UNLV vs. Northwestern: Game Preview, Kick Time, TV & Radio Schedule, Livestream, Prediction
The Rebels face off with the Wildcats in a critical road game. Here’s how to watch and what to watch for.
How can the Rebels rebound from last week’s letdown?
WEEK 3: UNLV Rebels (1-1) vs. Northwestern Wildcats (0-1)
WHEN: Saturday, September 14 — 12:30 PM PT/1:30 PM MT
WHERE: Ryan Field; Evanston, Illinois (47,130)
TV: Big Ten Network
STREAMING: You can sign up for a free seven-day trial of FuboTV by clicking here.
RADIO: The UNLV broadcast can be found in and around Las Vegas on ESPN 1100 AM and 100.9 FM. The Northwestern broadcast can be found in Chicagoland on WGN 720 AM.
SERIES RECORD: Northwestern leads the series 2-0. In the last meeting on September 7, 2001, the Wildcats defeated the Rebels in Las Vegas, 37-28.
LAST WEEK: UNLV flopped at home in a 43-17 defeat against Arkansas State. Northwestern was on a bye after losing their season opener on the road at Stanford.
ODDS (via OddsShark): UNLV +17.5
FEI PROJECTION: Northwestern by 20.7
SP+ PROJECTION: Northwestern by 9.7 (71% win probability)
Last week wasn’t pretty for the UNLV Rebels and, in Week 3, it won’t get any easier with a road game against the Northwestern Wildcats.
Pat Fitzgerald’s team, the defending Big Ten West champions, had a season opener to forget against Stanford but remain a solid, if unspectacular, opponent. Though they struggled to move the ball against the Cardinal, the NU defense allowed just five yards per play and forced three fumbles, proving that they can still capitalize on mistakes.
Here’s how the Rebels can beat the Wildcats.
Three Keys to a UNLV Victory
1. Make Hunter Johnson’s life miserable.
Northwestern’s quarterback arrived in Evanston with quite a bit of hype, a five-star transfer from Clemson, but Stanford gave him about a rough a debut as you could imagine. He was 6-of-17 for 55 yards and two interceptions before being relieved by T.J. Green, but Green is now out for the year and the job is Johnson’s to run with.
On top of that, senior running back Isaiah Bowser, arguably NU’s top offensive weapon, will miss the game because of injury, too. The pressure is on Johnson, then, to improve in a hurry and provide an adequate passing attack.
UNLV’s upset bid will start in the trenches, where it will help if Gabe McCoy can follow up on a fairly modest season debut (six tackles, one tackle for loss) against Arkansas State. Green and Johnson each had a fumble in the loss to the Cardinal, so if the Rebels can rediscover a pass rush that went quiet against the Red Wolves last Saturday, it could put immense pressure on an offense not known for its explosiveness.
2. Don’t bother throwing until absolutely necessary.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that running back Charles Williams currently leads the Mountain West with 311 rushing yards, but it is somewhat surprising that he’s averaged just 18 touches in UNLV’s first two games. Will that change against Northwestern?
Nine of Williams’s 34 carries have gone for at least ten yards, so it seems like it’d be foolhardy of offensive coordinator Garin Justice to do anything but square up the Wildcats’ front, which had just two tackles for loss against Stanford, and see how explosive the running game can be. It’ll be just as critical, though, to also get Armani Rogers going on the ground: After adjusting for sacks, the junior quarterback has averaged 5.64 yards per carry, which is way down from what we’ve come to expect.
3. Find ways to get the ball in Tyleek Collins’s hands.
Considering how explosive he looked in 2018, it has to be a massive disappointment that the Rebels haven’t figured out how to make use of the sophomore wide receiver. He has just two carries for -1 yard and two catches for three yards so far this season, but he could still be the difference maker they need to keep Northwestern from keying on Williams and Rogers.
If UNLV wants to insist on using the pass to set up the run, utilizing play action off of their steady dose of run-pass options might be the way to go. Crossing routes, slants, and quick outs would create opportunities for Collins to run after the catch.
Northwestern is not the kind of team that’s likely to run away with a win, but the Wildcats defense could force UNLV to rely upon what it doesn’t do well if the Rebels make mistakes early. Conversely, if UNLV can hammer out some explosive plays on the ground and operate with a lead, they could steal a win if the defends holds up its end against a fairly bland NU offense.
All things considered, though, that seems like a lot to ask. This seems like a game destined to frustrate Rebels fans to no end, always in striking distance and never truly threatening an upset.
Northwestern 31, UNLV 17