Wyoming vs. UNLV: Three Keys to a Rebels Win
The Rebels look to notch their first win of the season against the Cowboys. Here’s our preview of how UNLV can beat Wyoming.
UNLV looks to defend its home turf.
WEEK 13: Wyoming Cowboys (1-2) vs. UNLV Rebels (0-4)
WHEN: Friday, November 27 — 1:00 PM PT/2:00 PM MT
WHERE: Allegiant Stadium; Las Vegas, NV
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes FS1, 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 Wyoming broadcast can be found on the affiliates of the Cowboy Sports Network, including flagship 1240 AM (KFBC) in Cheyenne.
SERIES RECORD: Wyoming leads the series 13-11. In the last meeting on September 28, 2019, the Cowboys defeated the Rebels in Laramie, 53-17.
LAST WEEK: UNLV and Wyoming had their games against Colorado State and Utah State, respectively, canceled because of COVID-19 concerns.
ODDS (as of 11/24, via Vegas Insider): Wyoming -16.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Wyoming by 15.4 (81% win probability)
FEI PROJECTION: Wyoming by 10.7
After an unexpected week off, the UNLV Rebels are back in action this week hosting the Wyoming Cowboys.
If the Rebels are anxious to finally secure their first win of 2020, Craig Bohl’s Pokes might simply be relieved to finally get a chance to play a game after two weeks away from the gridiron. The downtime may have helped them transition more fully, however, to life with a new quarterback and a young defense that showed a lot of promise in the season’s early weeks, so Marcus Arroyo’s team will have another challenge on their hands.
Here’s how UNLV can beat Wyoming.
Three Keys to a UNLV Victory
1. Get aggressive on first downs.
Charles Williams might be the Rebels’ best offensive weapon, but getting ahead against Wyoming might involve the passing game more than you’d expect. While UNLV hasn’t been great overall through the air, first down has far and away been their best situation to date, completing 30-of-45 passes while averaging 6.9 yards per attempt. Using the pass to set up the run, then, could be an effective way to put the Cowboys on their heels.
Still not convinced? Consider, too, that first down has also been Wyoming’s worst down to date when defending the pass. They’ve allowed a 75.6% completion rate and nine yards per attempt through three games and, perhaps more importantly, have tended to stiffen up as leverage increases. In a nutshell, UNLV gets worse with each successive down while the Cowboys get better, so seizing on that split is worth a chance as the underdog here.
2. Get acceptable results in the red zone.
Depending on how you look at things, UNLV has either been dreadful inside the 20 on both sides of the ball or simply below average. On offense, the Rebels have turned 14 scoring chances in the red zone into five field goals and six touchdowns; the 78.6% overall conversion rate ranks ninth in the Mountain West, but the 42.9% touchdown rate isn’t so horrid when just five teams are above 60%.
Defensively, it’s the same sort of picture. UNLV has let its opponents get points on 22-of-24 trips into the red zone, but the touchdown-to-field goal split is 13-to-9, meaning their 54.2% touchdown rate allowed is 31st among all FBS teams right now. Against an average offense like Wyoming, continuing to hold the line at that rate can help them stay in the game.
3. Don’t cough up too many big plays on defense.
Wyoming isn’t a team that doesn’t throw the ball a lot, but don’t let that fool you because they’ve been able to make some hay in their first three games. Levi Williams has a modest 55% completion rate on 80 attempts, but he has also completed 13 plays of 20 or more yards. That 16.3% rate is actually better than San Jose State’s Nick Starkel (14%), Nevada’s Carson Strong (11.2%), Boise State’s Hank Bachmeier (9.2%), and it’s an element of the Cowboys offense that sunk the Rebels early in last year’s matchup.
UNLV has made progress on both sides of the ball over the last couple of weeks, but they face two big problems heading into the game against the Pokes. First, you have to imagine that the long COVID-related layoff will mean that Wyoming is well-rested. Second, their off-season opt-outs don’t seem to have impacted the defense’s overall level of performance, which could spell trouble for a Rebels offense that has struggled to establish a consistent ground game and entrench a starter at quarterback.
Wyoming 28, UNLV 13