San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan walks on the sidelines during an NCAA college football game against Hawaii Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
- San Jose State looks to complete an undefeated abbreviated season against Nevada on Friday night as three-point favorites
- Nevada’s Carson Strong has been one of the nation’s top quarterbacks and is coming off a five-touchdown performance last week
- Read below for odds, analysis and a pick on the game
Two of the three teams in the running for a Mountain West Championship will face each other for the chance to advance to the conference title game on Friday in Las Vegas. Undefeated San Jose State is looking to wrap up its regular season with a win against one-loss Nevada, but this is the best Wolf Pack team in the last decade.
This is more of a road game for the Spartans, who were made to travel when the city of San Jose chose to to eliminate sports from being played within the city due to COVID-19 concerns. This is a tricky matchup for head coach Brent Brennan, who is winless against Nevada in his tenure at San Jose State.
After this game opened as a pick ’em, the line has moved to favor San Jose State by 2.5-points heading into Friday’s kick off.
Nevada vs San Jose State Week 15 Odds
|Nevada||+3 (-106)||+120||O 58 (-108)|
|San Jose State||-3 (-115)||-108||U 58 (-113)|
Odds taken from DraftKings on Dec. 9th
Battle of Top Passing Offenses
Nevada sophomore quarterback Carson Strong has been one of the nation’s top passers, and is coming off his best game of the season since the Wolf Pack’s first game of 2020. Last Saturday against Fresno State, Strong threw for 354 yards and five touchdowns in a wild 37-26 win.
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) December 6, 2020
On the year, Strong has completed nearly 70-percent of his passes for more than 2,300 yards and 21 touchdowns to just four interceptions, two of which came against the Bulldogs. Actually, after starting the season without throwing a pick in his first three games, he’s thrown four in his last four games, but he’s also thrown 12 touchdown passes during that stretch as well.
San Jose State has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just over 67-percent of their passes over their last three games. Although the Spartans have been better at defending on third downs in recent weeks, they haven’t played particularly strong offenses in that category in their last three outings. Both teams have played against Hawaii and San Diego State in their last three games, and even though Nevada’s lone loss this season came to the Warriors, Strong completed 80-percent of his passes with two touchdowns.
PLAY THE FIGHT SONG
— San José State Football (@SanJoseStateFB) December 6, 2020
The Spartans counter with the well-traveled Nick Starkel, who is now starting for his third college program after stints with Texas A&M and Arkansas. Besides a 481-yard, five touchdown performance against New Mexico in his second game of the season, Starkel has been relatively pedestrian. In two of his last three games, he’s just barely cleared the 180-yard mark through the air – and completed just 48-percent of his passes against the Hawaii side that Strong kept a clean stat sheet against.
Which Way to Go
Even though the Spartans are the home team, they will travel further to play this game than the Wolf Pack. The Spartans’ defensive front seven should be a more disruptive unit than what Strong has had to contend with for most of the season, but he is also the best QB San Jose State has faced.
Nevada doesn’t get much of a pass rush, and the Wolf Pack had a poor performance defending the pass in their last game against the Bulldogs. Fresno has been a good passing offense all season, and that game should be considered an outlier against the consistency Nevada has otherwise shown this season. At any rate, the Wolf Pack secondary has graded out well this year, and will want to respond with a better effort against Starkel, who has dropped off as the season has gone on.
Both teams will be motivated to advance to their first Mountain West championship game in program history, but Nevada gets its shot in a de facto home game with one of the nation’s hottest quarterbacks.
The Pick: Nevada +3 (-106)
Nick Krueger has over a decade of experience in sports media, covering a wide range of events including two Olympic Games for Yahoo Sports. Other areas of focus for Nick throughout his career have included college football recruiting, NCAA athletics and Major League Baseball Spring Training.