Two of the top running backs in the country meet Saturday as 21st-ranked San Diego State visits UNLV, which has bounced back from a stunning season-opening loss to Howard. The Aztecs’ Rashaad Penny ranks second in the nation with 164.6 rushing yards per game while Lexington Thomas is fourth with 142.8 for the upset-minded Rebels.
Penny surpassed the 100-yard mark for the fifth straight game in last Saturday’s 34-28 win over Northern Illinois as the Aztecs improved to 5-0 for the first time since 1975. One of 17 remaining undefeated teams in the country, San Diego State has gone 26-3 over its last 29 games but will need to be careful not to overlook a Rebels team coming off a dominant 41-13 victory over San Jose State. Redshirt freshman quarterback Armani Rogers had a breakout game against the Spartans, accounting for 274 total yards and four touchdowns - including two on the ground. Rogers faces a tougher test this week against an Aztecs defense that is allowing 21.2 points per game and has forced a total of 12 turnovers, including four against Northern Illinois.
TV: 10:45 p.m. ET, ESPN2. LINE: San Diego State -10.5
ABOUT SAN DIEGO STATE (5-0, 1-0 Mountain West): The two-time defending conference champion heads into the lighter part of its schedule after winning its last three games against Stanford, Air Force and Northern Illinois by a total of 15 points. The Aztecs lead the nation in kick-return average (39.13) and boast the reigning Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week in running back Juwan Washington, who took the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown in the win over Northern Illinois. Safety Parker Baldwin has made a team-high 38 tackles to lead the defense, which held the Rebels to 122 yards of total offense in last season’s 26-7 victory.
ABOUT UNLV (2-2, 1-0): The Rebels are averaging 36.5 points with Rogers and Thomas leading the way and dynamic wide receivers Devonte Boyd and Kendal Keys combining for 23 catches through four games. “That’s a really good offensive team,” San Jose State coach Brent Brennan told reporters. “Their tailback (Thomas), quarterback (Rogers) and their receiver (Boyd) are excellent, excellent players.” Defensive back Chauncey Scissum has made two interceptions and linebacker Bailey Laolagi leads an improving unit with 42 tackles, but the Rebels have recorded only four sacks and will need an improved effort from their veteran front line to slow down the Aztecs.
1. Players on both teams will wear red ribbon decals on their helmets to honor the victims of Sunday night’s mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip.
2. San Diego State coach Rocky Long is 21-4 against UNLV, including his tenure at New Mexico.
3. The Aztecs have won three in a row against the Rebels and hold a 16-9 lead in the all-time series.
PREDICTION: San Diego State 34, UNLV 27