Iowa State vs. UNLV: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The UNLV Rebels return home for another big test against Iowa State. Here’s how to watch and what to watch for against the Cyclones.
Can the Rebels get on track?
WEEK 3: #14 Iowa State Cyclones (1-1) vs. UNLV Rebels (0-2)
WHEN: Saturday, September 18 — 7:30 PM PT/8:30 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 LVSportsNetwork.com.
RADIO: The UNLV broadcast can be found in and around Las Vegas on ESPN 1100 AM and 100.9 FM. The Iowa State broadcast can be found in Ames on 105.1 FM (KCOQ) and elsewhere throughout Iowa on the affiliates of the Cyclone Radio Network.
SERIES RECORD: Iowa State leads the all-time series, 4-1. In the last meeting on September 20, 2008, the Rebels defeated the Cyclones, 34-31, in Las Vegas.
LAST WEEK: UNLV lost on the road against Arizona State, 37-10, while Iowa State lost at home to Iowa, 27-17.
ODDS (as of 9/15, via Vegas Insider): Iowa State -30.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Iowa State by 31.7
FEI PROJECTION: Iowa State by 21.6
The UNLV Rebels were able to hang around for a little while before dropping a decision to Arizona State last Saturday night, but things won’t get much easier in their off-Strip friendly confines when the Iowa State Cyclones come to town this weekend.
Matt Campbell’s Cyclones, though, haven’t yet looked like the Big 12 dark horse some prognosticators thought they’d be. After escaping Northern Iowa in Week 1, Iowa State dropped yet another Cy-Hawk Trophy clash against the rival Iowa Hawkeyes, a game in which star quarterback Brock Purdy was briefly benched and potential Heisman darling Breece Hall had his young campaign derailed.
It’ll still be an uphill climb to shock the world, but here’s how the Rebels can keep the Cyclones reeling and score an upset.
Three Keys to a UNLV Victory
1. Make Iowa State’s offensive issues a Brock Purdy problem.
One obvious culprit for the Cyclones’ slow start is that per-play production has fallen off from last year: After averaging 6.32 yards per play on offense in 2020, Iowa State has sputtered to 5.17 YPP in its first two games against UNI and Iowa. Quarterback Brock Purdy, in particular, has not been particularly sharp by averaging just 6.4 yards per attempt and three interceptions, though head coach Matt Campbell assured everyone on Tuesday that the issues were less about Purdy and more about lackluster performance around him.
UNLV’s best chance at an upset, then, is to ensure that Purdy languishes for another week. Given the defense’s overall performance in the first two weeks, that task is likely to fall most heavily upon the Rebels’ stars: Jacoby Windmon and Adam Plant Jr. have played well in the early going and cornerback Nohl Williams returned last week with an interception against Arizona State. Forcing Iowa State’s passing game into mistakes is the clearest path to an upset bid.
2. Find a way to attack down the field.
This key is likely to fall to UNLV’s wide receivers, who have been mostly quiet outside of the increasingly reliable Kyle Williams. Doug Brumfield didn’t get many chances to take shots because Arizona State put the clamps on before he got hurt, and while working underneath helped the Rebels move the ball in the first half, that’s a difficult way to work over sixty minutes.
Whether it’s Brumfield, whose status for Saturday night is still up in the air for the moment, or Justin Rogers calling the shots, someone has to find a way to get open consistently to keep a very talented Iowa State front seven from teeing off.
3. Get more out of special teams to avoid a field position disadvantage.
The defense got worn out against Arizona State last week in part because special teams has been, to put it kindly, a mess for UNLV so far. The Rebels had eight straight punts to finish the game and the Sun Devils started at their own 45-yard line or better five times because punters Charlon Butt and Evan Silva haven’t covered themselves in glory, averaging a combined 34.4 net yards per punt to rank 119th nationally.
In the event that the offense scuffles once again, Butt and/or Silva need to raise their game in order to make the Cyclones work their way down more of the field. If it ends up looking a lot like last week, don’t be surprised if Rebels fans end up checking out early for a mixed drink at Mandalay Bay’s Fat Tuesday instead.
Iowa State hasn’t yet met preseason expectations in 2021, but the Cyclones have too much talent and the Rebels are too much a work in progress for the game to look much different than it did against Arizona State. If Brumfield isn’t able to go, there also isn’t much reason to believe that Rogers can get it done, either. At least the visitors from the heartland will have plenty to celebrate early into Sunday morning on the Strip.
Iowa State 38, UNLV 13