UNLV vs San Diego State: Keys to a Rebels Win, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Rebels and Aztecs meet in San Diego for a key game in the West Division
Brumfield expected to play; can the Rebels stop 3-game slide?
WEEK 10: UNLV Rebels at San Diego State Aztecs
WHERE: Snapdragon Stadium, San Diego, California
WHEN: Saturday, November 5, 2022 – 7:00pm EST (4:00pm PST)
TV: CBS Sports Network
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, by following this link.
RADIO: ESPN 1100AM & 100.9 FM
SERIES RECORD: This will be the 32nd meeting between UNLV and San Diego State. The Aztecs have won 22 of the last 31 matchups, including 7 of 8 meetings since 2014.
WEBSITES: goaztecs.com is the official San Diego State University Athletics website | unlvrebels.com is the University of Nevada Las Vegas Athletics official website.
GAME NOTES (PDF): UNLV | San Diego State
ODDS: SDSU Aztecs by -6.5
PARKER FLEMING PROJECTION: SDSU Aztecs by 3.08
Coming out of a bye week, the UNLV Rebels will head into San Diego to begin what Head Coach Marcus Arroyo is referring to as their “stretch run” against the San Diego State Aztecs. The Rebels have four games remaining in their 2022 campaign, as do the Aztecs, and both squads are looking to get back on the winning track. Further, the Rebels and the Aztecs are coming into this contest with identical 4-4 records, including 2-2 in Mountain West Conference play.
The Rebels picked up some good news earlier this week, when quarterback Doug Brumfield returned to practice, on track to start for UNLV this Saturday. Brumfield will look to get the offense back on track against the Aztecs, as the Rebels offense has scored only 35 points in its last three games, since the sophomore was injured in an October 7 game against San Jose State.
Besides Brumfield, the Rebels stated running back Aidan Robbins and wide receiver Kyle Williams returned to practice in non-contact jerseys and are considered day-to-day. Wide receiver Jeff Weimer was also limited at practice and is considered week-to-week. At Arroyo’s press conference on Monday, there was no further indication whether any or all of the players would be ready for Saturday.
UNLV is looking for a crucial win within the Mountain West’s West division, and the Aztecs are a team they appear to match up quite well with. The Rebels offense has averaged just over 350 yards per game on the season; the Aztecs defense has surrendered more than 370 yards per game thus far. The Aztecs will look to establish their running game, ranked 48th nationally at 172.1 yards per game, against a Rebels defense giving up 171.8 rushing yards per contest.
This late in the season, two teams appearing so evenly matched, a lot of expectations can rest on the outcome. A loss can all but extinguish any chance at a spot in the conference championship game, while a win can not only keep the victor in contention but draw one step closer to bowl eligibility. For the Rebels to get this crucial win on the road, there are a few key factors the team will need to focus on:
Get Brumfield Going Early
While there may be some rust to shake off, Doug Brumfield has led the UNLV offense this season by being decisive and pushing the tempo from the opening drive and for much of the first half. Whether it be as part of the rushing attack or completing short passes on early downs, Brumfield has excelled this season at finding players in space and leading them downfield in a hurry, often to catch a defense on its heels and moving the chains.
UNLV's starting center Leif Fautanu tells me having Doug Brumfield back in practice gives the Rebels that "swag" back that they need on offense.— Paloma Villicana FOX5 (@PalomaVillicana) October 31, 2022
More on UNLV Football tonight on @FOX5Vegas pic.twitter.com/0bEFaRzSiX
Conversely, when the play calling and execution has left the Rebels in third-and-long situations, the team has struggled mightily, ranking 115th nationally in third down conversions (31-for-98).
Brumfield should expect San Diego State to bring pressure early and often, especially if the last two weeks are any indication. In its last two games, against Nevada and Fresno State, the Aztecs’ defense has produced ten sacks, 19 tackles for loss, and 68 pressures. This could be a case of the Rebels having to “weather the early storm” before finding adjustments or openings against San Diego State later in the game.
