Teams: Central Michigan Chippewas at UNLV Rebels
WHEN: Saturday, September 14, 10 p.m. ET
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV (36,800)
CONFERENCES: MAC vs. MWC
2013 SEASON: Central Michigan (1-1) (0-0); UNLV (0-2) (0-0)
HEAD COACHES: Dan Enos, Central Michigan (14-25); Bobby Hauck, UNLV (6-34)
TV COVERAGE: Local
WEB STREAMING: Mountain West Network
SERIES RECORD: UNLV leads 1-2
LAST MEETING: Central Michigan 35, UNLV 23 (9/10/1994)
WEB SITES: CMUChippewas.com | UNLVRebels.com
UNLV has struggled mightily on both sides of the ball this year, getting outscored 109-36 in its first two games. Some of that is due to the quality of its opponents -- Power Five schools Minnesota and Arizona -- but regardless of who they've faced, the Rebels are anxious to bounce back with their first win of the season. Central Michigan has also experienced a rocky start to the year, despite the 1-1 record. Last week's win over FCS New Hampshire was truly by the skin of the Chippewas' teeth, and that comes after a 59-9 drubbing at the hands of Michigan in the opener. Both teams could really use a win right now to get their years back on the right track.
Shaquille Murray-Lawrence, RB/UNLV: Murray-Lawrence is the type of home run option the Rebels need out of the backfield, though it would be great if the team could replicate his production on more than just four carries per game. The quick junior already has 190 yards to his name and could go for more against a very porous CMU front. He won't be the tempo-setter by any means, but if UNLV's getting into the end zone, expect Murray-Lawrence to be involved.
Peni Vea, S/UNLV: It may not look like it from the scores of the first two games, but Vea's making a lot of stops and plugging holes wherever he can as the rest of the defense struggles to keep up. The sophomore's 21 tackles thus far lead the team and put him on track for an absolutely stellar year in the secondary. He shouldn't have to shoulder that sort of burden from the back line, but the fact that he can is a great sign for this team as they head into conference play. Rather than play a risky style to create turnovers, he's wrapping up and hitting hard, which sort of makes up for the mistakes in front of him.
Titus Davis, WR/Central Michigan: Central Michigan's big-play target is on a torrid pace already, with eight catches for 212 yards and two scores. If Davis can put together another dominant game like he did against New Hampshire (184 receiving yards), it's a sure recipe for CMU's success. There are other receiving options on the team too though, so even if he's not catching passes, Davis should function has a very capable decoy.
Kavon Frazier, S/Central Michigan: CMU's defense certainly hasn't looked good through two games, but that's of little fault to Frazier. The big, hard-hitting safety (6'0" and 213 pounds) has recorded an interception in each of the Chippewas' first two contests, and should play a major role once again in this one. If UNLV hopes the throw the ball at all, it'll need to get it by the big-play sophomore who's anxious to make a name for himself early in his playing career.
If I'm UNLV, I stick heavily to the ground game and exploit the Chippewas' weak rushing defense. Through two weeks, CMU's allowed 400 yards and eight scores on the ground, so the Rebels would be wise to hit them with Murray-Lawrence and Tim Cornett all day. Similarly, you might end up seeing Central Michigan also attack UNLV on the ground to exploit what's been a very porous front line of their own. The Rebs have let up nearly 310 rushing yards per game thus far, plus another eight scores of their own. UNLV knows this and should be much improved from the first two weeks, but it's certainly something to watch out for just the same. If they stack the box, we'll see if CMU goes to the passing game instead. They've had very little success running it thus far and could very well stick with what they know, throwing the ball. This one's too close to call, and could come down to who avoids turning it over late.