The Mountain West Conference nightcap Saturday night will feature the Nevada Wolf Pack (1-0) on the road against the UNLV Rebels (0-1). The game kicks off from Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada at 10:30 pm ET.
Nevada is coming off a 37-34 overtime win over Wyoming last week. Sophomore quarterback Carson Strong completed 39-52 for 420 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. The passing attack yielded two 100+ yards receivers in juniors Cole Turner and Romeo Doubs. The Wolf Pack held a 28-6 lead in the third quarter before allowing Wyoming to storm back. Nevada gave up a field goal in overtime before Doubs nabbed the walk-off touchdown.
UNLV struggled to get anything going in a 28-6 loss to San Diego State last week. The Rebels were outgained by 238 yards, compiling only 186 yards of total offense. Senior Charles Williams, the defending conference rushing champion, accounted for only 80 yards rushing on 20 carries.
Fanduel has Nevada as a 13.5-point favorite on the road. They are -118 while the Rebels moneyline is set +420. The over/under sits at 58.5 total points (-104 each way)
By The Numbers
Nevada holds a clear advantage on the offensive side of the ball. With 496 yards of total offense in its first win the Wolf Pack will look to emulate its performance from the first three quarters. The team leaned heavily on the passing game to open up delayed handoffs for big gains in the second half.
What Nevada needs to avoid is losing its edge as the game wears on. This was an inconsistent squad last season, including losses to Idaho State, Utah State and UNLV.
Defensively, Nevada has a handful of playmakers, highlighted by defensive tackle Dom Peterson, who had nine sacks and 15 tackles for loss last season. Linebacker Lawson Hill and corner Berdale Robins figure to make more of an impact with expanded roles this season. Both were promising in coverage in 2019.
There aren’t many conclusions to draw about UNLV statistically from one blowout loss. The Rebels were outscored by 106 points last season despite one of the weaker schedules in the FBS.
UNLV offense a work in progress
UNLV is trying to install a new offense after hiring former Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo. It may be slow going early in the process, especially without a traditional offseason under their belt.
To have a chance against more high-powered offenses like Nevada, UNLV will lean heavily on Williams out of the backfield. The “Chuck Wagon” tallied 1,257 yards on 212 carries and 11 touchdowns last season. A weak offensive line and one-dimensional offense will make it tough sledding for Williams, especially with him not having a role in the passing game.
Senior Max Gilliam got the start at quarterback after not taking a snap in 2019. He passed for 1,394 yards in seven starts in 2018.
Nevada trying to level up in Mountain West
Nevada boasts one of the best receiver rooms in the conference with Elijah Cooks, Cole Turner and Romeo Doubs. Cooks had eight touchdowns on 76 catches last season.
Turner and Doubs traded big plays in the win against Wyoming. Turner had an easy pitch-and-catch score from the 50 and followed it with an impressive grab in the corner of the endzone. He led the team with 119 yards receiving.
Doubs had himself a day as well, hauling in 12 catches for 117 yards and the walk-off touchdown.
The pick: Nevada to win and cover
For Nevada to roll through the week and compete with the conference’s best, it’s going to need a cleaner performance than last week. Against Wyoming, the Wolf Pack fumbled twice, including a strip sack on Strong. During the Cowboysè last drive of regulation, a late hit by defensive back A.J. King helped keep a Wyoming drive in field goal range. They might be able to survive mistakes like this against UNLV, but blowing a 22-point lead is never encouraging.
However, UNLV showed no resistance last week, while Nevada’s offense is moving in the right direction. Strong completed tough passes outside and made good decisions. The 13.5 point spread is steep but I feel good riding the Wolf Pack in this one. As for total points, I’m taking the under.