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UNLV vs. Houston game preview 2014: Can Rebels defense hold up against Cougars offense

UNLV is looking to get its first win over a FBS team on Saturday as they travel to play Houston.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The UNLV Rebels and Houston Cougars added this game late in the offseason partly because Houston needed a game and UNLV wanted an extra game since at the time bowl eligibility was off the table due to low a low APR score at the time. This game kicks at 8 p.m. ET and can only be seen on ESPN3.

Well, the Rebels are now able to go to a bowl game if they can get to seven wins, but a bowl berth seems far away since UNLV has struggled this year. Houston has not performed as well as some thought this year, and the Cougars already have loses to BYU and University of Texas-San Antonio. Both teams are looking for its first win against a FBS team.

The Cougars are an astonishing 22-point favorite, seems a bit much, since sophomore quarterback John O'Korn has not progressed like some have thought in his second year as starter. O'Korn has thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions but he might be turning the corner as he threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions last week in Houston's loss to BYU. However, O'Korn is still completing only 54 percent of his passes.

The UNLV defense is nothing special so there is a decent likelihood that the O'Korn could have a big game. The Rebels secondary is not good as they have allowed seven touchdowns and is giving up 302 yards per game. UNLV will need for the secondary to not get beat for big plays, but also it would be good for Washington transfer Josh Shirley to step up on the defensive line and help out this UNLV defense.

While the defense for UNLV needs to at least slow down the Houston offensive attack, the Rebels offense is what will, maybe, keep them in this game.

Running back Shaquille Murray-Lawrence is out of head coach Bobby Hauck's dog house and the team as a whole had a great second half last week by scoring 29 points against Northern Illinois. The momentum could continue and that starts with quarterback Blake Decker who improved quite a bit in the second half to avoid being benched.

"Going back and looking at the film, we did a lot of good things as an offense," Decker told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "Obviously, there are still a lot of things we need to correct and mistakes we need to clean up a little bit this week, but there's a lot that we can build on, so it's exciting."

Hopefully, wide receiver Marcus Sullivan is at full health, currently he is listed as co-starter on the depth chart this week. One wide receiver who may have a breakout game is Devante Davis. Davis is from the Houston-area and we really wanted to play for Houston but then-head coach Kevin Sumlin had no need for Davis who played mostly tight end in high school, and in Sumlin's spread it out offense Davis would not be a good fit.

Davis will want to have a big game and build up on his performance last week where he caught six passes for 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also will have about 50 friends and family members cheering him on in the stands.

UNLV is a steep 21-point underdog in this game and Houston will be a challenge for the Rebels. For the Rebels to get the win third down defense is a key to not allowing Houston to continue drives, and with the Cougars offense this task will be quite difficult.

The Rebels getting the win might be a stretch, but covering the three-touchdown spread should be able to be an achievable goal.