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UNLV vs. Northerin Illinois game preview: What to expect from Rebels this week

UNLV hosts Northern Illinois Saturday afternoon, can the Rebels get its first win against a FBS opponent?

Could the Rebels switch to Nick Sherry if Blake Decker struggles against NIU?
Could the Rebels switch to Nick Sherry if Blake Decker struggles against NIU?
Ethan Miller

UNLV hosts Northern Illinois Saturday afternoon (7 p.m. ET, Mountain West Network) in hopes that the Rebels can get its first win over a FBS team this year. This Northern Illinois team is fresh off of a 23-15 win over Northwestern, but this Huskies team is much different than last year's version.

First off, quarterback, and Heisman finalist, Jordan Lynch is no longer on campus and the 2014 team is playing multiple quarterbacks. In the Huskies prior win with Drew HareAnthony Maddie and Matt McIntosh. On the current depth chart Hare is the starter with both McIntosh and Maddie listed as co-backups.

The offense for the Huskies lean more toward the run than the pass and that makes a lot of sense since the quarterback situation has not been settled, despite what the Week 3 depth chart says. The rushing game is nothing amazing either or at least at this time it is really unknown how that unit is.

The Huskies season opening game was against Presbyterian where they rolled with 421 on the ground, and then in last weeks win over Northwestern the backs rushed for a reasonable 221 yards. The leading rusher is Akeem Daniels who has 199 yards and is averaging 6.42 yards per carry, but no touchdowns. Next up is Joel Bouagnon and has four touchdowns and 119 total yards.

Northern Illinois has multiple players who can run the ball efficient and with UNLV's rush defense is one of the worst in the Mountain West and has given up 491 yards in two games, and one was against Northern Colorado. UNLV will need to shore up its rush defense and force whatever quarterback Northern Illinois trots out to the field to throw the ball, and a lot. Then perhaps UNLV can force a rotation of Husky quarterbacks in the game and that could just maybe lead UNLV to a home win.

One thing UNLV absolutely must do on offense is get quarterback Blake Decker to throw the ball to the best player on the field in Devante Davis. Decker has been worse than Nick Sherry after his first two games before eventually getting pulled. If that one-two punch can be established then UNLV should be able to move the ball well, and Davis is not the only wide out. There is Marcus Sullivan who is an established wide receiver and is one of the better one's in the Mountain West, but it all comes down to Decker being able to complete passes.

One prediction in this game is that if Decker struggles in the first half, and especially throws an interception or two, then look for Sherry to be thrust into action. UNLV might just be better off if Sherry were to just start the game since Decker tossed three picks and threw for only 121 yards, so this has to be Decker's last chance. Sherry's entrance would likely boost the morale of the team with a new guy running the offense.

There are a lot of things wrong with UNLV's football team at the moment as they are rapidly reverting back to the 2012 and earlier. The Rebels will also need a running attack in this game and while Shaquille Murray-Lawrence is still benched over something by head coach Bobby Hauck. In his place the Rebels have gone to George Naufahu and Keith Whitely who have been playing well as they have been promoted to being the top runners for the Rebels.

If UNLV is going to win they need the offense to step up and be a threat, particularly in the passing game. The defense is not great either but with the offense stuttering too many times it puts a lot of pressure on the defense to get out there after just a few plays off.

UNLV probably won't get the win on Saturday afternoon unless the Rebels play a complete game, and I am currently not convinced that can be done with Decker leading this offense.