If we're being honest, Boise State should easily defeat UNLV when the two teams meet on Saturday.
Boise State looks like a team that will run the table after an opening week loss to Michigan State, while UNLV comes into this football game with a 1-6 record. Really, this game shouldn't even be close.
But college football is a curious, fickle animal, and we've all learned that nothing is ever guaranteed. Boise State would be foolish to simply overlook the Rebels. So we won't overlook them either, as we break down this Mountain West clash.
Where: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho
When: Saturday, October 20 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: NBC Sports Network
Betting Line: -27.5, according to Bet Online
UNLV Injuries (via USA Today)
OL Patrick Carroll, Back, Day-to-Day
DL Alvin Amilcar, Undisclosed, Day-to-Day
DB John Therrell, Arm, Day-to-Day
Boise State Injuries (via USA Today)
OL Jake Broyles, Undisclosed, Questionable
TE Gabe Linehan, Hamstring, Questionable
RB Drew Wright, Undisclosed, Questionable
Even after six games, it's hard to say just how good this Boise State team is. Each week, the opening-week loss to Michigan State looks a little worse as the Spartans continue to lose in a weak Big Ten. One thing is certain, however—UNLV simply isn't a good football team.
Even with a win, Boise State will need teams above them to lose if they're to sneak up the rankings. UNLV won't sniff a ranking this season.
What They're Saying
Boise State hadn't been running the ball with as much success as the team would have liked heading into a Saturday showdown with Fresno State. As Dave Southorn of the Idaho Press-Tribune notes, that remedied that problem in a big way:
The Broncos racked up 215 yards on the ground Saturday against Fresno State, the best showing by any team other than Oregon against the Bulldogs, who came into the game yielding 150 yards per game.
Sixth-year senior D.J. Harper had his third 100-yard game in the Broncos' 20-10 win, picking up 122 yards on 21 carries, a bump up from his 47 yards the prior week at Southern Miss. The Broncos had 26 yards on eight rushes in the first quarter, but averaged 5.5 yards per carry the rest of the way.
"I think we just stayed with it — early on, they kind of stuffed us a little bit ... we knew chipping away, we'd be just fine," Harper said.
UNLV Player to Watch: Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle, Running Backs
UNLV isn't going to win by shutting down Boise State's offense. Heck, UNLV has only held two teams (Minnesota, Northern Arizona) under 35 points in seven games this season.
Nope, if UNLV wins it will because they simply outscore Boise State. There are two ways they can accomplish the feat—forcing a ton of turnovers, and keeping the Broncos off the field by executing third-down conversions and running the ball effectively.
Enter Cornett (747 yards, five touchdowns) and Randle (338 yards, six touchdowns).
The two backs have been solid this year, but they'll need to combine for a huge performance if UNLV is to pull off the shocking upset. Boise State has one of the best passing defenses in college football (just 173.3 passing yards per game and two passing touchdowns allowed), so UNLV must run well if they hope to move the ball.
Boise State Player to Watch: Demarcus Lawrence, Defensive End
Here are a few of the categories in which Lawrence currently leads the Broncos: Sacks (5.5), tackles for loss (six) and forced fumbles (three).
His defensive coordinator had the following scouting report on him (via Brian Murphy of The Idaho Statesman). I figured you'd trust his analysis just slightly over my own:
"Besides being a long, good athlete, he plays with a good motor and is physical. You put those attributes together and he can get under guys, go around guys. He does a good job with his hands, getting an o-lineman's hands off," defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said. "A lot of it comes back to that effort—being relentless, keep coming, keep coming, keep coming. You just never know when the coverage is going to be there and you can make a play."
Quarterback Nick Sherry is having a decent year for UNLV (1,771 passing yards, 56 percent completion percentage, 11 touchdowns, eight interceptions), but he'll have a long afternoon if Lawrence is all up in his grill, as the kids say.
Lawrence should be a major factor in this game. Expect him to give Sherry and UNLV's passing attack fits.
Key Matchup: Boise State Rushing Attack vs. UNLV Front Seven
Remember when we talked about Boise State rediscovering the ground game against Fresno State? Well, against UNLV they might run rampant.
The Rebels are giving up a whopping 215.4 yards on the ground per game and have already sacrificed 18 rushing touchdown. Let those numbers sink in for a second.
If Boise State establishes the run early and pounds the rock on UNLV, this game is over. Quarterback Joe Southwick has improved throughout the season, but the way to beat Boise State is to force Southwick to win the game. If UNLV can't do that, they can't win.
Yup, it's really that simple.
I'll say this for UNLV—four of their losses have been by eight points or less. They may not win the close ones, but they compete. Plus, a 27.5 line seems really high to me. I like Boise State to get the win but in a reasonable fashion, 45-21.
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