 ypg through the air, ranking 113th in the FBS. Taking the majority of the snaps is Quinn Kaehler who has completed 57.4 percent of his attempts, but has a mere three TDs against seven interceptions.
When you add in the other players who have attempted a pass this season, the Aztecs find themselves with more than twice as many picks (10) as TDs (four) through the air, which is why they have a pass efficiency rating of only 102.31 (120th in the country).
Running back Donnel Pumphrey has been trying to take up some of the slack with his 989 yards and 12 touchdowns on 144 carries, his average of 141.3 ypg being one of the best in the nation, but there's only so much he can do when being hit time and time again. And the problem seems to be, if Pumphrey is not the one with the ball in his hands coming out of the backfield, there is little chance anyone else will have even a fraction of the success.
On the defensive side of the ball, San Diego State is making things rather interesting by limiting opponents to 18.7 ppg (12th nationally), but much of the effort in that department came against much weaker opponents in Hawaii, New Mexico and Northern Arizona.
In an odd twist, it turns out that the red zone defense for the Aztecs is one that is allowing foes to score on 94.1 percent of their possessions inside the 20-yard line. At this point, there are only a handful of teams in the FBS that are performing worse in that area.
Providing some serious hitting for SDSU are leading tackler Josh Gavert with his 49 stops, followed by Calvin Munson who is not only second with 45 tackles, he leads the program with 7.5 stops for loss, has a pair of sacks and two interceptions.
After beginning their relationship against Hawaii with seven straight defeats in Honolulu, the Pack have now won back-to-back dates at Aloha Stadium and four straight overall, as they held on for the eight-point victory last weekend.
Controlling the action for more than 37 minutes, Nevada converted 10-of-20 on third down and both fourth-down tries, even with Cody Fajardo have a sub par effort throwing the ball. The quarterback finished 17-of-26 for just 128 yards and a score, not to mention an interception, although he did record his 10th career 100-yard rushing game as he finished with a game-high 133 yards and two TDs on 23 attempts. As a team, Nevada posted 299 yards on 61 carries.
Nevada's defense managed to force a pair of turnovers, an interception by Duran Workman and a fumble recovery from Charles Garrett. The unit logged five tackles for loss, two by Lenny Jones who also posted the lone sack for the visitors.
Workman, who has missed one game, leads the squad with three interceptions.
With those two forced turnovers, the Pack now find themselves ranked 10th in the country with a plus-1.13 turnovers per contest. Turnovers happens to be one of the more favorable stats for Nevada these days, another being red zone offense (sixth in the FBS) which has seen the team come away with points 94.4 percent of the time.
Responsible for many of those scores inside the 20-yard line in one way or another is Fajardo who, in addition to completing 62.6 percent of his passes for 226.8 ypg and 11 TDs, is also the leading rusher for Nevada with 585 net yards, leading to a team-best 10 TDs. Also making contributions in the running game are Don Jackson and James Butler with a combined 890 yards and the other seven rushing touchdowns.
With Fajardo heading up the offense for the Wolf Pack, the home team in this case has a distinct advantage over San Diego State, even with Pumphrey trying to balance the scales.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 30, San Diego State 17Game Date and Time
Saturday, November 1, 10:30 p.m. (ET).