San Diego State and Nevada will get a chance at playing on the national stage Saturday when they clash on CBS in a battle of contrasting styles with major implications in the race for the Mountain West title. Nevada notched its first road win against a ranked opponent in school history last season when it edged then-No. 24 San Diego State 17-13. The win pushed the Wolfpack to bowl eligibility and kept the momentum of Jay Norvell’s coaching tenure going as he neared the end of his third year.
Now in his fourth season, the former Oklahoma offensive coordinator has Nevada on the cusp of being ranked itself as the Wolfpack (4-0) enter a critical rematch with San Diego State (3-1) after receiving three votes in this week’s AP Top 25 poll and 12 votes in the Coaches Poll. Beating a quality San Diego State team on national TV could push Nevada into the polls for the first time since 2010, but it won’t be easy.
The Aztecs are led by former Michigan coach Brady Hoke, who is back for his second stint as San Diego State’s coach after spending last season as the program’s defensive line coach. San Diego State’s defense was one of the best in the country last season and is allowing 3.94 yards per play so far this year as it enters a matchup with a Nevada offense that has been flying high so far.
San Diego State: The Aztecs got back on track last week with a 34-10 win over Hawaii after dropping a 28-17 game to San Jose State two weeks ago. Hoke may have replaced Rocky Long as coach, but the recipe for success remains the same with this San Diego State team as the defense leads the way. The Aztecs are forcing three-and-outs on 43.1% of possessions, which leads the country. Though the passing game struggled last week, San Diego State has been getting a nice jolt offensively from running back Greg Bell. The Nebraska transfer has run for more than 100 yards in all four games this season. Overall, SDSU is averaging 280.3 yards rushing per game while allowing just 91.3 yards per game on the ground.
Nevada: Nevada is 4-0 for the first time since 2010, when Colin Kaepernick was playing quarterback. The Wolfpack may have their best quarterback since then in redshirt sophomore Carson Strong. After taking over the job last season, Strong is in the midst of prolific start to his second season as the starter. He’s averaging 379 yards per game through the air and has thrown for 12 touchdowns and just one interception while completing 71% of his passes. His top target is junior receiver Romeo Doubs, who has 30 catches for 637 yards and eight touchdowns. The defense is better now, too. A season after finishing 100th nationally in scoring defense, Nevada has not allowed an opponent more than 400 total yards in a game.