Photo by Steve Cheng

Game Week: Full UNLV Preview

Sep. 10 -- The Running Rebels have a new coach but some of the same problems that plagued last year's awful team...

Facts and Factors

• UCLA goes on a Vegas road trip this week to play UNLV Saturday, Sept. 12, at 7:30 p.m.  The game will be televised by CBSSportsNetwork.

•  UCLA, after its win over Virginia last week in its home opener, held its ranking at #13 in the AP Poll, and moved up to #13 in the Coaches’ Poll.

•  Last week to start its season, UNLV traveled to Northern Illinois and lost 38-30.   Just in case you don’t know, Northern Illinois is an FBS school in the Mid-American Conference.

•  The UCLA game marks the third time in the 48 years of UNLV football that it will open its home season with a game against a Pac-12 team. It did so in 2013 against Arizona and in 1991 against Oregon State.

•  UCLA currently being ranked 13th, it’s the ninth-highest ranked team to play UNLV in Las Vegas.

•  UNLV plays its home games in Sam Boyd Stadium, which is about 7 ½ miles east of UNLV’s campus. It seats 35,500 and uses turf, which was actually replaced this summer.   When installing the new turf, the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign was added to the end zones. 

Sam Boyd Stadium

•  It’s the first time ever that UCLA and UNLV will meet on a football field.  The Rebels return the favor next year by traveling to the Rose Bowl Sept. 10th, 2016.

•  UNLV has played six programs that were members of the Pac-12 Conference at the time, and has a 4-13 record against them.  It’s 1-0 against ASU and is 3-2 against Oregon State.

•  UCLA is 41-6-1 all-time against teams in the current Mountain West Conference.  All four losses have come against Air Force (UCLA Is 6-4-1 against them).   UCLA is 21-0-1 against San Diego State.

•  UCLA, even though it’s never played UNLV, has played in Sam Boyd Stadium, standing 1-2 all time in its appearances in the Las Vegas Bowl, which are played at Sam Boyd.   The Bruins lost to BYU in 2007 and Wyoming in 2004, while beating New Mexico in 2002.

•  UCLA has won 12 of its last 13 non-conference matchups and nine in a row since losing to Baylor in the 2012 Holiday Bowl. 

•  If UCLA beats UNLV, it will have set a record for the most consecutive victories in games played away from the Rose Bowl. The streak is currently at 10, which matches the school record set in 1997-98.

•  UNLV is 5-36 all-time against teams ranked in at least one of the two major polls.  Their most recent win over a ranked team was in 2008 when it upset ASU in overtime.  It has lost 16 consecutive games at home against ranked teams.  It has beaten only one ranked team in Sam Boyd in its history, in 1984 when Randall Cunningham led the Rebels to a win over #20-ranked Cal State Fullerton.

•  UNLV is helmed by first-year coach Tony Sanchez (41), who comes to UNLV from the local powerhouse high school program, Bishop Gorman.   Sanchez spent six years at Bishop Gorman, posting a record of 85-5, and netting six consecutive 4A championships. His 2014 team finished 15-0 and won the mythical high school national championship.  Bishop Gorman’s football program and facilities rival some FBS programs, and Sanchez was an integral part of that.  In fact, some observers have said that Bishop Gorman’s facilities easily surpass UNLV’s.   Sanchez played ball at New Mexico State and started his coaching career there as a graduate assistant in 1996.  He was a positions coach at various high schools until he was the head coach at San Ramon (Calif.) California High in 2004, and then Bishop Gorman in 2009.   Sanchez has been noteworthy so far as UNLV’s head coach in that he’s embraced and promoted Las Vegas and the Strip, rather than shun it. In fact, when recruits and their families he extols the Strip’s economic virtues.  At Bishop Gorman, Sanchez was known to be a good offensive coach.

•  In fact, the 30 points UNLV scored last week against Northern Illinois in their loss were the most in a season opener for the Rebels since 1984. 

•  It’s a rarity for high school head coaches to make the jump to college head coach. Since 1974, only three other high school coaches have been hired by what is now an FBS level program.  The most recent was Todd Dodge, who was hired at North Texas in 2007, and went 6-37 in 3 ½ seasons.

