RENO -- One team is playing for the postseason while the other is playing for pride when San Jose State meets Nevada on Saturday night.
The Wolf Pack is experiencing an uncharacteristic down season. Under first-year coach Brian Polian, Nevada (3-7, 2-5 Mountain West Conference) won't participate in a bowl game for the first time since 2004 and is enduring a five-game losing streak.
The Spartans (5-4, 4-2) remain a victory away from becoming bowl-eligible for the second straight season. They're expecting a Nevada team eager to play spoiler.
"They've got nothing to lose," SJSU quarterback David Fales said of the Wolf Pack. "They're probably going to try to come out with some fire and energy and try to take away our sixth win."
If the Spartans had any doubts how Nevada felt, they were confirmed by Wolf Pack senior receiver Brandon Wimberly.
"We're going to try to ruin their season like ours has already been ruined," Wimberly said at Nevada's weekly press conference.
Wimberly is one of the players who figures to give SJSU fits. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder is second in the Mountain West with 76 catches and has 779 yards and six touchdowns. His size makes him a tough matchup for defensive backs.
Spartans senior cornerback Bené Benwikere knows the fellow Los Angeles native well. Benwikere went to Serra High-Gardena while Wimberly was at nearby Gardena High.
"I know he's a physical guy. He's big. He's definitely an athlete and likes to make plays," Benwikere said. "Anybody who's guarding him, we have to understand he's a physical guy and match his physicality."
The question will be who throws the ball to Wimberly and others. Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo, a dual-threat player who is second in the conference in total offense per game, missed Tuesday's practice with a foot sprain and is questionable for Saturday. Tyler Stewart, who started two games Fajardo missed due to injury earlier this year, would play if he can't go.
SJSU may be well-suited to win this game on the ground. The Wolf Pack's rushing defense ranks last in the conference and on a cold night -- it should dip into the 30s, if not cooler, during the game -- the hard running style of Jarrod Lawson could be effective.
"I don't know what to expect," Lawson said. "I've never played in an environment like this. I'm sure the temperature will have an effect on everybody."
Follow Jimmy Durkin on Twitter at Twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.