In any other scenario, the action for UNLV’s final regular-season game would be a no-brainer. The Rebels are 5-6, needing only a road win over a beatable team to qualify for a bowl game.
There’s only one problem. That 2-9 team they’re playing? It’s the Nevada Wolf Pack, and the game is the Battle of Nevada with the winner to receive Fremont Cannon honors.
Should that make the outcome any different? Nevada has spent the last 3 months losing to teams that they ought to have beaten and getting blown away by any contender with a pulse. Boise State dusted the ‘Pack in short order 2 weekends ago, Brett Rypien completing almost 70% of his throws against a slow-footed secondary.
But as talented as the UNLV Rebels have looked at times in ’17, their loss to BYU in November – not to mention a 38-35 nail-biter over dead-in-the-sand New Mexico last Saturday – has bookies uneasy about them.
Who: UNLV Rebels at Nevada Wolf Pack
When: Saturday, November 25th, 3 PM EST
Where: MacKay Stadium, Reno, NV
Line: UNLV (+3) at Nevada (-3) / O/U Total: (68)
Let’s examine the series rivalry. UNLV has been a good road team in 2017, but they struggle at Nevada. The Wolf Pack have been excellent against the spread, especially when hosting the Rebels. The totals also go under a LOT when the Battle is at MacKay Stadium.
That’s attributable to hard-hitting, rivalry-game defense. But can the current version of Nevada’s defense really put on a good show for the Reno crowd? After all, this is a unit that has given up 40+ points to almost every above-average offense it has faced. When giving up 37 points to Toledo is your most impressive defensive outing of the season, there’s a big fat issue on at least one side of the ball.
If UNLV’s offense plays like it did against BYU, then Nevada can stand on one foot and stop them. Senior QB Johnny Stanton was a fright, throwing 2 picks and putting his squad off-rhythm in the ground game. But talented frosh signal-caller Armani Rogers returned against New Mexico, and prospered while the defense had episodes trying to defend the triple-option.
Rogers will make the difference for UNLV against a weak opposing defense. Take the Rebels to win ATS or SU.