•  UCLA’s Jim Mora knows Sanchez, having recruited a number of players at Bishop Gorman in recent years.  The most high profile was Cordell Broadus, the son of Snoop Dogg, who came to UCLA this season from Bishop Gorman as a true freshman, only to quit football before reporting to fall camp.

•  Last season, UNLV averaged just 15,674 fans per home game.

•  While the UNLV basketball team has had some success in its history, and is generally supported by fans, its football team is kind of the poor stepchild of the city.  UNLV has had one winning season in the last 15 years, going 7-6 in 2013.   It posted 12 consecutive losing seasons from 2001 to 2012.   Since becoming a division 1-A program in 1982, the Rebels have had just five winning seasons.

•  UCLA is favored by 29½ points. 

• For years it was illegal to bet on UNLV games in Las Vegas, but it’s been legal for about the last 14 years, so UCLA fans visiting Vegas this weekend will be able to find some action on the game.

•  The weather forecast calls for a high of 105 degrees in Las Vegas on Saturday, and probably in the high 90s at game time. 

UNLV’s Offense vs. UCLA’s Defense

UNLV, historically, is one of the worst programs in the entire FBS. The winningest head coach in the program’s history is Tony Knap, who won 47 games over the course of six seasons in the late 70s. He was followed by Harvey Hyde, who posted a winning record over his four years in Las Vegas before he left following the 1985 season.

After those two, though, none of the six head coaches who followed finished with a winning record at UNLV. Most recently, Bobby Hauck lasted five years, and in those five years, he won just 13 games. And let’s emphasize something here: he lasted five years despite winning just 13 games. Expectations are subterranean at UNLV. The word “moribund” comes perpetually to mind when considering how to describe the program.

In that context, UNLV made the bold (or, perhaps, not-so-bold) decision this offseason to hire local high school coach Tony Sanchez to helm the program. To be fair, Sanchez was in charge of one of the most talent-rich programs in the nation in Bishop Gorman, which has won some absurd number of Nevada state titles and boasts better facilities than many college programs. He actually is a rarity in the coaching profession as a whole, in that he has coached a team that beat Josh Rosen.

But he’s still just a year removed from coaching at a high school, and no matter how successful a high school program is, there is a huge leap from high school to even a lowly FBS program like UNLV. Sanchez did a nice job in the offseason by hiring some experienced coaches on both sides of the ball, and on the offensive side, he hired Barney Cotton as his coordinator. Cotton has a wealth of experience as a major college OC, having served in that role at New Mexico State, Nebraska, and Iowa State.

We only have one game to go on so far, but Sanchez and Cotton’s intention going forward is for UNLV to be a power-type offense. At this stage, against Northern Illinois last week, there were some power elements, with a tight end and a fullback, and some points where they went to more of a spread look, with three or four wide receivers. For this first year, and perhaps for the first couple of years for Sanchez, the offense will most likely require some mixing and matching.

The Running Rebels are not without some experience and talent. At quarterback, UNLV returns senior Blake Decker (6’2, 215), who started 12 of 13 games last year after transferring in from Scottsdale Community College. He’s an unusual case at the college level, as he not only attended community college but also served a two-year church mission, and he’ll actually turn 25 later this month. Last year was marked by real inconsistency from the quarterback. He put up some big yardage totals but completed just 57.6% of his passes and threw 18 interceptions (against just 15 touchdowns). He can run a little, as he averaged 2.5 yards per carry last season on 147 carries, but he’s more of a scrambler than a designed dual-threat. In the first game of the season, he was really inefficient, completing just 21 of 39 passes. The big thing for him will be reducing his interception rate, since UNLV simply can’t afford to give up offensive possessions this year considering how bad the defense is likely going to be. Sophomore Kurt Palandech (6’2, 185) will also get some reps. He’s more of an athletic dual-threat, and he actually had five rushes for 42 yards and a touchdown against NIU, so he’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Blake Decker, USA Today

