UNLV vs. Nevada: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Rebels look to paint the Fremont Cannon red with a win over Nevada. Here’s how to watch and what to watch for against the Wolf Pack.
The Silver State rivalry is back.
WEEK 9: UNLV Rebels (0-7, 0-3 Mountain West) vs. Nevada Wolf Pack (5-2, 2-1 Mountain West)
WHEN: Friday, October 29 — 7:00 PM PT/8:00 PM MT
WHERE: Mackay Stadium; Reno, 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 stream the UNLV radio 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 Nevada broadcast can be found throughout Reno on 94.5 FM.
SERIES RECORD: Nevada leads the all-time series 27-19. In the last meeting on October 31, 2020, the Wolf Pack defeated the Rebels, 37-19, in Las Vegas.
LAST WEEK: UNLV lost at home to San Jose State, 27-20, while Nevada lost on the road to Fresno State, 34-32.
ODDS (as of 10/28, via Vegas Insider): Nevada -20.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Nevada by 18.8
FEI PROJECTION: Nevada by 14.5
PARKER FLEMING PROJECTION: Nevada 94.33% win probability
The UNLV Rebels head north on Friday night for the latest chapter in the bitter struggle against the Nevada Wolf Pack.
Both teams come into the game on the heels of some stinging losses, but you can be sure everyone involved will have put that behind them with college football’s biggest rivalry prize (literally, if not figuratively) on the line. The Fremont Cannon, for the moment, is blue, and while it may not seem like much of a matchup on paper… you could’ve said the same thing in 2018 and 2019. Anything can happen in a clash like this.
Here’s how the Rebels can finally get over the hump and claim their first win of the year against Nevada.
Three Keys to a UNLV Victory
1. Keep Cameron Friel on his feet.
The most enduring image of UNLV’s most recent loss was Friel absorbing a punishing sack from San Jose State’s Kyle Harmon to stop the Rebels’ comeback efforts cold, but that’s emblematic of something the offense has struggled to do all year long, regardless of who’s been under center.
At this point in the season, only four FBS offenses have a worse sack rate allowed than UNLV’s 14.1%. The Rebels have done some reshuffling in order to rectify that and also open holes more consistently for running back Charles Williams, starting three different offensive line combinations over the past four games, and they’ll need to hope that whatever combination they settle upon for Friday works out against a Wolf Pack defensive front that, despite collecting just one sack last week against Fresno State, still ranks 13th nationally with a 9.6% sack rate.
2. Ride the Chuck Wagon.
Charles Williams had a critical fumble last week against San Jose State, but it’s hard to imagine that will dissuade head coach Marcus Arroyo from leaning heavily on his star running back once again. For one, it’s an easy way to follow the first key mentioned above; beyond that, the Wolf Pack have proven vulnerable against offenses that can ground and pound effectively.
To wit, Nevada currently ranks 115th in stuff rate, 119th in power success rate allowed, and 120th by opportunity rate allowed. That is owed mostly to Kansas State’s Deuce Vaughn, Hawaii’s Dae Dae Hunter, and Fresno State’s Jordan Mims, all of whom spearheaded running games that averaged a combined 6.19 yards per carry against this defense. Williams is more than talented enough to join that bunch if the line can do its job.
3. Finish offensive drives.
Nevada comes into the game with a substantial advantage over UNLV in terms of points per drive (2.69 for the Wolf Pack, 1.67 for the Rebels), which makes it all the more important that the Rebels find the end zone when they have the opportunity to do so.
That’s because the Wolf Pack’s red zone defense has been porous this season, allowing 14 touchdowns in 20 opportunities against FBS opponents. If UNLV can follow a ball control game plan that leans on Williams to keep Carson Strong and company off the field and limits possessions, then it may come down to a willingness to be aggressive rather than settling for three points, which probably won’t do given the probable defensive mismatches the Rebels must deal with.
Since joining the Mountain West in 2012, the Wolf Pack have enjoyed three wins by three or more scores in this rivalry. However, the other six games have all been decided by seven or fewer points and it can’t be ignored that the Rebels have improved over the last month, even if that first win remains elusive.
The problem in this year’s game is that there isn’t much to suggest that UNLV will pressure Carson Strong enough to keep him from doing, well, whatever he wants against a young secondary. Even if everything goes right for the offense, the defense will struggle, which means the Fremont Cannon will remain blue for another year.
Nevada 38, UNLV 28