Well, UNLV is facing a bowl squad yet again. West Virginia was rankd in the Top 25 until their 20-14 defeat at the hands of LSU in Death Valley. The Mountaineers are 3-1 and would be a very tough opponent wherever we played them, but we have the luxury of facing them on their home turf (That's not a luxury for those of you who didn't catch that). The Rebels are 1-4 following a 44-26 defeat at the hands of Colin Kaepernick and Nevada.
The full preview after the jump.
West Virginia had some eyebrow raising struggles in their first quarter of the season. That includes a win over Marshall that required a fumble by Marshall at the WVU 4 yard line when Marshall could have gone up 21 or 25 on the Mountaineers, an 18 point 4th quarter comeback, and a missed field goal by the Marshall kicker in overtime. It was an absolutely horrible game on the part of West Virginia and really hurt my expectations from them this season.
LSU has looked to be one of the worst remaining undefeated teams this season and that is probably the case with their improbable win over Tennessee (Not the Phillip Fulmer Tennessee). Just the fact that the Mountaineers weren't able to pull out a win over the Tigers concerns me about the team's overall offensive ability. The running game, which was expected to be dominant, is 68th in the country with 149 rushing yards per game. The only good defense they have faced was against LSU, so one would expect the running statistics to be blown out of proportion, but that is not the case.
Hopefully, you got the point of the last two paragraphs. West Virginia is not as good as we once thought. Noel Devine is an explosive player, but until he can get consistent blocking he will not have a great game. But more importantly then what Devine has done before this week's game is the fact that two weeks ago Devine was injured in that same LSU game. He has a bruised bone and it is doubtful that he will be ready for this week's game against the Rebels. That would be a major advantage for the Rebels as Ryan Clarke (The backup running back) is not nearly as explosive as Devine is.
UNLV's offense, for the first time this season, looked good against a good opponent in Nevada. As I said in my preview of the game, the Rebels offense would need to sustain long drives for touchdowns in order to keep Colin Kaepernick on the sidelines and keep the score close. On the second drive of the game they did exactly that, going 11 plays over 4:55 with a Bradley Randle plunge for a touchdown. The Rebels were able to do it again and make the score 14-14 with a little under 8 minutes remaining. From there on out the Rebels were three and out and as a result were down 28-14 at the half.
As a result of what happened last week, I'm going to say the same principle applies here. UNLV's defense is horrible at stopping the run and regardless that Noel Devine is going to be missing, the running game will have its way and West Virginia will have very long drives. If UNLV wants to keep it close, they are going to have to match those long drives with touchdown drives of their own.
For the Rebels offense to be successful we are also going to have to get Tim Cornett out in space with some running room. The guy is very fast and can make some people miss, if we can get him the ball on a pitch or screen with some well thrown blocks, then we could get some big plays. The other key is success running the football, period. The Rebels have Phillip Payne (Who had 8 receptions and 170 yards against Nevada) as a legitimate deep threat. If the running game is successful enough to the point where we at least have 4 yards a carry, that will open up the play action passing game and in turn opening up the deep ball.