Watching? Listening? Of course you are!
Who: Boise State (6-2, 3-1 MW) vs UNLV (2-5, 1-2 MW)
When: Saturday, October 31, 2015, 1:30 PM MST
Where: Sam Boyd Stadium, LasVegas, NV
1. No Hands on Deck
UNLV's shot at an upset with the return of Blake Decker have risen from none to slim. The last two games, both Rebel losses, Kurt Palandech has started for the injured Decker who has been rehabbing a separated shoulder. In those losses to San Jose State and Fresno State, Palandech made a handful of plays, but ultimately proved punchless, particularly against Fresno State. The Bulldogs staged a ferocious comeback, stealing a win after digging a 17 point hole. Palandech tossed a pair of touchdowns in that game, but threw for an uninspiring 111 yards. When both are healthy, the Rebels have utilized a dual quarterback system. Two games with only Palandech to call upon has proven that wins and losses will depend on Decker. He has at least shown the capability to put together a monster game. In the season opener against Northern Illinois, Decker torched the Huskies for 319 yards and a pair of touchdowns. UNLV has weapons at wide receiver. Kendal Keys and Devonte Boyd could see plenty of action if Decker is provided the appropriate protection.
2. Run, Reb, Run
And there are even other weapons in the backfield! If you made a bar bet that the top rushing offense in the Mountain West Conference was the UNLV Rebels.....well, you'd lose that bet. But they are number three. There are plenty of carries to go around at UNLV. Keith Whitely, Xzaviar Campbell, Palandech, and Lexington Thomas have all contributed at least 200 yards on the ground this season. George Naufahu has logged 170 yards on just 28 carries. They'll all have their work cut out for them on Saturday, as Boise State has the stiffest run defense in the league, yielding just 81 yards per contest. In head coach Tony Sanchez's system, everybody gets a chance to contribute. Everybody may have to against the Broncos.
3. Stop McNichols?
Such an absurdly difficult task can only be presented as a question, not a statement. Jeremy McNichols, the 5-9, 205 pound sophomore running back out of Long Beach has faced little resistance from opposing defenses so far this season. And he's only getting better. His most recent effort was his best of the year. 166 yards on 33 carries, 36 yards on 7 receptions and a pair of touchdowns in a 34-14 win over Wyoming. For the season there are other running backs who amass more yards than McNichols, but no one finds the end zone more frequently. His 16 scores are tops in the conference, 13 on the ground, 3 through the air. Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien is a good signal caller. Damn good. But it's more likely that the freshman has an off game than McNichols. UNLV staying in this one will rest of slowing down the Bronco rushing attack.
Boise State wins, UNLV covers the 20 point spread. In Las Vegas, that's good news for plenty.