UNLV Rebels (2-4 SU, 4-2 ATS) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs (1-5 SU, 1-5 ATS)
College Football Week 7
Date/Time: Friday, October 16, 2015 at 10:30PM EST
Where: Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, California
TV: ESPN 2
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UNLV -5.5/FRES +5.5
Over/Under Total: 55
The UNLV Rebels make the trip to face the Fresno State Bulldogs in Friday Mountain West Conference action. Neither team has gotten off to a rip-roaring start in 2015. On Saturday, Fresno State absorbed a 56-14 home beating at the hands of Utah State to fall to 1-5 on the year. UNLV fared better, yet still in losing fashion, dropping an overtime 33-27 home game to San Jose State.
Both teams are looking to get some positive momentum started, but it wont be easy, particularly for Fresno State, on the heels of 5 straight losses since winning their opener over the obscure Abilene Christian. In those 5 straight losses, they have failed to cover the spread once, while getting outscored 244-89. Its been a tough season thus far. UNLV was looking pretty good prior to the overtime loss on Saturday, having compiled consecutive wins, beating Idaho and a road win over Nevada. But that momentum came to a halt with the tough loss on Saturday. Still, at 1-1 in conference, they have something to shoot for, with what looks like a winnable conference game here on Friday.
UNLV was without senior quarterback Blake Decker on Saturday and it showed, with the Rebels offense off-key a lot of the time. Sophomore Kurt Palandech filled in and was 15-for-30 for 217 yards with 2 touchdowns and interceptions. By UNLV standards, that actually qualifies as a big day through the air. Devonte Boyd is a useful receiver and can spring forth with a big catch from time to time. Theyre much more adept at running the ball and are led in that category by Keith Whitely and Xzaviar Campbell. Six different Rebels players have run for triple-digit yardage this season, as whatever quarterback they have in there will also use his legs.
So far, the scoring for the Rebels has been all over the board. After scoring 30 in a loss to Northern Illinois, they put up a total of ten points against Michigan and UCLA, facing opponents where UNLV was out of their element. They put up 80 against Idaho State, which doesnt mean a ton, before scoring 23 in a win over Nevada and 27 in their loss to San Jose State. At this level, theyll put up points, but likely wont be blowing anyone away.
Defensively, UNLV is pretty porous against both the run and the pass. At the same time, in the context which they will be in on Friday night, they dont figure to be in that bad of shape. They held Michigan to a respectable 28 points and Nevada to 17 in a conference win a few weeks ago. In other words, you dont need to be the Pittsburgh Steel Curtain to stifle what has been a pedestrian Fresno State offense this season.
Fresno State has been getting hammered. Its one thing to absorb a beating at the hands of SEC power Ole Miss. Losing to a top five team in Utah, 45-24 is also not a source for shame necessarily. But when the likes of San Jose State and Utah State are producing monstrously-lopsided beatings against you, its a bad sign. When your best result of the season is a 21-7 loss against a down San Diego State team, its not good.
Quarterback Zack Greenlees status is unknown, with off-the-field issues forcing Fresno State to dig deep into its barrel of quarterback talent. Against San Jose State, they started freshman Kilton Anderson, who showed he still has a way to go before being a reliable force behind center at this level. He is really the 4th choice in this offense, with two Fresno quarterbacks lost for the season with injuries. He threw three picks on Saturday and generally did not have this offense moving.
Its not all the quarterbacks fault, with an offensive line that is getting dominated in the trenches. RB Marteze Walker, for example, is a workhorse and a good back, but has been muted running behind this line. And if the pass protection ever comes around, the Bulldogs have some aerial threats in Jamire Jordan and KeeSean Johnson. But their weapons are rendered moot by an ineffective line and to some degree, a dysfunctional QB situation.
Fresno State faces a matchup crisis potentially in this game with UNLV being a run-first team. The Bulldogs defense gave up 200+ rushing yards to Utah State last week and 305 to the San Diego Aztecs the week before that. Watching the Fresno State D play, you get the feeling that teams dont even need to throw the ball. And no matter how they stack the box or how predictable the opponents plays are, big runs are being peeled off against this D with alarming regularity.
Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter is a prideful guy, a capable coach who started with Fresno State at 20-6 in his first two seasons. Things have bottomed out and one should expect him to fight and get his guys to fight. On the heels of some pretty awful games, they can ill-afford a beating at home at the hands of a pretty mediocre UNLV team. Things have looked pretty bad for Fresno State through 6 games, but if theyre going to wake up, this week would appear to be as good a candidate as any. Theyre under some pressure, with jobs on the line and a fan base that is going to stop finding reasons to come pretty soon. I can see this being a grind, a close game that is up for grabs at the end. Ill take the home dog Bulldogs.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Fresno State Bulldogs plus 5.5 points.
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