UNLV vs. Air Force: Keys to a Rebels Win, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Rebels hit the road looking to play spoiler against Air Force. Here’s how to watch and what to watch for against the Falcons.
One last tough test to close the season.
WEEK 13: UNLV Rebels (2-9, 2-5 Mountain West) vs. Air Force Falcons (8-3, 5-2 Mountain West)
WHEN: Friday, November 26 — 12:30 PM PT/1:30 PM MT
WHERE: Falcon Stadium; Colorado Springs, CO
WEATHER: Sunny, high of 61 degrees
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 Air Force broadcast can be found in and around Colorado Springs on 740 AM (KVOR).
SERIES RECORD: Air Force leads the all-time series 16-6. In the last meeting on October 19, 2018, the Falcons defeated the Rebels, 41-35, in Las Vegas.
LAST WEEK: UNLV lost at home against San Diego State, 28-20, while Air Force defeated Nevada on the road in triple overtime, 41-39.
ODDS (as of 11/23, via Vegas Insider): Air Force -18
SP+ PROJECTION: Air Force by 19.4
FEI PROJECTION: Air Force by 18.9
PARKER FLEMING PROJECTION: Air Force 85.19% win probability
The UNLV Rebels came up just short in their upset bid last week, but they’ll have one more chance make waves and finish the regular season on a high note when they hit the road to face the Air Force Falcons on Friday afternoon.
The Falcons have played their way back into a position of strength in the race for the Mountain division crown, which means they now have the most paths to the championship game of the three teams left standing there, but that won’t mean anything if Marcus Arroyo’s Rebels can get back to disrupting others’ best laid plans.
Here’s how the Rebels can beat the Falcons.
Three Keys to a UNLV Victory
1. Stay disciplined on defense and contain the fullback dive.
The Rebels were mostly successful in slowing San Diego State’s running game in last week’s loss, continuing a recent run of successes that now places them squarely in the top 25 nationally by line yards per carry allowed, opportunity rate allowed, power success rate, and stuff rate. Now, though, defensive coordinator Peter Hansen will have an entirely different challenge on his hands against the Falcons.
That’s because, while Air Force has rediscovered production from the tailback position recently thanks to DeAndre Hughes, it’s fullback Brad Roberts that has been the offense’s main engine this year. Not only does he now hold the single-season program record for rushing yards by a fullback, he’s the league leader among Mountain West running backs with 263 carries and 1,186 yards and second behind Charles Williams with 11 rushing touchdowns.
Slowing him down will be a tough assignment, but it is worth noting that the two teams who had the most success in doing so, San Diego State and Army, held Roberts to a combined 95 yards, fewer than four yards per carry and, more importantly, won the game.
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) November 14, 2021
2. Get one last strong performance out of whoever is under center.
One of last week’s biggest shocks anywhere in the Mountain West was seeing Justin Rogers go off after replacing Cameron Friel against the Aztecs, so you can feel a little better about the chances of it happening again. The biggest question, of course, is whether Friel will recover enough to get back into the starting lineup as QB1:
VIDEO- UNLV HC Marcus Arroyo says starting QB Cameron Friel is day-to-day with a foot injury. Looks like Justin Rogers could be the No. 1 this Friday against Air Force. If Friel can't go? Then the No. 2 will likely be a true freshman. Arroyo also talked about Tate Martell. pic.twitter.com/utfWuR2efP
— COFIELD (@stevecofield) November 22, 2021
Regardless, Air Force has proven that while they are stout against the pass, they aren’t infallible. Utah State, Nevada and Army all had a great deal of success throwing the ball against the Falcons, so while cornerback Tre Bugg III is one of just seven defenders in the conference with at least 10 passes defended and safety tandem Corvan Taylor and Trey Taylor have been rock solid, UNLV has a chance to join that group of teams based on how well they’ve played as of late. If Kyle Williams is fully recovered from his own injury, suffered last Friday against the Aztecs like Friel, those chances can only improve.
3. Don’t settle for red zone field goals.
Considering that Air Force has averaged 2.85 points per drive outside of garbage time this season and has scored a touchdown on 68.09% of red zone opportunities (third-best rate in the Mountain West) this year, settling for Daniel Gutierrez field goals inside of 30 yards, even with as reliable as he’s been, probably won’t cut it.
This is especially true when you realize that for as strong as they’ve been inside the 20 on offense, the defense has coughed up more than you might expect. Granted, the Falcons have allowed the second-fewest red zone trips in the conference, but they’ve given up a touchdown on 19-of-30 chances (63.33%), the second-worst rate among Mountain West teams. In other words, trust that the offense can punch it in and be the aggressor.
Both teams in this game have played much better as of late, so while it’s reasonable to expect the Rebels to at least hang tough one more time (they’re actually 7-3 against the spread this year and we all know great teams cover), quarterback and offensive line play are likely to play a huge factor for UNLV against a pass rush coming off its best overall performance of the year.
In the end, though, asking the Rebels defense to contain the triple option for a whole sixty minutes is the biggest ask of all and it seems most likely that someone, whether it’s Roberts, Hughes, quarterback Haaziq Daniels, or wide receiver Dane Kinamon, will break through just enough to enable the Falcons to play their game throughout. The season might end on a sour note for UNLV, but the future should remain very bright.
Air Force 31, UNLV 24