UNLV vs. UTSA: Game Preview, How to Watch, Livestream, Odds, Prediction
The UNLV Rebels head to Texas to battle UTSA. Here’s how to watch the livestream and what to watch for against the surprising Roadrunners.
The Rebels wrap up non-conference play.
WEEK 5: UNLV Rebels (0-4, 0-1 Mountain West) vs. UTSA Roadrunners (4-0, 1-0 Conference USA)
WHEN: Saturday, October 2 — 3:00 PM PT/4:00 PM MT
WHERE: Alamodome; San Antonio, TX
RADIO: The UNLV broadcast can be found in and around Las Vegas on ESPN 1100 AM and 100.9 FM. The UTSA broadcast can be found on in and around San Antonio on Ticket 760 AM (KTKR).
SERIES RECORD: This is the first meeting between UNLV and UTSA.
LAST WEEK: UNLV lost on the road to Fresno State, 38-30, while UTSA defeated Memphis on the road, 31-28.
ODDS (as of 9/29, via Vegas Insider): UTSA -21
SP+ PROJECTION: UTSA by 26.1
FEI PROJECTION: UTSA by 12.7
The UNLV Rebels will finish its non-conference slate against the UTSA Roadrunners on Saturday afternoon and, just maybe, catch a glimpse at its own future.
That’s because the Roadrunners, under head coach Jeff Traylor, have made good on a carefully crafted multi-year foundation and found an identity which has helped them to an undefeated record so far in 2021. With two of UTSA’s four wins having come by one score, however, is there a path for the Rebels to claim their first victory of the season?
Here’s how UNLV can stop the Roadrunners in their tracks.
Three Keys to a UNLV Victory
1. Find ways to survive in the red zone on defense.
UTSA probably has the overall advantage in terms of offensive talent in this game, but one thing that the Rebels could lean on to hang around is that its red zone defense has actually been pretty solid. Opponents have come away with points in 18 of 22 trips inside the UNLV 20, but they’ve managed a touchdown just 54.6% of the time, which ranks fifth in the Mountain West.
By contrast, the Roadrunners have earned points in their red zone trips on 17-of-19 tries, but their touchdown conversion rate is only 57.9%. That ranks ninth in Conference USA and is owed in large part to quarterback Frank Harris, who’s just 6-of-16 with three touchdowns on red zone throws. That could be a major factor in whether they run away with the result as expected or let the visitors linger.
2. Don’t let Sincere McCormick get a head of steam.
The Roadrunners’ star running back is the engine which allows the offense to pulverize its opponents, but his start to the season might be somewhat recognizable to Rebels fans who watched Charles Williams struggle last year: He leads the country in rushing attempts so far, but McCormick has just eight runs of ten yards and one of more than 20 after pacing CUSA in both last season. As Jared Kalmus noted in our UTSA Q&A article, much of this can be traced to shuffling on the offensive line but it won’t stop Jeff Traylor from executing that game plan, anyway. Stopping McCormick will go a long way toward building an upset bid.
3. Win between the tackles with the Chuck Wagon.
With Charles Williams and Doug Brumfield in the backfield together against Fresno State, the Rebels fielded the ideal version of their offense against an aggressive Bulldogs defense. It’s not a coincidence that Williams had his best per-carry performance of the season to date last Friday, so if Brumfield is healthy then UNLV must do what it can to keep from abandoning that element of their game.
That might sound counterintuitive against a Roadrunners defense that’s given up just 2.54 yards per carry and only two rushing touchdowns in four games, but most of UTSA’s disruptive playmakers attack from the edges: Outside linebackers Clarence Hicks and Charles Wiley have combined for nine tackles for loss, but the inside duo of Trevor Harmanson and Jamal Ligon might not be able to clean up messes if the UNLV offensive line can get blockers on them consistently and spring Williams for more than a one- or two-yard gain.
UTSA has had a fine start to its season, but they’ve definitely had to earn their 4-0 record: They never built more than a ten-point lead against Illinois and it took a three-touchdown collapse for the Roadrunners to win at Memphis, and they’ve done it without being the most explosive offense out there, with just 18 plays of 20 or more yards. That could be good news for a Rebels defense that’s given a lot of ground from week to week.
Ultimately, however, if Brumfield is less than 100% (which we don’t yet know), then it may not make much of a difference how well the defense plays. Cameron Friel improved last week but the Rebels offense ended up being far too reliant on explosive plays. It’ll be closer than most will expect, but it seems most likely to be another exercise in frustration.
UTSA 38, UNLV 24