UNLV vs. California: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Rebels head to Berkeley for their first meeting with the Golden Bears. Can UNLV get to 2-0 for the first time since 1999? Here’s how to watch and what to watch for.
Can the Rebels start a winning streak?
WEEK 2: UNLV Rebels (1-0) vs. California Golden Bears (1-0)
WHEN: Saturday, September 10 — 1:00 PM PT/2:00 PM MT
WHERE: FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium; Berkeley, CA
WEATHER: Mostly cloudy, high of 71 degrees
TV: Pac-12 Network (Bay Area)
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes the Pac-12 Network, by following this link.
RADIO: The UNLV broadcast can be found in and around Las Vegas on ESPN 1100 AM & 100.9 FM. The Cal broadcast can be found on the affiliates of the Cal Bears Sports Network, including flagship 810 AM (KGO) in San Francisco.
SERIES RECORD: This will be the first meeting between UNLV and California.
LAST WEEK: UNLV was on bye, while Cal defeated UC Davis at home, 34-13.
ODDS: Cal -13
SP+ PROJECTION: California by 12.7
FEI PROJECTION: California by 14.2
PARKER FLEMING PROJECTION: California 74.08% win probability (30.68-21.71)
— UNLV Football (@unlvfootball) September 6, 2022
Expectations will be raised and an opportunity to continue winning ways will be on the line when the UNLV Rebels visit the Cal Golden Bears this Saturday. Both teams are coming into the game at 1-0, having defeated FCS foes in their respective contests. UNLV is also coming in with an early week off and have not played since August 27.
Both UNLV and Cal were off to promising starts offensively in their opening games, led by quarterbacks Doug Brumfield and Jack Plummer, respectively. But UNLV now faces a significant step up in class, as Cal will look to start quickly and establish their strength early after struggling in the first quarter of their game against UC Davis.
If UNLV is aiming to pull off the nearly two-touchdown upset — on the road, no less — let’s look at three keys they’ll need to get the victory.
Keep the offense balanced.
35 pass attempts, 33 running plays. That nearly perfect balance is what the Rebels were able to achieve against Idaho State in their Week 0 victory, and it will take a similar parity to keep the Golden Bears offense on the sideline and challenge Cal’s defense. Aidan Robbins looked better than advertised, netting three touchdowns — two rushing and one receiving — and temporarily satisfying the critics who may have wondered how the Rebels would look with Charles Williams no longer in the backfield. Courtney Reese also showed some big play potential, rushing for 73 yards on just seven carries.
In the passing game, Brumfield clearly established himself the starter after a four touchdown effort with zero interceptions against Idaho State. That effort included 356 yards on 21-of-25 attempts, to nine different receivers. Ricky White seemingly made big play after big play, collecting 182 yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions. Kyle Williams also added a more physical dimension to the receiving game, running through defenders for four catches, 68 yards, and a touchdown.
If the Rebels can keep this type of balance on every possession, it should open up the passing game to be more than capable of moving the chains. But Cal will rely on a strong defensive line to control the line of scrimmage on early downs and try to force Brumfield into third-and-long often. Will UNLV’s game plan and adjustments in game be enough to keep the Golden Bears guessing?
Keep special teams special.
Against the Bengals, UNLV needed to punt just three times, with the only return yardage coming via a holding penalty. While no one is expecting that kind of success against Cal, UNLV will need to make enough plays to leave the Golden Bears a long field to drive on every possession.
Conversely, the Rebels could look to exploit Cal’s special teams, particularly on kickoffs. Nohl Williams should have opportunities to set the Rebels up with good field position. If the returns can be at all effective, there are enough playmakers on this UNLV offense to at least force the Golden Bears to worry about the chance of a big play.
And if the big play is not there at times, the field goal unit should be able to get three points when called upon. Kicker Daniel Gutierrez made his only field goal attempt against ISU, from 39 yards, and his career long is 53 yards.
Keep the defense disciplined.
While the UNLV defense performed admirably in its debut this season, Cal is going to bring a different type of offense into this game. After a disastrous first quarter against UC Davis, completing one pass for four yards and an interception, quarterback Jack Plummer settled in and finished with 268 yards and three touchdowns. What will inevitably get the Rebels’ attention is that almost every throw was decisive and downfield; virtually nothing short or in the flats and most for 10-plus yards per completion.
The Cal wide receivers, led by Jeremiah Hunter and J. Michael Sturdivant, will genuinely test the Rebels’ secondary from start to finish. Assuming any growing pains the Golden Bears had were worked out in their previous game, they are going to look to settle in under zone coverage and challenge man-to-man. Expect Cal to work methodically downfield, much they did last week, with a few shots deeper downfield at times.
Adding to the Cal offense is running back Jaydn Ott, who ran for 104 yards on just 17 carries. The front seven for UNLV will need to respect the talented Ott, a physical runner with the speed to break outside or stay between the tackles.
These two teams won a combined seven games in 2021, and the outlook is already a little brighter for their respective seasons this fall. Both teams will look to control tempo with a passing game getting multiple receivers involved, a physical running game and defenses that will play a “bend but don’t break” brand of physicality, albeit with limited turnovers. I’m expecting UNLV to surprise on special teams and keep things close to test the Golden Bears. But I’m not ready to expect an upset in this one.
California 31, UNLV 24