Quick Lane Bowl: Nevada Vs Western Michigan: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
Nevada looks to overcome player defections and opt-outs as they face Western Michigan in Detroit.
Nevada Squaring Off Against Western Michigan In Quick Lane Bowl
WHO: Nevada Wolf Pack (8-4, 5-3 MW) vs. W. Michigan (7-5, 4-4 MAC)
WHERE: Ford Field; Detroit, Michigan
TV: ESPN at 8am PST
STREAMING: The game can be watched on ESPN+
RADIO: Nevada is on ESPN 94.5 in Reno
SERIES RECORD: First ever meeting between Nevada and W. Michigan
ODDS: Western Michigan (-7)
SP+ PROJECTION: Nevada by 6.9
FEI PROJECTION: Nevada by 9.9
For the last time this season, here are my three keys and my prediction for the Quick Lane Bowl: Nevada-Western Michigan
Slow Down Western Michigan’s Offense
The Broncos may have lost four of their last seven games of the season, but they boast one of the more explosive offenses in the MAC.
The Broncos leader on offense is quarterback Kaleb Eleby. In 2021, Eleby was second in the Mid-American Conference in passing yards with 3,116 while recording 21 passing touchdowns and only five interceptions. Eleby’s prime passing target is sophomore Skyy Moore. Moore finished second in the MAC in receptions with 92 and receiving yards with 1,257. Moore also caught 10 touchdown passes for the Broncos this season.
Despite the impressive passing numbers by Eleby, Western Michigan is a run first offense. This season, Western Michigan averaged 202.58 rushing yards per game which is good for third in the MAC. The Broncos boast a pair of talented running backs in Sean Tyler and La’Darius Jefferson. This season, Tyler has rushed for 1,004 yards and scored nine touchdowns while Jefferson has rushed for 836 yards and scored 10 touchdowns.
The Broncos also utilize a third running back who is familiar to the Wolf Pack fans: Former Nevada running back Jaxson Kincade. Kincade, who played for Nevada from 2016 until 2019, has rushed for 375 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Nevada’s defense, which has struggled against the run this season, must slow down the Bronco offense in order to win on Monday. While the Wolf Pack offense has seen plenty of the players from this season either opt-out of the bowl game or transfer out, the defense has stayed mostly intact. So it is critical for Nevada to slow down Western Michigan’s offense to close out the season on a high note.
Establish the Running Game
Carson Strong has opted-out of the bowl game as he gets ready for the 2022 NFL Draft, so in comes Nate Cox. Cox will be making his first start for Nevada in the Quick Lane Bowl and if you have not been made aware, he is the tallest QB in FBS at six-foot nine.
Cox has played in nine games this season and has completed 14 of 20 passes for 158 yards and one touchdown pass. Given Nate Cox’s lack of game experience, the Wolf Pack will need to lean in on its run game against Western Michigan.
This will need to be the game that Nevada running backs Toa Taua (704 rushing yards, five touchdowns) and Devontae Lee (246 rushing yards, four touchdowns) get the running game going against a Broncos defense that is giving up almost five rushing yards a carry this season (4.54) and giving up a total of 147 rushing yards this season.
For Nevada to come away with the victory in the Quick Lane Bowl, they must establish the ground game to help out Nate Cox, the tallest QB in FBS.
(Note: Just getting ahead of the countless number of mentions that Nate Cox is the tallest QB in FBS during the broadcast)
Force Turnovers On Defense
As mentioned before, the Wolf Pack offense will be without most of its talented playmakers and its star quarterback in Carson Strong. So it will be up to the Wolf Pack defense to step up and play well and most importantly, force turnovers against the Broncos.
Nevada’s defense has been average at best this season but it has been stellar in forcing turnovers. The Wolf Pack were eighth in the nation in forcing turnovers with 26 and have used those forced turnovers to power their way to eight wins this season. The Wolf Pack face a Broncos team that has had turnover issues this season. The Broncos have turned the ball over multiple times in games against Ball State and Central Michigan.
To help out a Wolf Pack offense that is breaking in a new quarterback and lacking playmakers on offense, it is important for Nevada’s defense to force the Broncos into multiple turnovers to give the Wolf Pack a chance to win.
The Wolf Pack will have their hands full in this edition of the Quick Lane Bowl as they will be without their talented offensive playmakers. Nate Cox will step in at quarterback for Carson Strong and Cox has little experience at quarterback for Nevada. For Nevada to help out Cox and a newly refitted offense, they must turn to their rushing attack and limit any mistakes. On defense, the Wolf Pack must stymie the Broncos run-oriented offense and force turnovers.
It is going to be a tall task for Nevada to come away with a bowl win on Monday. What will help Nevada is they have an experienced defense and the Broncos not playing their best football as they are 3-4 in their last seven games.
The Wolf Pack defense and Cox playing steady will be the difference for Nevada as they come away with a close, hard fought win.
Nevada 19 Western Michigan 17