If you’re crazy enough to bet the UNLV Rebels beat the San Diego State Aztecs this weekend, here’s what you need to happen.
The UNLV Rebels and San Diego State Aztecs are going to play on Saturday because it’s on the schedule, and we should finish out the schedule.
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Rebels at Aztecs: 3 Keys to a UNLV win
UNLV is not going to beat San Diego State when the Rebels and Aztecs meet on Saturday.
But we’ve got to play the game anyway. The Rebs are limping to the finish line of a wildly disappointing season. They’re putting the finishing touches on what may very well end up being the worst UNLV team in Mountain West Conference history.
Meanwhile, San Diego State is doing what San Diego State often does. The Aztecs control their own destiny in the West Division and are likely looking past the Rebels to a November 17th date with Fresno State. That game should decide who advances to the conference championship game.
The Aztecs are favored by north of three scores. That’s up from an opening line of +18. The 2018 UNLV Rebels football season can’t come to a close soon enough. If they’re going to pull the upset against San Diego State, here’s what has to happen.
Armani Rogers has to play
The only way UNLV wins this game, or perhaps even keeps things competitive, is if quarterback Armani Rogers is on the field for the bulk of the snaps Saturday.
Courtesy of a foot injury, Rogers hasn’t played since September 22nd against Arkansas State. Max Gilliam has been under center for the Rebels in the five games since. He’s not played terribly in those games, all Rebels losses, and he’s arguably a better passer than Rogers. He’s a one-dimensional talent though, and UNLV will need Rogers’ dual threat skill set to combat an Aztecs defense that ranks at the top of the MWC.
This week UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez said Rogers would not start, but did not rule him out for Saturday’s game.
Go with the hot hand
And the hot hand belongs to running back Charles Williams.
In 2016 Williams rushed for 763 yards, a record for a UNLV freshman. Last year his season was cut short in the Rebels’ opener thanks to an ankle injury. This season had been mostly forgettable, until last week at Fresno State.
Williams was handed the ball 16 times and turned that into 121 yards on the ground, his most since racking up 141 at San Jose State his freshman year.
Keeping things close on Saturday means all hands on deck for UNLV.
Lexington Thomas will get his carries. Charles Williams should get his too.
Win the turnover battle
I hate when people say “win the turnover battle” is a key to winning a game. That’s so obvious. Do some research. Have some creativity.
So I’m a hypocrite. The truth of the matter is that it’s hard to find areas where the Rebels trump the Aztecs. Forget besting UNLV, it’s hard to find areas where SDSU is deficient, period.
For the season though, the Rebels have more attractive numbers than the Aztecs as far as turnover margin, believe it or not. UNLV ranks eighth in the league, San Diego State is second from the bottom.
In the Aztecs 28-24 loss at Reno last month, SDSU turned the ball over twice while the Wolf Pack played mistake free football. Give the Rebels the same luck on Saturday and I’m still not picking them to win. But extra possessions is the only way they’re keeping this one close.
After this one, there’s only two left. Hang in there.
San Diego State 45, UNLV 14