NCAAF · Fri (12/16) @ 11:35am ET
|MIAO Miami (OH)||at||UAB UAB|
|Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, CA|
Our Pick: Over 65 (both -110)
Circle this one on your schedule of must-watch games, the week’s lone dual of national top-10 quarterbacks. Carson Strong of Nevada vs. Jake Haener of Fresno, two California kids lighting up the scoreboard.
Kudos to FS2 for offering this national TV broadcast to a primetime audience on the East Coast.
Money on Nevada moved the Bulldogs from 5- to 3-point favorites by mid-week, and we believe that’s smart money. Strong has been in this spot previously, and the Pack might be the best squad in the Mountain West Conference.
However, we deem Over as the safe play. Sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
Nevada Wolf Pack (5-1)
In this corner is the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Strong, a fourth-year junior from Vacaville, Calif. At least, that’s how the pre-game introductions should be made—and by Michael Buffer, no less—inside Bulldog Stadium.
It’s a heavyweight bout between Strong and Haener.
Strong piloted the Pack to a 35-28 victory, completing 20 of 31 attempts for 154 yards and three touchdowns, in Fresno in 2019. He knows this FieldTurf. He’s thrown for 1,990 yards and 16 touchdowns, with three interceptions, this season.
Nevada averages a top-25 33.8 points, 0.452 points per play (30th), 348 passing yards (sixth), and 44 passes (seventh), and it scores a top-15 94.4% of the time when it gets inside the red zone. Strong rates.
Senior tight end Cole Turner (6-6, 240) has 34 catches, an 11.9-yard average, and four touchdowns, making him Strong’s favorite target. Melquan Stovall, Justin Lockhart and Romeo Doubs average about four receptions, and 14 yards per catch, between them.
Toa Tava (6-yard average on 65 carries, 4 TDs) and Devonte Lee (3 TDs) give the Pack some semblance of a running game, but it will keep it on the ground less than 38% of the time, a bottom-25 figure.
Fresno will also have to contend with Tristan Nichols, a 6-4, 245-pound senior defensive tackle and native Hawaiian who leads the nation with eight sacks.
Nevada at Fresno State Full Sportsbook Odds
Fresno State Bulldogs (5-2)
The Dogs have a defensive complement to Nichols in Arron Mosby, a 6-4, 250-pound senior defensive end from Sanger, Calif.
He is knotted at the top of the country’s list of forced fumbles with four, with Issiah Nixon (Texas State), Mitchell Agude (UCLA), and DeWayne Carter (Duke). Appropriately, Nichols and Mosby are among the top 20 with nine tackles for loss.
Fresno leads the nation by allowing other quarterbacks to complete only 47.9% of their pass attempts. Playing at home should bolster that effort against Strong. Fresno is top-30, too, in allowing 4.8 yards per play, 319 yards, and 20.8 points.
Haener, a 6-1, 194-pound senior from Danville, Calif., has thrown for 2,326 yards, third in the country, and 20 touchdowns, tied for fifth with LSU’s Max Johnson.
Sophomore wideout Jalen Cropper has scored a national-best 10 times through the air, and fourth-year junior Zane Pope averages nearly 20 yards on his 15 catches.
The roster of receivers is deep, and it includes fifth-year senior tailback Ronnie Rivers. He averages 4.4 yards on his 112 runs, and he averages more than 10 yards on 25 receptions. He has four TDs.
Haener, however, has had six passes picked off and has fumbled twice, which illustrates a Bulldogs issue.
Rivers has fumbled twice, too. As a team, Fresno gives it away 2.3 times a game, among the nation’s bottom 11, and their pick-off rate is in the bottom half of the country. Nevada is third in the nation with a +1.4 turnover margin.
The Dogs also have problems inside the red zone (coming away with points only 81% of the time, in the bottom half of the game) and with penalties.
Sports Betting Recommendation
Fresno State is a compelling option as a slim home favorite, but its questions with turnovers and penalties compel us to favor the over as we kick back with ample provisions and enjoy what promises to be an electric game.
Four of the last five between these two, in this arena, saw 63, 62 64, and 83 points tallied. And those didn’t involve two top-10 national figures at quarterback. Two of our models have 68 and 69 points being scored.
This might be the day’s most entertaining game.