SJSU vs. UNLV: Game Preview, Kick Time, TV & Radio Schedule, Odds, Prediction
The Rebels end an era by playing their Sam Boyd Stadium finale against the Spartans this Saturday.
The season-long farewell reaches its end.
WEEK 13: San Jose State Spartans (4-6, 1-5 Mountain West) vs. UNLV Rebels (2-8, 0-6 MW)
WHEN: Saturday, November 23 — 1:00 PM PT/2:00 PM MT
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium; Las Vegas, Nevada (35,500)
TV: AT&T SportsNet
RADIO: The UNLV broadcast can be found in and around Las Vegas on ESPN 1100 AM and 100.9 FM, while the San Jose State broadcast can be on 910 AM (KKSF) and on affiliate stations 1460 AM/101.1 FM in Salinas (KION), 1360 AM in Modesto (KFIV), and 1280 AM in Stockton (KWSX)
SERIES RECORD: San Jose State leads the series 16-6-1. In the last meeting on October 27, 2018, the Spartans defeated the Rebels, 50-37, in San Jose.
LAST WEEK: UNLV lost at home to Hawaii, 21-7, while San Jose State was on a bye after losing at Hawaii the week before.
ODDS (via OddsShark): San Jose State -6.5
SP+ PROJECTION: San Jose State by 6.2 (64% win probability)
FEI PROJECTION: San Jose State by 3.8
298 games down, one to go.
The UNLV Rebels will bid adieu to Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday afternoon when the host the San Jose State Spartans, hoping to provide an enduring highlight to what has been a disappointing season.
Brent Brennan’s team still has plenty to play for, however, since winning out would enable the Spartans to clinch bowl eligibility for the first time since 2013 (note: SJSU did play in the 2015 Cure Bowl, but they did so with a 5-7 record before winning it).
How can either side get back into the win column? Here’s our preview.
Three Keys to a San Jose State Victory
1. Get chunk plays. Lots of them.
The Spartans haven’t been shy about letting Josh Love rip it and Saturday should be the latest opportunity to do just that. San Jose State leads the Mountain West with 32 pass plays of 20-plus yards in conference play, while UNLV ranks tenth by that same measure on defense with 24 such plays allowed.
Tre Walker would appear to be the most obvious potential beneficiary, as 15 of his 59 catches have gone for at least 20 yards, but it’s worth keeping in mind that senior Bailey Gaither could be the X-factor that’s harder to account for because he, too, has a 20-yard catch rate just above 25%.
2. Revive the pass rush again.
Hawaii pitched a shutout in the sack column against SJSU two weeks ago, but it’s worth keeping in mind that, after a woeful start to the season, the Spartans’ pass rush has mostly perked up in recent weeks. Their season-long 5.1% sack rate still ranks just 91st nationally, but they had ten sacks in a three-game stretch against San Diego State, Army, and Boise State.
In other words, they can beat a beatable offensive line and UNLV definitely qualifies as such with an 8.2% sack rate allowed.
3. Contain the tight ends.
One thing that UNLV has done reasonably well this year is get the ball to Giovanni Fauolo and Noah Bean, so Spartans linebackers may have a trick task on their hands. Fauolo and Bean have combined for 38 receptions and averaged 15.7 yards per catch, so in defending an overall limited passing offense, slowing the big targets down will be crucial.
Three Keys to a UNLV Victory
1. Don’t give the Spartans a short field.
Much of this key will come down to avoiding the killer mistake when dropping back to pass, but UNLV has actually benefitted from a bit of good fumble luck to this point, too, in losing just six of 14 fumbles to this point (42.9%). Meanwhile, the Spartans have been pretty unlucky by that same measure with a conference-high 20 opponent fumbles and only seven recoveries (35%).
That’s the kind of fortune which could snap back toward the mean anytime, so if trends hold for another afternoon and the Spartans keep creating opportunities, the Rebels could put themselves in an unenviable position.
This will be doubly important if the Rebels find a way to keep things close late because only one other FBS quarterback, Arkansas State’s Layne Fletcher, has thrown six fourth-quarter interceptions like Kenyon Oblad.
2. Win on third downs.
It’s no secret that the Rebels have struggled mightily moving the chains, but this stoppable force is finally facing a very movable object: UNLV’s 27.5% third-down conversion rate on offense and San Jose State’s 52.3% conversion rate on defense means that something will have to give.
Which side will gain the upper hand? It’s hard to say, but setting the running game up to succeed would go a long way toward helping UNLV. When facing third and three or fewer yards, the Rebels have converted 17 of 37 rushing attempts (45.9%).
3. Don’t let Hayes Hicken down.
In a conference chock full of top-notch specialists, the Rebels’ senior punter has kept busy and quietly put forth a solid campaign. He’s averaged a solid 43.4 yards per punt with ten kicks inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, but special teams have been a huge issue for UNLV all season long and the also Rebels rank 125th in the FBS with 33.9 net yards per return. San Jose State doesn’t have much more than a modest return game themselves, but making the Spartans work for a long drive is one of the little things that could make a big difference.
The Rebels haven’t been able to put forth a complete sixty minutes nearly all season and it’s not even clear they have a strength that compares to San Jose State’s passing attack at this point. They were able to clamp down on Hawaii a week ago, but it’s hard to imagine the defense doing it again. In short, the home fans will get to walk out of Sam Boyd Stadium disappointed one last time.
San Jose State 34, UNLV 17