San Diego State Aztecs (5-0, 1-0) vs UNLV Rebels (2-2, 1-0)
Where: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV
When: 7:45 PM MT
Line: SDSU -10.5, O/U 57.5
Series: San Diego State leads 18-8, has won three in a row
UNLV did a great job of sandwiching their paycheck game against Ohio State with dominant wins against Idaho and San Jose State, which helped to erase that awkward opening loss against Howard. This doesn’t make them a sudden Mountain West title contender, but it’s significant positive progress.
San Diego State, meanwhile, is most definitely not just a title contender but the current leader to represent the Forgotten 5 in the New Years Six bowl. Posting two wins against Pac 12 opponents and being one of only 17 remaining undefeated teams through five weeks will do that for you, especially when the pollsters are watching you from the season’s beginning.
But let’s talk about something far more important first; this is simultaneously the most and least important game of football that will be played this weekend.
What Happened In Vegas Did Not Stay In Vegas
This past weekend, there was a mass shooting at an outdoor concert at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. There was so much to process and it felt like not a lot of time to process it in. Things are so different these days.
Being old enough to remember the Oklahoma City bombings, September 11th, and events like this or Columbine, one thing that struck me is the pace at which these events unfold. With Timothy McVey, or New York City, or the school shootings that predate 9/11, there was this slow unfolding of events and a gradual, rising tide of information.
Your understanding of the events grew and unfolded over the course of days, weeks or months, and you primary (not only, but primary) means of processing this information was to sit down with your friends and family and talk about what you had watched on the news or read in the newspapers (in print or online).
Not this, no.
With the advent of social media, your understanding and perspective of this event were unfolding on a second by second basis, with information pouring in as fast as people could tweet it out.
The benefit to this is the chance for people to react more quickly, whether that’s finding out if loved ones are safe or sending aid to those who are in need, those connections can happen lightning fast compared to a decade or two ago.
The downside is that absolutely everything happens at a relative breakneck speed, whether it’s a tweet about a friend of a friend of a friend who is either safe or injured, or a random guy who hates/loves President Trump using this event as a reason to bloviate about terrorism, gun control, or whatever other hot-button topics he knows will get people to look his way right now.
Fox News caught flak for saying that it would be great if people could hold off on politicizing this event for at least a day. Rightfully so in my opinion, since this would suggest that there’s a good time to politicize a tragedy, and also since politicizing things is their bread and butter.
But they were also correct. As much as social media has turned us into monsters who are starved for attention and instant gratification, now is not the time.
Now is not the time to turn your lens inward and use this event as a means of promoting whatever personal opinions and agenda you try to espouse (the very meaning of politicizing) so that you can draw attention to yourself.
No, now is the time to focus your lens outward, to reach out to those who have been physically and emotionally scarred by this awful day and offer them whatever help you’re able to give.
You don’t have to have a ton of money to give. You don’t have to drop what you are doing and rush off to Las Vegas and throw yourself head-first into a problem.
You can make a difference by simply finding a tweet by someone who was affected by this event and replying with compassion. Taking a minute to type out a caring phrase like “i’m so sorry for the hurt you are feeling” can mean a lot to some people.
You might even go crazy and start a conversation, one where you simply give them someone who is present and listening to what they have to say, so they can work through everything they’re trying to feel and everything they need to say.
Even if all you do is give them a link that allows them to call a hotline so that they have someone to talk to that they feel safe with, I assure you that every little thing you can do that reeks of “I thought it would be nice, in your time of need, to take five seconds to think about you instead of me” can work miracles that you’ll never comprehend.
Reach out and be a hero instead of trying to start arguments about what it all means, or how your sure this day proves whatever you think it proves.
Here are some options for those in need:
- United Way and Nevada 211 Information are available to connect anyone to needed resources. Local numbers are asked to dial 2-1-1 and all others can dial 866-535-5654.
- MGM Resorts has established a hotline at 702-692-2300 and toll-free at 888-634-7111. Other inquiries can be answered at their call center at 855-788-6775.
- Las Vegas Counseling Center will also be offering free counseling services throughout the week. Anyone affected can call 702-466-3750.
Magellan Health, Inc., has opened a 24-hour crisis hotline. Those impacted can call toll-free 1-800-327-7451.
- Optum’s free emotional-support helpline will be made available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-866-342-6892.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is opening its disaster distress helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746 to get in contact with a professional.
- SilverSummit Healthplan has established a 24-hour toll-free crisis hotline at 1-877-941-8079 for all those affected around the state.
- The Community Counseling Center will be open from 6:30 to 8 p.m. each day this week to provide counselors to help those needed. It is located at 714 E. Sahara Avenue.
- United Citizens Foundation is offering free behavioral health services to anyone needing assistance during this difficult time. Licensed therapists are available to provide counseling services at the North Las Vegas office of United Citizens Foundation by calling (702) 485-1718.
- The professionals at the Mojave Counseling Clinic on West Charleston can help. The clinic is staffed by psychiatrists, marriage and family therapists, and licensed clinical social workers. All are trained to help individuals work through the myriad of issues brought about by this type of tragedy. The sessions will be private and free of charge, no insurance necessary. To schedule an appointment, call (702) 253-0818.
For all of these reasons I’ve mentioned above, this football game is both extremely important and completely meaningless. Within the context of the larger landscape of what is going on in Las Vegas this week, a measly old game of football is no more than a blip on the mental radar of a number of folks.
But that won’t be the case for everyone, and just as many people will take great solace in the opportunity to spend three hours ignoring the universe at large and just be sitting in the stands at Sam Boyd or in front of their television and glueing themselves to a fun game of football instead of their real life for a while.
About That Football Game…
So there’s an actual football game that we should preview here. While the Rebels are no world-beaters, it’s a testament to how well they’ve played this season that they’re only an eleven point underdog against the Aztecs. Or maybe it’s a nod to a schedule that has been full of good-but-not-great opponents for SDSU.
These two offenses are similar in the sense that they only pass as much as is necessary to keep opposing defenses from loading the box to stop the run. They’ve been quite successful in this regard, as Rashaad Penny is on pace to finish the regular season with almost 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground for the Aztecs, while RB Lexington Thomas, QB Armani Rodgers, and RB Xzaviar Campbell are collectively on pace for more than 3,000 yards on the ground.
The defense should be the difference here. The two offenses UNLV has shut down were far less prolific than San Diego State’s, and their offensive production has come against much worse defenses. The Aztecs more closely resemble Ohio State than any other team the Rebels have played, and I anticipate a similar result.
While I’ve suggested a likely winner, the outcome of this football game is wholly irrelevant in the bigger picture. If those who need to utilize this football game as an opportunity to escape the rest of their life for a brief while are able to do so, then winners they will be. If you’ve taken reading this preview as an opportunity to see how reaching out in a caring way towards those around you (whether physically or just electronically) can be a great thing, then the lot of you are winners as well.
Let’s use this as a chance to heal, not hurl opinions. To show others how great we can be, not try to get them to see how great we think we are.