UNLV Rebels (2-6, 0-4 MWC) at Colorado State Rams (3-5. 2-2 MWC)
Date and Kickoff: Saturday, November 2nd at 12:38 pm PT. Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Watch and Listen: AT&T Sports Net and ESPN Las Vegas 1100AM/100.9FM
Series History: The Rams lead the all-time series between the two teams 16-6-1. Four of UNLV’s wins have come in Fort Collins and six of the 16 matchups between these teams as Mountain West members have been decided by four points or less.
Significance of the Game
The Rebels are at six loses and another loss would end their chances at a bowl game, and it would likely mark the beginning of the end of the Tony Sanchez era. UNLV has to go 4-0 to get to the 6-6 mark and be bowl eligible. Even if UNLV gets to 6-6, the Rebels could be on the outside looking in if there are more bowl eligible teams than there are spots. If their backs were not against the last week, they are this week. We will really see what this Rebel team is made up of in this must-win game. These final four games are some of UNLV’s easiest, and the Rebels have a chance to win all four. Just because they have a good chance, does not mean they will win all four. UNLV has not shown the consistency to give anyone confidence they can win four in a row, but anything is possible. The Rebels must take it one game at a time and cannot look head.
Who’s In? Who’s Out?
Armani Rogers is now 100% and is available for the Rebels if necessary. But Tony Sanchez said that Kenyon Oblad would start Saturday afternoon and he wants to see Rogers on the practice field before he puts him in a game. Nick Dehdashtian is back and available for UNLV after serving a two-game suspension, he is listed as the third sting defensive end. Dominion Ezinwa went down for UNLV last week and he is listed at first string defensive tackle.
What to Watch for
Kenyon Oblad played his best game last week against San Diego State. He did not turn the ball over and had only a few mistakes. It seems that Oblad is comfortable in the offense and has gained a lot of confidence. He is by far a better passer than Rogers. Now, with the season on the line, can Oblad take the next step and help UNLV win games? He has progressed nicely through the games he has played this season and UNLV will likely need him to take his game to a next level if the Rebels want to win their last four games. In at least one of their final four games, Oblad will need a game with 300 plus yard and three or more touchdowns to give UNLV a win in a shootout type game. If Oblad can elevate his game, UNLV’s chances of going 4-0 will likely increase.
Three Keys to a Rebel Victory
Gain on the Ground
Charles Williams got back to his old self against the Aztecs. He had 113 yard on 19 carries, what was more impressive is that he averaged 5.9 yards per carry. That was his first 100-yard game since UNLV’s loss to Northwestern. Williams will have another opportunity to get some big yards on the ground against the Rams. Colorado State gives up 217 rushing yards on 5.3 yard per attempt and two touchdowns on average per game. Not only Williams, but Chad Magyar could be in store for a great performance as well. UNLV must give the ball to those two 20 or more times each, remember running is critical for UNLV’s offensive production. If UNLV can get production from their backs, then UNLV can take control of the game and scoring would not be a problem.
Contain the Ram’s Passing
Colorado State is a very good, by Mountain West standards, passing team. Quarterback Patrick O’Brien has 1716 yards with eight touchdowns. The Rams also have two receivers, Warren Jackson and Dante Wright, with more than 40 receptions and over 600 receiving yards. So, expect the Rams to sling it around against the Rebels and try to exploit their secondary. Jericho Flowers and Evan Austrie will need to hold down the Rams receivers and try to create some turnovers. UNLV will need the front seven to help out and put pressure on O’Brien as well. Any turnovers will be essential for a road win for UNLV.
No Special Teams Mistakes
One mistake everyone will look at against San Diego State is the blocked punt in the endzone that lead to an Aztec touchdown. UNLV has had several special teams’ gaffes in the Tony Sanchez era. Most recently was when Tyree Jackson fielded a kickoff inside the five against Southern Utah and stepped back in the endzone to take a knee, which resulted in a safety. While that mistake did not cost UNLV the game, the blocked punt did and a blunder in Fort Collins could cost UNLV. Any mistake, muffed punt, blocked kick, poor return coverage, could all spell doom for UNLV.
When you have a gut-wrenching loss, two things will happen; UNLV will come out motivated and win or the Rams will rock UNLV who is deflated after the tough loss. I think it will be the first outcome. The Rebels will take that game last week and use it as fuel for this week. UNLV will play an inspired brand of football and get a critical win on the road. My Prediction: UNLV 31, Colorado State 26