Nevada vs UNLV: Keys to a Rebels Win, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The battle for the Fremont Cannon trophy takes place in Allegiant Stadium as the Nevada Wolf Pack comes into Las Vegas
UNLV seeking its 5th win on the season, possible bowl berth
WEEK 13: Nevada Wolf Pack at UNLV Rebels
WHERE: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada
WHEN: Saturday, November 26, 2022 – 6:00pm EST (3:00pm PST)
TV: Silver State Sports & Entertainment Network in Nevada.
STREAMING: Mountain West Network (www.themw.com/watch).
RADIO: ESPN 1100AM & 100.9 FM
SERIES RECORD: This will be the 48th meeting between Nevada and UNLV. The Rebels have won 19 of the last 47 matchups, but the Wolf Pack has won the last two games by a combined score of 88-39.
ODDS: UNLV Rebels by -12.5
PARKER FLEMING PROJECTION: UNLV Rebels by 2.85
The “Battle for Nevada”, to win the Fremont Cannon trophy, will take place this Saturday at Allegiant Stadium. And as the UNLV Rebels head into this regular season finale against the Nevada Wolf Pack, there is a lot for the team to contend with this week and in the future.
The Rebels are returning home from a disappointing loss in Hawaii, falling to the Rainbow Warriors by the score of 31-25. It was a game that Head Coach Marcus Arroyo described as “uncharacteristically unphysical” for the Rebels, one where penalties and struggles to manage first and second down at key points in the game kept the Rebels in a back-and-forth affair until Hawaii was able to pull away in the fourth quarter. The box score favored UNLV in many key categories – yards gained, time of possession, turnovers – but the scoreboard was not in their favor as the Rebels dropped to 4-7 on the season.
Disappointed as they may be, the Rebels still find themselves playing for a potential postseason appearance. As reported by Brett McMurphy of Action Network, depending on a variety of outcomes in the weekend’s games, some teams with 5-7 records may be receiving invites to bowl games this year. Based on their APR score – Academic Progress Rate, based on academic eligibility standards for players who have remained at school – the Rebels are near the top of that short list of teams who could receive invitations. That score ranks UNLV third, behind only Rice and Iowa State, and a win against Nevada could put the Rebels in a favorable position for a bowl game.
Before the Rebels can look forward to a bowl berth, UNLV needs a win over the Wolf Pack this Saturday in Las Vegas, something they haven’t done since 2018. For a closer look at how UNLV can get the victory, here are three keys for the Rebels’ game plan:
Avoid Third and Long
A point Head Coach Marcus Arroyo touched on in the loss to Hawaii last week, the Rebels struggled to find consistency on first and second down. A difficult combination of tackles for loss, incompletions and penalties seemed to keep UNLV searching for a big play, a catalyst to open up the offense and get into the end zone. As the game unfolded, the Rebels found themselves converting only 4 of 14 3rd down opportunities and punting four times overall (there was also a turnover on downs after failing to convert a fourth-and-five midway through the fourth quarter). The Rebels settled for four field goals and one offensive touchdown on the day, with only three trips inside Hawaii’s 20-yard line, and it inevitably cost them by game’s end.
Unfortunately, the struggles on third down have plagued the Rebels for much of the season as well, as UNLV currently ranks 117th nationally with a 32.1 percent conversion rate. The Rebels this week will need to take advantage of a Wolf Pack defense giving up more than 400 yards per game on the season, including 524 to Fresno State last week.
Another Big Defensive Game?
Arguably the Rebels’ best defensive game of the year so far was played at Utah State, when a 2-1 UNLV squad took advantage of five interceptions en route to a dominating 34-24 victory. While the Rebels may be unlikely to gather statistics like that in this week’s game, a similar effort on Saturday should be more than enough against a Nevada offense struggling in its own right.
For much of the season, and for a variety of reasons, the Wolf Pack have struggled to find success offensively. While running back Toa Taua has been featured in what was hoped to be a stout running game, Nevada currently ranks 121st in scoring offense at 18.5 points per game and 126th in total offense at 290 yards per game. In particular, an aggressive front seven, led by Adam Plant Jr. and Austin Ajiake, should be able to get pressure on the pocket and force the Wolf Pack into more third and long situations. This should be the type of offense that the Rebels defense can once again find success against, force turnovers and lead the way to a dominant win.
But as a word of caution, the UNLV defense will need to remain focused. The Rebels have struggled on the season with mobile quarterbacks, and although the Wolf Pack have not announced their starting quarterback for this game at this time, Nate Cox has shown some mobility out of the pocket. He was able to pick up 56 rushing yards in Nevada’s loss last week and currently has 242 rushing yards on the season.
Dominate Time of Possession
As cliche as it may appear, UNLV has thrived in games where they can win the battle for time of possession and control the clock (last week’s loss to Hawaii notwithstanding, where the Rebels held the ball for almost thirty-five minutes). The Rebels will need to avoid appearing predictable but gaining the edge in time of possession will invariably rely on the running game, led by Aidan Robbins.
Aidan Robbins currently sits with 924 rushing yards on the season, and the Rebels will likely look to get him over the 1,000-yard barrier as a statement for the program’s success on the year. Quarterback Doug Brumfield and running back Courtney Reese may also be featured in the ground game against the Wolf Pack, who are giving up more than 173 yards on the ground.
If the Rebels can find success with the running game, even using their short passing game to get more players involved, they should be able to wear down the Nevada defense and find the end zone, without settling for field goals or keeping the Wolf Pack competitive in the game.
With or without the opportunity of a potential bowl appearance, the Rebels should be looking to finish this regular season on a positive note for a number of reasons. It is an opportunity for a 5-win season for UNLV, which would be their first since 2017. For its seniors, a win against an in-state rival would be a fitting end to the season. For the future, a win here would add to a record that already exceeded the expectations of many and lead into recruiting and early momentum for next year’s campaign.
Expect a motivated UNLV squad to outperform a Nevada team that has played with effort on the year, but ultimately will fall short this Saturday. Even in a rivalry game, the Rebels running game should make a statement early in the game and be able to open up the offense, with a focus on finishing its drives in the end zone, not simply settling for three points instead of seven. Defensively, look for the front seven to win the line of scrimmage and an opportunistic secondary to take its chances when the Wolf Pack struggles.
UNLV 37, Nevada 19
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