Fresno State Bulldogs (3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS) vs. UNLV Rebels (1-5 SU, 1-5 ATS)
College Football Week 7
Date and Time: Friday, October 10, 2014 at 10:00PM EST
Where: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: CBS Sports Network
by Scott, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: FRES -10/UNLV +10
Over/Under Total: Off
In Las Vegas on Friday, the Fresno State Bulldogs come to Sam Boyd Stadium to face the UNLV Rebels in a Mountain West Conference match-up. After a troubling 0-3 start where they were outscored 166-59, Fresno State has stormed back with 3 straight wins, including a 24-13 win last Friday over San Diego State. UNLV, meanwhile, is looking for something positive after starting the season a bleak 1-5, with their only win being a one-point squeaker over Northern Colorado.
UNLV has been bad, but it hit new depths on Saturday at San Jose State. UNLV backers were surely happy when the Rebels opened the game by holding the Spartans to a three-and-out, before taking their opening drive down for a touchdown. But all they got out of the remaining 3 and 3/4 quarters of play was a field goal, while a one-win San Jose team pulled away 33-10. Quarterback Blake Decker shows flashes from time to time, but has 9 picks against only 5 TD throws.
The Rebels have a nice ensemble ground game with Keith Whitely, George Naufahu, and Shaquille Murray-Lawrence that hasnt quite materialized with only 3.7 yards on the ground. With WR Devante Davis (1290 yards in 13) injured, Decker has been relying on Devonte Boyd, who is the only deep ball threat on the team other than Davis. This unit has been utterly disappointing, with all elements of the offense underperforming. Davis and Murray-Lawrence have missed the last two games and are questionable for Friday. Other than the 34 they scored against Northern Illinois in a loss, UNLV has scored only between 10-17 points in all of their other 5 games. And counting the 12 points they gave up to Northern Colorado, the D is giving up 44 points a game on average.
Having lost so much in personnel departures, Fresno State was expected to be a notch below their 11-win form of 2013. So it shouldnt have been so much of a surprise when they started off slow, being that they were facing USC, Utah, and Nebraska. They may have gotten smoked in those 3 games, but it painted too dire of a picture. Back in their own element, they have found their winning form again and remain a major threat in this conference.
Junior Bulldogs QB Brian Burrell is slowly warming to the task, as he tries to fill the big shoes of Derek Carr. Hes only completing 56.9% of his throws, but hes coming around with 8 touchdown throws and has shown to be adept with his legs in a pinch. Hes benefitting from an experienced offensive line, which is providing decent protection, while helping spring some big runs. The Bulldogs are averaging 4.7 yards per rushing attempt, with Marteze Walker leading the way with 524 yards on nearly 6 yards per run. Big Josh Quezada is still in the fold, picking up that tough yardage. Only one of their three 1000-yard receivers from 2013 is back in Josh Harper, who already has 35 catches. He is accompanied by a large cast of speedy ball-catchers and look for Burrell to establish a greater rapport with a wider cast of weapons as he gains more experience and comfort as a starter.
The Fresno State offense was sluggish against San Diego State on Friday. The Aztecs defense, however, was a bit more robust than what the Rebels are capable of delivering at this point. Especially against the run. UNLV is giving up 292 yards per game and Marteze Walker is likely licking his chops looking ahead to Friday.
Psychologically, Fresno State seems to be crescendoing, whereas UNLV may be starting to internalize the fact that they really stink. Fresno State showed they cant run with Nebraska or Pac-12 teams. So what? Now theyre reborn within conference play and with three straight wins and two in conference, they can attack the rest of the season with zeal. UNLV, meanwhile, is coming off a 7-win season that followed a 2-win season. The offense was supposed to be pretty good, which would allow an iffy D some time to develop. But it looks like the offense wont be able to spare the defense the inevitable wear-and-tear that comes when stringing together a long line of three-and-outs. The Bulldogs have been stifling better offenses than UNLVs, whose offense ground to a halt on Saturday against San Jose State.
After three straight road games, look for UNLV to get something out of being back at home, where they generally play better. Fresno doesnt have far to travel, but not all teams take well to playing in Las Vegas on Friday night. The heat is still a factor, even in October. The dryness too. Not everyone thrives in that climate. But even if UNLV looks better than they have in recent weeks, look for a strong Fresno State team to continue riding the momentum. Theyre building on some good things and seem to be coming around well. They should somewhat easily dispatch of a UNLV team that looks to be tied up in knots.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting Fresno State Bulldogs minus 10 points.