UNLV vs. San Diego State: position-by-position breakdown

A look at who has the advantage at each position when UNLV hosts San Diego State at 7:45 p.m. Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium.

QUARTERBACKS

UNLV freshman Armani Rogers has been an explosive passer this season, ranking fourth nationally in passing yards per completion. San Diego State junior Christian Chapman doesn’t produce as many big plays, but he’s been a perfect caretaker for his offense, with seven touchdowns and one interception.

Advantage: San Diego State

RUNNING BACKS

Barring injury, the two lead backs on these teams feel destined for All-Mountain West first-team status. Rebels junior Lexington Thomas ranks fourth in the FBS in rushing yards per game (142.8) and is tied for second in rushing touchdowns (9). Aztecs senior Rashaad Penny is second nationally with 164.6 yards per game.

Advantage: San Diego State

RECEIVERS

San Diego State has spread the ball around more than UNLV, as 14 players have recorded a reception. But through five games, the Aztecs’ top two receivers don’t have as many receiving yards as UNLV’s Devonte Boyd has in four (361).

Advantage: UNLV

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Rebels’ imposing front paves the way for the nation’s sixth-ranked rushing attack (305.5 yards per game) while keeping Rogers clean more often than not. The Aztecs are tied for 106th nationally in sacks allowed per game (2.8).

Advantage: UNLV

DEFENSIVE LINE

San Diego State has sacked opposing quarterbacks 14 times in five games, proving its front can create pressure on opposing passers. UNLV and its porous run defense (192.25 yards allowed per game) look like a delicious matchup for Penny.

Advantage: San Diego State

LINEBACKERS

The Rebels’ three starters have made more total tackles than the Aztecs’ linebacker trio, but they’ve also made fewer splash plays. Ronley Lakalaka, Jay Henderson and Troy Cassidy have a combined 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, and UNLV’s trio have combined for 3.5 tackles for loss and zero sacks.

Advantage: San Diego State

SECONDARY

San Diego State has more interceptions (8) than passing TDs allowed (7). The Rebels are allowing almost 300 yards per game through the air and have allowed 10 passing TDs.

Advantage: San Diego State

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Aztecs boast the reigning Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year in Penny, who is averaging 40.6 yards per kick return. San Diego State kicker John Baron II was also a All-Mountain West first-team selection last season and is 8-for-10 on field goals this season.

Advantage: San Diego State

INTANGIBLES

The spectre of Sunday’s mass shooting will weigh heavily on this game, with kickoff occurring six days after the tragedy. Emotions will be high for the Rebels in front of their home crowd, especially because the victims will be honored before the game.

Advantage: UNLV

HANDICAPPER’S TAKE

Bruce Marshall (goldsheet.com): San Diego State 38, UNLV 19 — The form chart continues to mostly hold in the Mountain West, where many trends such as San Diego State’s recent dominance of the Rebels (beating UNLV by a combined 78-21 in the past two meetings) endure. Coach Rocky Long’s schemes have closed UNLV’s running lanes in recent meetings, and the 119th-ranked Rebels defense will be hard-pressed to slow Penny.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow@BenSGotz on Twitter.

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