Nothing will sway this game to either side as drastically as the turnover battle. Fresno State saw just how much turnovers can affect the outcome in their last two games. Four second half giveaways at Hawaii helped the Rainbow Warriors score 34 unanswered points and come within one score of pulling off the devastating upset. Three first quarter takeaways against the Vandals kept Idaho from having a chance to keep the game competitive.
"It's huge," Donavon Lewis said. "It gets our defense off the field. We're tired and it gets the ball to Derek so he can do what he does with it."
The same can be expected on Saturday against UNLV. If Fresno State uncharacteristically turns the ball over multiple times, the Rebels' offense is capable of taking advantage and would keep the game close down to the end. Fresno State's offense ranks fifth in the nation in points per game and if UNLV turns the ball over the Bulldogs will win by a large margin.
2. Slow Down the Rebels
Fresno State is expected to score early and often on Saturday night as UNLV has held only one FBS team under 37 points in five attempts this season. The Rebels will have to count on their offense to keep them within striking distance in order to pull off an upset. Their best weapon is 6-foot-3 wide receiver Devante Davis who has 36 receptions for 614 yards on the season and 8 of the Rebels' 12 receiving touchdowns.
Idaho decided not to target their go-to receiver as much to avoid throwing to an L.J. Jones defended target. For UNLV, Davis stands out on the stat sheet, but he is not their only receiver the Bulldogs will have to key on. Marcus Sullivan caught over 55 passes for 659 yards a season ago and has made a big impact since his 2013 debut two games ago. Sullivan had 144 yards of offense against New Mexico, and caught 11 passes for 113 yards against Hawaii. Fresno State hopes that Curtis Riley will be ready in his sixth start.
From the spread, UNLV uses an inside zone running attack which senior running back Tim Cornett is excelling in. Cornett ran for 341 yards in his last two games and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
3. Take Advantage of Man-to-Man Coverage
Fresno State fans will get what they've been waiting for on Saturday as the Rebels are expected to defend the Bulldogs' passing attack with man coverage across the board.
"They play man coverage, but the deep throws aren't always there because they have two safeties deep or they'll put one safety deep," quarterback Derek Carr said. "They have a great scheme that puts their players in positions to make plays and sit on routes."
If UNLV does in fact do so, Carr will be throwing will have far more opportunities for Davante Adams, Isaiah Burse, and Josh Harper to try to take advantage of one-on-one opportunities. If the Bulldogs continue to run the ball effectively, it will free up receivers even more downfield as well as opening up the screen passes to be a block and a move away from a big gain.
"We're going to have to make some plays when it's one-on-one," Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter said. "It comes down to execution. If we execute like we are capable of, I like our chances."