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Position preview for Nevada-Colorado State: Who has the edge where?

Scott Patchan
Scott Patchan is one of the Mountain West's best defensive players. (Colorado State athletics)

Nevada Sports Net columnist Chris Murray breaks down Nevada’s football game against Colorado State on Saturday at Canvas Stadium with a position-by-position analysis.

Nevada (7-4, 4-3 MW) at Colorado State (3-8, 2-5 MW)

When: Saturday, 6 p.m.

Where: Canvas Stadium (capacity 41,000)

Surface: Artificial turf

Weather: High of 59; low of 33

TV/Radio: CBS Sports Network/94.5 FM

Online: None

Betting line: Nevada favored by 4; total of 55.5

All-time series: Colorado State leads 12-4

Last matchup: Nevada won 49-10 on Nov. 10, 2018 in Reno

Position-by-position

Quarterback: Temple transfer Todd Centeio has had a solid season and is dangerous with his legs. He’s thrown for 2,773 yards and 15 TDs, including a 527-yard, five-TD effort against Hawaii last week, and he’s added 447 rushing yards and two scores. Nevada’s Carson Strong is arm over legs, but that arm is elite. He’s 367 yards and two touchdowns shy of tying Nevada’s single-season records. Edge: Nevada

Running backs: Like Nevada, Colorado State has not run the ball well. The team’s leading back is Boston College transfer David Bailey, who has 738 yards, 3.9 ypc and nine touchdowns. At 6 feet and 240 pounds, he’s a big load and good around the goal line. Nevada’s Toa Taua hasn’t gotten much of a chance from his offensive line, but he’s averaging 635 yards, 5.1 ypc and has six scores. Edge: Nevada

Wide receivers/tight ends: Two of the nation’s best tight ends face off. Colorado State’s Trey McBride is one of three finalists for the Mackey Award and a potential first-round pick. He has 84 catches for 1,008 yards and one TD. Nevada TE Cole Turner counters with 60 catches for 672 yards and 10 TDs. Those two are a push, but Nevada has the edge at receiver. For CSU, Dante Wright is a good wideout. Edge: Nevada

Offensive line: Neither line is among the best in the MW. Colorado State has rushed for 3.7 yards per carry and allowed 22 sacks. It’s better on the interior with C Cam Reddy and LG Barry Wesley than at tackle. Nevada’s line has a tough test against Colorado State’s excellent pass-rushing attack and must do better in the run game. The Pack has just 101 rushing yards (1.1 ypc) the last four games. Edge: CSU

Defensive line: Both lines can get after the quarterback. CSU’s Scott Patchan (63 tackles, 15 TFL, eight sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries) is a MW defensive player of the year candidate. The Rams have held up against the run, too, holding teams to 3.9 yards per carry (Nevada has allowed 4.6 ypc). Dom Peterson is two sacks shy of being third on Nevada’s all-time sack list (he has 21.5). Edge: CSU

Linebackers: CSU’s linebackers blitz frequently with Cam'Ron Carter (88 tackles, six sacks, 7.5 TFL) and hybrid Mohamed Kamara (seven sacks, nine TFL) posting good numbers. Dequan Jackson (82 tackles, 8.5 TFL) also is a good player. Nevada has a good duo with Daiyan Henley (83 tackles, four interceptions) and Lawson Hall (72 tackles), and Trevor Price is coming off a career-high eight-stop game. Edge: CSU

Secondary: CSU has allowed at least two touchdown passes in nine of its 11 games and yielded a season-worst 406 passing yards in last week’s loss to Hawaii. The Rams rank 65th nationally in pass efficiency defense, so it’s a decent unit. Rashad Ajayi is CSU’s top cornerback. Nevada has largely avoided giving up big plays in the passing game (just 6.3 yards per opponent attempt). Edge: Nevada

Special teams: CSU has elite specialists in punter Ryan Stonehouse (51.1 yards per attempt, second in the nation) and kicker Cayden Camper, whose 24 field goals (in 31 attempts) also are the second most in the nation. Rams return man Thomas Pannunzio has returned one punt for a touchdown and is averaging 24.8 yards per kick return. These are two of the MW’s better special teams units. Edge: CSU

Coaching: Steve Addazio is in his second season at CSU and has a 4-11 mark with the Rams after stops at Temple (13-11) and Boston College (44-44). Nevada’s Jay Norvell’s 32 wins are the fifth most in Nevada history. His teams are 10-17 on the road, including a 2-3 mark this year. The last time his team played at Colorado State came in 2017, a 44-42 thriller won by the Rams. Edge: Nevada

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMurray.

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