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Nevada Football: Wolf Pack hosts rival UNLV in the Battle for the Fremont Cannon

In the 41st meeting between the Wolf Pack and the Rebels, expect a close contest as the Wolf Pack look to keep the Fremont Cannon blue.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Nevada Wolf Pack and the UNLV Runnin' Rebels will resume the Battle for the Fremont Cannon series on Saturday afternoon in Mackey Stadium at 4pm. In this series, the Wolf Pack have won nine of the last 10 games against UNLV. (The lone loss, was in 2013 where the Rebels defeated Nevada 27-22 in Reno) and in the overall series, the Wolf Pack lead 24-16. Even though the recent history of the rivalry has favored Nevada, head coach Brian Polian is expecting the Rebels to give Nevada everything they can handle. "I expect this to be a challenge", Polian said. "I expect this to be a four-quarter game and I expect us to have our hands full".

Nevada will have to stop a Rebels offense that has found a groove recently after UNLV thumped Idaho State 80-8 last week and in that game, UNLV running backs  Xzaviar Campbell and Lexington Thomas had over 100 yards each while fellow Rebel running back Keith Whitely ran for 95 yards on 12 carries.  Nevada has their own running back tandem of Don Jackson (70 carries, 381 yards and five touchdowns)  and James Butler (56 carries, 382 yards) that needs to get it going and stay going unlike the Buffalo game last week where the Wolf Pack's running game in the first half was strong but could not get it going in the second half.  And with the Rebels struggles with defending the run, the Wolf Pack has an opportunity to take advantage.

The Wolf Pack offense needs to get production out of a passing game that is only averaging 154 yards per game which is good for 115th nationally. Last week against Buffalo, Wolf Pack quarterback Tyler Stewart threw for 90 yards and that simply won't cut it against a talented Rebels secondary. This is the game where the Wolf Pack need junior wide receiver and Las Vegas native Hassan Henderson to have a big game much like the performance he turned in two weeks ago against Texas A&M where he caught five passes for 69 yards and caught one touchdown and not like his performance against Buffalo where he only caught two passes for 28 yards.  

Another key for Nevada in this rivalry game is to limit the penalties. In two of the first three games of the season, the Wolf Pack have been flagged at least nine times. When the last time these two teams played in Reno, the Wolf Pack were flagged for 13 penalties for 105 yards which proved costly in the Wolf Pack's rare loss to UNLV back in 2013. If this game comes down to the wire, the Wolf Pack will need to limit the penalties.  

This may be one of the biggest games in the history of this rivalry due to the new energy first year UNLV coach Tony Sanchez has installed in the program as they try to make this rivalry more competitive. Also, this is the opening of conference play for both teams who are looking to get a leg up in the wide open Western Division of the Mountain West. This game will be decided by which team dominates the line of scrimmage and even though Nevada will lose defensive tackle Rykeem Aytes due to a one game suspension, the Wolf Pack's defensive line  will be able to overcome his absence and win a close game.

Prediction: Nevada 24, UNLV 20