UNLV vs. Fresno State: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Rebels and Bulldogs will open Mountain West football play against each other on Friday night. Here’s how to watch and our preview of what to watch for.
The ‘Dogs look to keep their surge going while the Rebels hope to steal a win.
WEEK 4: UNLV Rebels (0-3) vs. #22 Fresno State Bulldogs (3-1)
WHEN: Friday, September 18 — 7:00 PM PT/8:00 PM MT
WHERE: Bulldog Stadium; Fresno, CA
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.
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 on in and around Fresno on Fox Sports 1340 AM, as well as on the affiliates of the Bulldog Radio Network around the San Joaquin Valley.
SERIES RECORD: Fresno State leads the all-time series, 16-7. In the last meeting on November 7, 2020, the Bulldogs defeated the Rebels, 40-27, in Las Vegas.
LAST WEEK: UNLV lost at home to Iowa State, 48-3, while Fresno State defeated UCLA on the road, 40-37.
ODDS (as of 9/22, via Vegas Insider): Fresno State -30.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Fresno State by 32.0
FEI PROJECTION: Fresno State by 20.7
The UNLV Rebels and Fresno State Bulldogs will kick off Week 4 of Mountain West football action under the Friday night lights. No matter your rooting interests, both teams will step onto Jim Sweeney Field with plenty on the line.
That may not seem to be the case for the home team at first, but Kalen DeBoer’s Bulldogs will want to ensure that, after a hard-fought and emotional victory in Southern California last week, there won’t be any slack when it comes to taking care of business against lackluster teams on paper, just as they did against UConn and Cal Poly.
Marcus Arroyo’s Rebels, meanwhile, are hoping to take a few steps out of the slog into which non-conference play dragged them over the past couple weeks. UNLV simply didn’t look competitive against Iowa State, which is a discouraging development after having played close against both Eastern Washington and Arizona State. What will it take to get on track?
Here are the keys to the game for both the Rebels and the Bulldogs.
Three Keys to a UNLV Victory
1. Lean hard into the varied offensive looks.
During his time in Las Vegas, Arroyo has made a habit of playing his quarterback situation close to the vest, but it frankly didn’t make a lot of sense to wait until his Rebels were down 24 points before Tate Martell saw the field against Iowa State. The best-case scenario is that Doug Brumfield is able to reassume command of the offense with a clean bill of health, but anything less? In such a case, why not go all in on a quarterback rotation?
That’s because, while Martell had some obvious rust to work through against the Cyclones, he did have a couple of nice completions and engineered most of UNLV’s lone scoring drive on Saturday night. If he’s a better fit for RPOs and play action or simply has more mobility than Cameron Friel or Justin Rogers, then he should get more chances to prove it. Considering the offense already ranks 118th by SP+ after three games, there isn’t much to lose to committing fully to Plan B.
2. Dig deep into the playbook to catch Fresno State’s defense off its guard.
This might be related to the first key, but UNLV simply can’t expect to play things straight and hang around for sixty minutes. As admirable as keeping Charles Williams in the game plan is, for instance, he’s been stonewalled to the tune of 2.4 yards per carry in the last two weeks as the quarterback situation has deteriorated. He needs help and the Rebels could use all hands on deck.
This could be as simple as incorporating more fly sweeps, especially if UNLV thinks they have the speed at wide receiver to beat Fresno State to the edges, but anything from double passes to odd formations should be on the table.
3. Bring more heat to help an anemic defensive line.
Even considering the caliber of offenses that UNLV has faced in the early going, it’s not an encouraging sign that the Rebels have struggled mightily to creatve havoc in the backfield, collecting just four sacks and 11 tackles for loss in three games so far. Jacoby Windmon and Adam Plant Jr. are basically it, but they might be tempted to change up the overall game plan if Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener has lingering effects from the hits he absorbed against UCLA.
More blitzing might be the only answer since sitting back against a Bulldogs offense that has only improved week by week, and is comfortable with the ball in nearly anyone’s hands, probably isn’t a real option. This is a team, after all, that hasn’t even been credited with any quarterback hurries so far, so someone like linebacker Austin Ajiake could find himself playing a different and more aggressive role if UNLV decides that rolling the dice is preferable to letting things happen.