Fresno State vs. UNLV: Three Keys To A Rebels Win
The Rebels look to grab their first win over the season at home against Fresno State. Here’s how UNLV can beat the Bulldogs.
Can UNLV bounce back?
WEEK 10: Fresno State Bulldogs (1-1) vs. UNLV Rebels (0-2)
WHEN: Saturday, November 7 — 12:30 PM PT/1:30 PM MT
WHERE: Allegiant Stadium; Las Vegas, NV
TV: CBS Sports Network
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes CBSSN, by following this link.
You can also find the audio broadcast on TuneIn.
RADIO: The UNLV broadcast can be found in and around Las Vegas on ESPN 1100 AM and 100.9 FM. The Fresno State broadcast can be found around the Central Valley on 940 AM.
SERIES RECORD: Fresno State leads the series 15-7. In the last meeting on October 18, 2019, the Bulldogs defeated the Rebels, 56-27, in Fresno.
LAST WEEK: UNLV lost at home to Nevada, 37-19, while Fresno State defeated Colorado State at home 38-17.
ODDS (as of 11/6, via Vegas Insider): Fresno State -11
SP+ PROJECTION: Fresno State by 11.4 (74% win probability)
FEI PROJECTION: Fresno State by 8.4
The beginning of the Mountain West football season hasn’t been ideal for the UNLV Rebels and, at least for one more week, it may not get much easier in their second straight home game against a resurgent opponent.
Fresno State looked much improved last Saturday against a less-than-full strength Colorado State, especially on offense, where a legion of young playmakers and a star senior running back opened up the playbook and, one would imagine, gave the Rebels a faithful a glimpse of their own future in the desert.
Here’s how UNLV can tally their first win of 2020 against the Bulldogs.
Three Keys to a UNLV Victory
1. Get better outcomes on third down.
The overall performance may be skewed a little bit based on their early opponents, but there’s no denying the UNLV has struggled to consistently move the chains while also being far too accommodating to their foes. Through two games, they have converted just 9 of 31 third-down tries, a 19.4% rate that is last in the Mountain West, and allowed 12-of-25 on defense (48%, 11th of 12).
Some of this is offset by continued aggressiveness on fourth downs — the Rebels have already gone for it ten times in two games, which ranks in the top 40 nationally, and converted on eight — but there could be opportunities to improve their fortunes earlier since the Bulldogs, at least so far, haven’t been much better about stopping opponents on third downs with a 46.9% conversion rate allowed.
2. Create some breaks on defense.
This one might be easier said than done. Through two games, the Rebels have only forced one fumble and have zero interceptions, though the latter may reflect a little bit of bad luck since they are in the middle of the pack among Mountain West teams with eight passes defended. Fresno State will surely be tempted to pick on the UNLV secondary just as Nevada did, but it is a mildly positive sign that their young defenders, most notably Sir Oliver Everett, have at least given themselves opportunities.
There’s no doubt coming out ahead in turnover margin has often been crucial in this particular matchup, though. In last year’s game, UNLV ended up -5 but, in their wins over Fresno State in 2014, 2016 and 2017, the Rebels won that battle all three times.
3. Identify a big-play receiver ASAP.
It appears that the Rebels have sorted out their quarterback situation for now, but one element of which the offense has dire need is explosive plays. Max Gilliam has just three passes of 20 yards or more in 61 attempts, which is a rate that simply will not suffice in the long run.
The good news? They have options which have flashed such potential in the past, meaning that the real issue is doing so consistently. Tyleek Collins, who disappeared for long stretches in 2019 after a promising freshman campaign two years ago, had five catches for 74 yards and a touchdown against Nevada and could be that guy. It could also be one or both among tight ends Noah Bean and Giovanni Fauolo, who are finally linked with an “or” atop the depth chart and combined for ten 20-plus-yard receptions last fall.
UNLV looked a lot better on at least one side of the ball despite losing the Fremont Cannon last Saturday, but it’s still debatable whether they will be able to keep up with a Bulldogs attack that seems to have rediscovered a more explosive passing game. And until the Rebels defense proves it can stop opponents more consistently, it seems most likely that Fresno State won’t have much trouble keeping them at arm’s length for 60 minutes.
Fresno State 31, UNLV 20