Nevada vs. San Jose State: Spartans Game Preview, How To Watch, Odds, Prediction
Spartans will take field with Camdan McWright in their hearts
Week 9: Nevada Wolfpack (2-6, 0-4) @ San Jose State Spartans (4-2, 2-1)
When: Saturday, October 29th – 7:30 PT
Where: CEFCU Stadium; San Jose, CA
TV: CBS Sports Network
Odds: San Jose State -24.5 Over/Under 44.5
Last week’s preview wondered how San Jose State would respond following the tough loss to Fresno State the prior Saturday. The Spartan program never got that opportunity, and in the process suffered a much bigger loss, when Freshman Camdan McWright was tragically killed on Friday in an early morning traffic accident.
Tragedies put things in perspective, and the following day’s game against New Mexico State was correctly postponed. Oftentimes you will hear an organization use the company line of, ‘He would’ve wanted us to play’, in order to justify getting the game in. Thankfully that wasn’t the case here, and the entire San Jose State football family was able to properly mourn the loss of a fallen teammate.
The testimonials from players and coaches have poured in about what an incredible young man McWright was, and how much of an impact he left on them in the short time he was on campus. The healing process will take far longer than a week, and McWright will be honored on the field for the rest of the season, and in the memories of his teammates for the rest of their lives. Those teammates will take the field Saturday night and attempt to channel their emotions into something positive–playing football to the best of their ability.
How the players will ultimately respond on the field is anyone’s guess. But one thing they have going for them is this–Head Coach Brent Brennan and his staff. Brennan exemplifies what it means to be a coach, a true leader of men, and the Spartans are lucky to have him. His task ahead this week is likely tougher than any he has faced in his six years as head coach, regardless of the opponent.
The team lining up against the Spartans this week is Nevada, an outfit on a 6 game losing streak since starting the season 2-0. SJSU is a huge favorite according to oddsmakers, and they own a massive talent edge on both sides of the ball. Truthfully, it’s hard to find anything on the stat sheet that gives the Wolfpack a glimmer of hope in this one. Their best metric seems to be how well they defend the pass (and they only rank in the middle of the pack here). Upon closer inspection, it is amazing to see the list of anemic passing offenses they have faced. 6 of their 8 opponents rank in the bottom 20 in the country in passing yards per game–New Mexico State, Iowa, Air Force, Colorado State, Hawaii, and San Diego State, and one of the other two, Incarnate Word, isn’t even eligible for the rankings because they compete in the FCS. Nevada very well may have a decent pass defense, but they for sure have not been tested the way they will be tested on Saturday night.
Chevan Cordeiro and the San Jose State offense has now had to wait an extra week to get the bad taste from the Fresno State game out of their mouths, sputtering to a season low 10 points. The last time the Spartans had a week off, they fixed some issues on the offensive line and put together three straight weeks of scoring 33 or more. The line struggled again in the loss to the Bulldogs and will be counted on here to provide better protection for Cordeiro and allow the running game to get going, key to maintaining a balanced offense.
The Wolfpack should be quite familiar with many of Cordeiro’s weapons, as the Spartans top three receivers are all Nevada transfers, a crazy-but-true fact. Charles Ross is playing his second season for SJSU, but Elijah Cooks and Justin Lockhart both suited up a year ago for the Wolfpack, and Lockhart actually caught 3 balls against San Jose State when the two teams met 12 months ago. Unfortunately, knowing the players is not likely to help Nevada cover them, and with time in the pocket, Cordeiro may have a field day playing pitch-and-catch with his talented targets.
A side effect of teams having to direct extra attention to threats on the outside, is that it opens up the running game. Kairee Robinson never was able to get untracked against Fresno State as the Spartans kept falling behind the chains in down and distance. Expect Robinson to get his name called a few more times in the first half, with the hope that the senior displays the elusiveness he did against UNLV.
While the Wolfpack may have the potential to slow down the San Jose State offense, the biggest mismatch in the game looks to be a rather porous Nevada offense against a stout Spartan defense. When you are bottom 10 in the nation in passing offense, as the Wolfpack are, most would expect you to rank fairly high in rushing offense to compensate. Not so for Nevada–they rank 111th out of 131 FBS schools. Simply put, they struggle in all facets on that side of the ball. And whereas the SJSU offense has had a few moments of inconsistency, the defense has answered the bell every single time.
The Nevada offensive line in particular, has had its struggles this season, and that is likely to continue against the veteran front seven of the Spartans. Expect the usual suspects to shine under the lights on Saturday–Kyle Harmon, Junior Fehoko, Bryun Parham, and Cade Hall should all have opportunities for game-changing plays. The Tre Jenkins-led secondary is primed for a big night as well.
Though Wolfpack head coach Ken Wilson has yet to make it official, Shane Illingworth will probably get the start under center. Illingworth began the year as the starter until being replaced mid-game by Nate Cox in a shutout loss to Iowa earlier this season. After four largely ineffective games, the script was flipped Saturday against San Diego State, with Illingworth replacing Cox. He led an immediate length of the field drive for a touchdown, and while it resulted in the only points of the night for the Wolfpack, it’s likely to be good enough for Illingworth to get the call against the Spartans.
Partly because several of them suit up for San Jose State right now, but Nevada is severely lacking in skill position talent, not a surprise to hear when considering their woeful offensive ranks. Toa Taua is the leading rusher, but he has really found the sledding tough the last couple of games, and averages less than 4 yards per carry. Of more concern for the Wolfpack, is the fact that Taua is also the leading receiver, both in terms of receptions and yards. That is certainly not something you see every day, or every decade for that matter. It highlights the lack of a downfield threat in the passing game, and this is not the defense to fix that against, as the Spartans rank 4th in the nation in points allowed per game.
These two met a season ago in Reno, a 27-24 Wolfpack win on a last second field goal. There is not much to be taken from that outing though, as the cast of characters for both squads has changed dramatically, and Nevada has undergone a coaching change. Besides that, there is far too much emotion for more important reasons ready to be unleashed. Spartan players will honor McWright with a CM6 sticker on their helmets, representing his initials and uniform number. A video will also be shown on the scoreboard before kickoff, and of course a moment of silence will be held.
The best way for the Spartans to honor Camdan McWright on Saturday night is by laying it all out on the field for 60 minutes, by carrying out the game plan set forth by the coaching staff, and ultimately by coming out on top on the scoreboard. There is every reason to expect this is exactly what will transpire. Playing for a cause can bring out the best in us, and we’ve already seen that SJSU is plenty good before even factoring emotion in. The sneaking suspicion here is that the Spartans defense either holds Nevada to two field goals, or gets some help from above to block an extra point on a solo Wolfpack scoring drive, thus providing the ultimate tribute to their fallen teammate and brother–a 6 showing on the scoreline that will last forever.
Prediction: San Jose State 34 Nevada 6
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