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UNLV Rebels at Central Michigan Chippewas: A Q&A with Hustle Belt

I talked to my buddy over at SB Nation’s Mid-American Conference site about last week’s most discussed team.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Oklahoma State Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday, the UNLV Rebels (1-1) will meet the Central Michigan Chippewas (2-0) at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Last week was a big one for the Rebs. Tony Sanchez’s bunch invaded the Rose Bowl and gave the UCLA Bruins a hell of a punch. UCLA escaped with a 42-21 win but this was a one score game in the fourth quarter. UNLV took a big step forward last Saturday, but it was nothing like the weekend Central Michigan had.

If you went off the grid for awhile, here’s what I’m talking about:

Yes. It was nuts. Then we learned the play shouldn’t have happened. There was a lot of discussion about rules. And some Oklahoma State faithful even thought CMU should give the win back.

But it’s a new week superfans, and UNLV has a date with the nation’s most talked about team. I chatted with my buddy James (@avkingjames) over at Hustle Belt to get an idea of what to expect.

We spend a considerable amount of time every week talking Ball State and Central Michigan football. Now I'm coming at you with UNLV in mind. Is this weird? Is it weird for you? Tell me it's weird for you.

Yes, this is very weird. Extremely meta. It makes me begin to question life and why it is that we exist on this planet. Will we be able to communicate with our future self someday? What about our past self? Does it ultimately matter? Why are millions of bees dying at an extremely fast rate? I never thought about these things until now. Thanks, Keith.

The Chips have been in the college football news this week just a little. I'm not interested in discussing the play or the rule, I support all things bad for the Power Five. I did read your response to Oklahoma State's student newspaper, The O'Colley, and thought it was fantastic. Any updates on that war of words?

Well, surprisingly, I didn't get as much flak from OK State fans as I expected. I was expecting to throw hands, a la the Syracuse Incident last season, but only one or two people really came at me and called me classless or an asshole. The vast majority of the feedback has been "damn straight, kid." So it makes me happy to see people agree with what I had to say.

Maybe one day O'Colly will apologize. Or see what I wrote. I dunno. Maybe.

Let's get to Saturday. Looking at the CMU schedule, this has trap game written all over it. Oklahoma State, UNLV, then another game with a Power Five school in Virginia, before opening the conference season with the MAC West preseason favorite, Western Michigan. Tell me this isn't a trap game.

It's not a trap game. Well, at least, I hope not. Coach Bono (John Bonamego, for your MWC readers) has been very adamant to his bunch that they have to focus on a week-to-week basis. The motto this year is "Show Me." The Chips have a lot of expectations thrust upon them now and they're going to have to show up and earn this W against an opponent they're largely expected to beat in order to keep their momentum going. UNLV is sneaky at certain positions and surely, they will give CMU everything they've got to try and earn some fame themselves.

Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush is the real deal, isn't he?

Cooper Rush is indeed the real deal. He was a name that many looked at in the offseason and said "oh, who's that?" when Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, et al., revealed their top QB lists and he was in the top 10. Well, Rush had a chance to show his skillset on national TV against a ranked opponent and well outplayed his peer Mason Rudolph, who many draft experts have going in the first or second round. The most important thing from that game was how poised Rush looked. The o-line wasn't providing much help but Rush was still able to make reads and throw the ball where it needed to go. Even when he made a bad interception in the fourth quarter, he still managed to come back and throw the dime that ultimately won the game. His draft stock can only go higher, barring something unforeseen.

Who's the player not named Cooper Rush that UNLV fans should keep an eye out for?

That's actually a good one. I'll go defensive: Josh Cox, the cornerback. Cox had nine tackles, seven pass breakups, including two PBUs and an interception in the endzone last week, helping CMU stay in position to win. He'll most likely be matched up to UNLV's Devonte Boyd, which is a matchup I look forward to seeing, as Boyd lit up the NIU defensive backfield last year in DeKalb for 107 yards and a score on five catches. UNLV fans will have to look for #21 (the Derrick Nash legacy jersey) that day, as Cox will wear it this week.

What's the biggest thing that could get the Chips in trouble on Saturday?

Their running game. We don't really know what exactly that looks like yet for the Chippewas. The Presby game had five rushing touchdowns between three backs, which was great and wonderful and fantastic. Except, the run game laid a total egg against OK State. At one point, Coach Bono kinda gave up and put Devon Spalding out wide, which actually worked. None of the three rotation backs could get much on the Pokes defense, so right now, we have no idea if the run game is good on its own or not. Against UNLV, I expect the situation to approve.

Do you know anything about UNLV, or are the Rebs just a blip on the radar in between matchups with Power Five opponents?

I'm vaguely familiar with UNLV, especially with Boyd at wideout. I do know that Tony Sanchez, their second-year coach, is apparently a Nevada HS legend. The football field has one of the most fun designs in college football. The Rebs went 3-9 last season if I recall and yes, I did hear about that scuffle that happened during spring camps. Otherwise, I don't really know all that much.

I'm in Vegas, I'm sure you have a good relationship with your bookie wherever you are. Time to talk turkey. CMU is a 13.5 point favorite as of Thursday morning. What do you think?

I'm actually terrible with gambling and you should never ever take gambling advice from me. I blame my Catholic upbringing. Anyway, a 13.5 line (that's what it's called, right?) sounds about appropriate for this game, especially with CMU at home after a big upset win. It could be tight early, but CMU has a reputation for making great adjustments in the second half, so it could get out of hand for the Rebs.

Are we still going to be friends after this?

Yes, of course we'll still be friends after this. Tell Stephanie hello!

Stay away from my wife.

UNLV and Central Michigan will kick off in Mt. Pleasant 12pm ET on Saturday. Go to Hustle Belt for all your Mid-American Conference needs and follow James on Twitter. He’s got good stuff.