UNLV vs. Utah State: Keys to a Rebels Win, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction

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UNLV vs. Utah State: Keys to a Rebels Win, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction

The Rebels will look to continue their winning ways on Saturday as they head into Logan, Utah to face the Utah State Aggies.

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The Rebels are feeling confident, focused headed into conference play.

WEEK 4: UNLV Rebels (2-1) vs. Utah State Aggies (1-2)

WHERE: Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium; Logan, UT

WHEN: Saturday, September 24 — 4:00 PM PT/5:00 PM MT

TV: CBS Sports Network 

STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes CBSSN, by following this link.

RADIO: ESPN 1100 AM & 100.9 FM

SERIES RECORD: This will be the 26th meeting between UNLV and Utah State. The Aggies have won 16 of the last 25 matchups, including the last three contests since 2017.

WEBSITES: UNLVRebels.com, the official UNLV athletics website | UtahStateAggies.com, the official Utah State athletics website

GAME NOTES (PDF): UNLV | Utah State

ODDS: UNLV -2.5

SP+ PROJECTION: even

FEI PROJECTION: Utah State by 1.3

PARKER FLEMING PROJECTION: UNLV 60.64% win probability (23.05-19.32)

What a difference an offseason can make. At the end of the 2021 season, Utah State was claiming the Mountain West conference championship while UNLV searched for positives at the end of a 2-10 campaign. Fast forward to Week 4 of the 2022 season, UNLV stands at 2-1, and very nearly 3-0, building an identity with a versatile offense and an opportunistic defense. Utah State sits at 1-2 after losing contests with perennial powerhouse Alabama, FCS contender Weber State and, most recently, its own fans.

Headed into Saturday’s contest, both teams will be looking to begin conference play on a positive note. Coaches Marcus Arroyo and Blake Anderson will look to their quarterbacks — Doug Brumfield and Logan Bonner, respectively — to lead the offenses in what should be a high-scoring affair. Both teams possess solid running attacks and the ground games will look to keep each opponent’s defense honest throughout. In particular, UNLV will feature Aidan Robbins, named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week for his 227-yard, three-touchdown effort last week against North Texas.

With a lot of momentum on their side, the Rebels should be looking forward to this contest. The Aggies have not made the most of home field advantage in recent history, going 3-3 last year and starting this season 1-1, with their lone win coming over lowly Connecticut. But Utah State will be anxious to get back on track and defend their title, especially in the conference opener. For the Rebels to pick up this victory against the reigning Mountain West champions, let’s look at a few keys to win:

Keys to a UNLV Win over Utah State

Win Time of Possession

In the Rebels’ most recent victory, UNLV held the ball for more than 38 minutes. In their loss at California, they surrendered the ball for nearly 36 minutes. UNLV has been learning in real time the value of maximizing their offense to retain possession, wearing down their opponent’s defenses as they gain one scoring opportunity after another. Keeping the offense on the field will also help keep the Rebels’ defense fresh, which could become critical in a game played at elevation in Utah. 

The Rebels have shown enough in three games to realize the strength that comes in balancing run and pass. In their two victories, UNLV has been almost 50-50 in calling run and pass plays, but ultimately ended up with more rushing plays as their leads increased. Even in their loss to California, a one-score loss that UNLV was in until the end, the Rebels ran 33 pass plays to 31 rushing.

Keep the Offense Moving Forward

Watching this UNLV offense, Rebels fans can only smile at how quarterback Doug Brumfield is leading an offense as aggressive as it is efficient. Whether he is using run-pass options or handing off to set up play action, Brumfield is proving to be that coveted blend of decisive and capable in his passes, agile and quick in his rushes. Brumfield ran for 100 yards against North Texas and two touchdowns, with Aidan Robbins adding an incredible 227 yards and three rushing touchdowns (more on him in a moment).

Brumfield also showed he can open up the passing game, getting multiple receivers involved. Against California, Brumfield hit seven different receivers; last week against North Texas, he connected with six. Brumfield shows versatility in throwing to receivers at the line of scrimmage quickly or, when needed, floating passes in open space for receivers to continue downfield. Led by Ricky White and Kyle Williams, look for UNLV’s wide receivers to challenge Utah State’s defensive backs on seemingly every possession, eventually looking for a big play. 

The critical aspect in so much of this success is Brumfield’s decisiveness. He has been capable and comfortable in the offense, realizing which throws need to be quick, knowing when he has time, all with an awareness of when to keep the ball and run, or just throw it away for the next play. Over these last three games, it’s culminated in an offense that’s difficult to stop, with no one player being overly relied upon.

Aidan Robbins, Early and Often

If there is a player that can be over relied upon in this Rebels offense, it’s Aidan Robbins. The transfer from Louisville has been an overwhelming success in this offense, using a physical style at the line of scrimmage with the speed in the open field to leave defenders behind. Last Saturday, those skills were on display, as Robbins rushed 29 times, scoring on runs of one, two, and 33 yards. 

This UNLV rushing attack is the type both teams will find hard to overlook. In the Aggies’ last game, Weber State rushed 55 times for 199 yards. Against North Texas last week, the Rebels ran for 365 yards on 51 carries, netting five rushing touchdowns. UNLV will need to resist the temptation to overemphasize the running game, or overuse Aidan Robbins, but if early results are positive, it could easily be another long day for the Utah State defense.

Keep Special Teams Exactly That 

In addition to the offense and defense playing as well as they are, UNLV can also be proud of their special teams units. Recovering an onside kick attempt against California gave the Rebels one more shot to tie (or possibly win) a game they were competitive in throughout. At home versus North Texas, a blocked punt led to a safety that gave the Rebels the lead in a high-scoring first quarter, until UNLV ultimately pulled away later in the half. Kicker Daniel Gutierrez has been consistent through three games, with a season-long of 39 yards.

This is the type of game where both teams could trade long drives, keep the game competitive, waiting for a play to be made that surprises everyone. The Rebels have already made a few of those plays and should be prepared if called upon to make one more play to walk away with the victory.

Prediction

This is the type of game football fans should enjoy; a game where anything can happen, and just might. Expect Utah State to try to regroup after a turbulent couple of weeks and mount a motivated defense of their Mountain West crown as they begin their conference schedule. Aggies quarterback Logan Bonner will look to recreate last year’s success, throwing for almost 300 yards in a last-minute victory over the Rebels at Allegiant Stadium.

For all that Utah State might muster, however, UNLV fans would be quick to respond with some form of the phrase, “that was then, this is now”. This 2022 Rebels team is playing this season with a new confidence, and an offense that can attack a defense in so many different ways. Motivated by last year’s narrow defeat, expect a significant start by Aidan Robbins and Doug Brumfield on the ground to set up the passing game, as the Rebels take advantage of opportunities downfield when the Aggies commit to stopping the run.

The scoring might go back and forth for much of the game, but UNLV should prove to be too much on the ground and take the victory on the Aggies’ home field.

UNLV 34, Utah State 31

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Story originally appeared on Mountain West Wire