The Running Game: Less Explosive, More Pop?
While one of the few bright spots in UNLV’s loss to Notre Dame was Courtney Reese going for 142 yards, outside of two runs for 74 and 47 yards, Reese was only able to gain 21 yards on nine carries. While those long runs helped set up two touchdown drives for the Rebels to keep them competitive against the Irish, it also led to too many drives ending in three-and-out. As the offense sputtered, the defense tired, and the game slipped from their grasp much too quickly.
Against the Aztecs, who are giving up 129.0 rushing yards per game, UNLV will need to at least challenge them with their running game. At worst, even if some drives end up going three-plays-and-out, UNLV should be mindful and consider taking enough time off the clock to give the defense a chance to catch its breath; best case scenario, if the Rebels can find success in the ground game, they can then aim to control time of possession and force the Aztecs to possibly play with fewer possessions.
At this time, it is unknown if Aidan Robbins will be available for this contest, but it’s no secret his skills would be a tremendous contribution to the Rebels. Whether Robbins is or is not available, Courtney Reese and Jordan Younge-Humphrey will be called upon to carry the load.
Given the number of variables to contend with this late in the season, UNLV coaches and play callers might also need to rethink their approach in this game and re-examine the play selection on first and second down. Given the team’s recent struggles, it might be late enough in the season to add a new formation or a few trick plays to possibly keep a defense guessing, or at least attempt for a more manageable third down conversion.
Defensively, Keep Mayden in the Pocket
If the UNLV defense has shown one weakness in the past few weeks, it’s that a mobile quarterback outside the pocket, by play design or his own accord, wreaks havoc on responsibilities and leaves far too much open across the field. The Rebels may need to rely on a game plan for the Aztecs based on their adjustments in the New Mexico game; once Miles Kendrick was contained and pressured, the Rebels were able to force their opponent into more difficult spots and ultimately shut down the Lobos’ offense.
If San Diego State can utilize Jalen Mayden as a passer and a rusher, it could be a long day for the Rebels on defense. But pressure to limit Mayden’s mobility, and disrupt leading rusher Jordan Byrd and running back Chance Bell, should produce dividends early for the Rebels and give the secondary opportunities to make plays downfield.
Getting a Grip on the Intangibles
If there’s been a constant in the Rebels’ season thus far, it’s been the turnovers at crucial times in the game, whether to help or hurt the Rebels. Interceptions, fumbles, blocked punts – they’ve gone the Rebels’ way at times, leading to decisive victories. In recent weeks, however, those turnovers have gone against the team, turning losses into blowouts or stopping any hope of a late comeback.
Can the Rebels learn from those critical plays? Is there something the Rebels can glean for this week’s game, to use against the Aztecs?
Or maybe the intangible is the impact a player can have just by being on the field. For the first time this season, defensive back Ricky Johnson returns to the field for the Rebels. Head Coach Marcus Arroyo spoke about Johnson during this week’s press conference: “Now it’s about Ricky getting back to Ricky. Making sure he gets back in the mix.”
Given how decisive almost every Rebels game has gone this season, for better or worse, this game is projecting as a very competitive contest, one that could easily be decided on the final drive.
Expect the Rebels and Aztecs to trade a couple of long drives in the first half, in front of a raucous Homecoming crowd in San Diego. The Aztecs have endured a long year, on and off the field, and they’ll compete not only for their own Homecoming, but on the heels of a stinging loss to Fresno State just one week earlier.
UNLV will also be looking to put its own recent losses behind them. Doug Brumfield returning will improve the offense, and if the running game can get going, the Rebels will look to take their shots downfield. The Rebels’ defense up front will play to control the pocket, relying on their secondary to win the turnover battle with a couple of key interceptions.
Look for a returning Kyle Williams and wide receiver Ricky White to make a few big plays and keep the Rebels in the game offensively, long enough for kicker Daniel Gutierrez to win it with a late field goal.