San Jose State vs. UNLV: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction

San Jose State vs. UNLV: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction

Mountain West Football

San Jose State vs. UNLV: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction

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San Jose State vs. UNLV: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction


The Spartans and Rebels do battle in a West division matchup on a short week. Here’s how to watch and our preview of what to watch for.


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Both sides still have plenty of motivation.

WEEK 8: San Jose State Spartans (3-4, 1-2 Mountain West) vs. UNLV Rebels (0-6, 0-2 Mountain West)

WHEN: Thursday, October 21 — 8:00 PM PT/9:00 PM MT

WHERE: Allegiant Stadium; Las Vegas, NV

TV: CBS Sports Network

STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes CBSSN, by following this link.

You can also stream the UNLV radio broadcast on LVSportsNetwork.com and the San Jose State broadcast on The Varsity Network app, which is available for Android and Apple devices.

RADIO: The San Jose State broadcast can be found in and around the San Francisco Bay Area on 860 AM (KTRB). The UNLV broadcast can be found in and around Las Vegas on ESPN 1100 AM and 100.9 FM.

SERIES RECORD: San Jose State leads the all-time series 17-7-1. In the last meeting on November 14, 2020, the Spartans defeated the Rebels, 34-17, in San Jose.

LAST WEEK: San Jose State lost at home to San Diego State in double overtime, 19-13, while UNLV lost at home to Utah State, 27-24.

WEBSITES: SJSUSpartans.com, the official San Jose State athletics website | UNLVRebels.com, the official UNLV athletics website

GAME NOTES (PDF): San Jose State | UNLV

ODDS (as of 10/19, via Vegas Insider): San Jose State -5

SP+ PROJECTION: San Jose State by 11.0

FEI PROJECTION: UNLV by 0.3

The 2021 season hasn’t gone quite as hoped for both the San Jose State Spartans and UNLV Rebels, but their meeting on Thursday night to kick off Week 8 of Mountain West football action will carry plenty of weight for both sidelines.

For the visiting Spartans, defending the conference title is probably out of reach by now but securing a win in Las Vegas is absolutely critical to bolstering their hopes of bowling for the second straight year, a feat the program hasn’t accomplished since 1986-87. As for the Rebels, last week’s loss to Utah State makes it three straight weeks they’ve been agonizingly close to securing Marcus Arroyo’s first win as head coach. Considering that SJSU is slumping, now might be as good a time as any to get off the schneid.

Here’s how each side can claim the upper hand in this matchup.

Three Keys to a San Jose State Victory

1. Bully the Rebels between the tackles.

The Spartans running game hasn’t been quite as proficient this fall as it was in 2020, but there’s an opportunity to turn that around against a Rebels defense that has plenty of weaknesses to exploit. Though UNLV had eleven tackles for loss last week against Utah State, they’re still dead last in the Mountain West in total TFLs and rank well into the triple digits by overall stuff rate.

This could be a big game for Tyler Nevens if the offensive line can get it together for him. It’s a big “if”, however, considering that the Spartans themselves rank 105th with a 21.6% stuff rate allowed and 107th in Power Success Rate (short-yardage rushing situations).

2. Get Derrick Deese Jr. the ball.

Even if the rushing attack scuffles, though, the Rebels can be softened up through the air. They’ve allowed nine yards per attempt, the worst average in the conference and 121st overall among FBS teams, and a staggering 72.8% completion rate that is dead last in the country, which is a long way of saying that the Spartans’ star tight end could feast if quarterback Nick Nash can find him.

After all, Colorado State’s Trey McBride may lead the conference in receptions and receiving yards from the position, but Deese Jr. leads all FBS tight ends in catches of 20 or more yards and is currently fourth among his qualified peers with 17.9 yards per catch. If he can at least force linebackers Adam Plant Jr. and Jacoby Windmon to play in coverage rather than as part of UNLV’s pass rush more often than not, that could be a significant tactical advantage.

3. Force UNLV into long drives.

On a per-play basis, the San Jose State has been almost exactly as productive as they were during their run to a championship last year, allowing 5.03 yards per play in 2021 after 4.95 YPP in 2020. While they haven’t been nearly as disruptive up front, the secondary has done its part with 40 passes defended in six games and, as a unit, they still rank in the middle of the pack nationally by available yards percentage allowed and right outside the top 50 by points per drive allowed.

They could press this advantage to the fullest, even if the offense struggles, by tilting field position in their favor. SJSU has allowed just 0.47 points per drive when opponents start within their own 20-yard line while UNLV has averaged 0.91 points on offense in those same situations.

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