A busy Friday night in college football will be topped off with a Mountain West battle between the Fresno State Bulldogs and UNLV Rebels. Kickoff is set for 10:00 EST on Friday, October 18 at Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, California. Fans can catch all of the action on CBS Sports Network.
Las Vegas oddsmakers list the hometown Rebels as 15.5-point underdogs on the road. The over/under for the contest is listed at 55 points. Be sure to check out a full list of this week’s college football betting odds.
Fresno State began the year with hopes of winning the Mountain West, but they’ve been on a roller coaster ride through the first half of the season. The Bulldogs started 0-2, losing to USC and Minnesota. They bounced back with wins over Sacramento State and New Mexico State. However, last time out, Fresno State lost to Air Force 43-24, dropping their Mountain West opener on the road. It’s not the end of the world, as every other team in the West division has at least one loss in conference play already. However, the Bulldogs missed an opportunity to get ahead of the pack. On the bright side, after playing just two of their first five games at home, the Bulldogs come home for three of their next four games, starting with Friday’s game against UNLV.
The Rebels, meanwhile, snapped a four-game losing streak over the weekend by beating Vanderbilt in convincing fashion 34-10. Of course, the win only gets the Rebels to 2-4 overall and doesn’t change their 0-2 conference record. In their defense, UNLV’s losses have come against the likes of Boise State, Northwestern, Arkansas State, and Wyoming. They’ve played a challenging schedule, but it’s not going to get any easier with Fresno State and San Diego State on tap the next two weeks. The Rebels need four more wins in their final six games to get to a bowl game for just the second time this century. Harnessing the momentum of last week’s win and pulling off another road upset would be huge for their bowl hopes. Otherwise, UNLV’s path to a bowl game will look awfully narrow.
The good news for the Rebels is that they’ve fared well against the Bulldogs in recent years. UNLV has earned a split of the yearly meetings between these teams over the last six seasons. Of course, that includes a 48-3 Fresno State win last season. However, UNLV earned a 26-16 win in their last trip to Fresno in 2017.
There aren’t a lot of reasons to believe in Fresno State, especially with a spread that’s over two touchdowns. But I have even more reason to be concerned about UNLV. If the Rebels were home, I might feel differently. But coming off a loss, I think the Bulldogs will come home looking to make a statement. I’ll take a chance that Fresno State can finally start to find their way with a convincing win over UNLV.
Last week’s game against Vanderbilt notwithstanding, the UNLV defense has been a huge problem this season. In their four games prior to that, the Rebels gave up 41 points per game. Even Northwestern, which is one of the worst offensive teams in the country, was able to put up over 400 yards of offense and score 30 points against UNLV. One good performance against Vanderbilt isn’t enough to convince me that the Rebels have solved their problems on that side of the ball.
Fresno State may not be as dynamic offensively as they’ve been in past years, but the Bulldogs should be good enough to take advantage of a weak UNLV defense. Senior quarterback Jorge Reyna had a rough opener against USC, but he’s been on an upward trajectory since that game. He’s completed at least 64% of his passes every game over the last four games and looked sharp last week in a losing effort against Air Force. I think he’ll continue to play well against a defense that couldn’t stop anybody until a week ago.
On the other side of the ball, the UNLV offense has nearly as many questions as the defense. During the team’s four-game losing streak, they scored no more than 17 points in a game. There is still uncertainty over the health of starting quarterback Armani Rogers, who has sat out the last two games. Freshman Kenyon Oblad has had mixed results. He was fine against Vanderbilt, although he struggled against both Boise State and Wyoming. On the season, he’s completed just over 52% of his passes with an average of 6.4 yards per pass. With a rather pedestrian rushing attack, especially without Rogers, that’s not going to be enough if the Rebels get into a track meet.
In the end, UNLV has too many flaws on both sides of the ball to think they can stay in this game. Fresno State is good enough to take advantage of those flaws, especially with a point to prove after last week’s loss. Unless the Rebels have done a 180-degree turn around in one week, last week’s win over Vanderbilt was an aberration. I’ll trust Fresno State to put the Rebels in their place and cover the 15.5-point spread.