Decker will have a few talented targets to throw the ball to, and the emphasis there should be on “a few”. Right now, UNLV has just six scholarship receivers. The most talented of the group is probably sophomore Devonte Boyd (6’1, 175) who led the team in receiving last year with 65 catches for 980 yards. He’s a playmaker, with the ability to stretch the field, and he has followed up his freshman campaign with a great start to 2015, catching five balls for 107 yards against Northern Illinois, including a long 64-yard touchdown. Sophomore Kendal Keys (6’4, 200) is probably the next most important name to know. Keys is a big, athletic possession receiver who can win jump balls and is a solid red zone threat. Last season, he caught 24 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns, but his usage should increase dramatically this season. Against NIU, he had six catches for 62 yards, and that’s probably going to be a fairly typical game for him this year. Senior Aaron Criswell (5’10, 180) redshirted last season and will provide another speed element on the outside for the Rebels. He showed off his big play potential against NIU with a 41-yard catch and run. Senior Anthony Williams (5’11, 195) rounds out the main rotation of receivers. He started seven games last year and had 24 catches for 234 yards. He had five catches last week for 52 yards. Senior tight end Jake Phillips (6’6, 250) will also factor into the passing game somewhat. He’s more of a big, blocking tight end than a nimble pass-catcher, but he’s still managed to haul in 48 passes over the last four years along with a couple of touchdowns.

The running game is a work in progress. Against NIU, the Rebels averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, which is identical to last year’s anemic output. Junior Keith Whitely (5’9, 195) is the starter, after starting several games last season and leading the team in rushing with 504 yards. He is fairly quick, but doesn’t have incredible top-end speed, and he’s fairly small which prevents him from generating much push on his own up front. He actually does better as a receiver out of the backfield, and he can be a more dangerous when he gets matched up in space on a linebacker. Senior George Naufahu (6’0, 215) will also get some carries. He’s more of a power back than Whitely and will be much more likely to get short-yardage and goal-line carries. True freshman Lexington Thomas (5’9, 165) is the one other name to know in this group. He is very slight, but boasts pretty good speed and has big-play potential.

The offensive line was better than expected against NIU last week. Now, that’s not to say the unit was particularly good, but the offensive line was expected to be pretty awful this year for the Rebels, and it was actually fairly decent for the first half against Northern Illinois. The left side in particular had a strong showing, with sophomore left tackle Kyle Saxelid (6’7, 270), who started four games for UNLV last season. He was particularly good in pass protection, where he used his length to fend off pass-rushers. Senior left guard Eric Noone (6’2, 295), who started six games last season, was also solid in both the run and pass game. The right side and center were another story. Sophomore right guard Chris Lopez (6’4, 280), a first-time starter, really struggled in the pass game, allowing way too many defenders to run into the backfield unchecked. Sophomore right tackle J'ondray Sanders (6’5, 260), also a first-time starter, was more up-and-down, with a mostly solid first half followed by a mostly dreadful second half. At center, junior Will Kreitler (6’0, 290) was fairly nondescript. He transferred in from Scottsdale Community College in the offseason and was OK in his first start.

In general, UNLV’s offensive performance was fairly good against NIU. The Rebels scored 30 points and averaged a solid 5.67 yards per play. Whether that will be enough to keep pace with the Bruins remains to be seen.

UCLA had a solid defensive showing in the first game under new defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. The Bruins didn’t show a lot of exotic blitzing, and only sparingly pressured more than four guys, but they still generated a fairly decent pass rush, especially in the latter stages of the game. The run defense was mostly excellent, especially up front, with defensive tackle Kenneth Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes combining to play an excellent game.

Photo by Steve Cheng

Unfortunately for the Bruins, Vanderdoes tore his ACL during the game and will miss the remainder of the season. In his place, junior defensive tackle Eli Ankou and sophomore defensive linemen Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and Matt Dickerson could see considerably more time. Ankou had a very good game as well against Virginia, and Dickerson showed off some nice interior pass-rush moves, especially in the second half. No one is likely going to be able to replace Vanderdoes’ sheer strength and ability to redirect the running game, but the hope is that the Bruins might be able to compensate with a little more pass rush from that spot.

At linebacker, UCLA had some issues tackling at points, with Kenny Young struggling a little bit in the first half. He picked it up in the second half and started to look a little more comfortable. It seemed that he often found himself keeping his eyes on the quarterback rather than on his man during pass plays which left him out of position to make a play. He missed a couple of tackles early, but again got better as the game wore on. Myles Jack had a couple of bad penalties on what were called on the field as horse collar tackles (one was actually a facemask). He’s an incredible athlete, and did some excellent things in the run game especially, but he needs to continue to be more disciplined.

The edge rush was pretty good all game. Deon Hollins had a beautiful one-on-one sack where he dipped perfectly around the offensive tackle to run down the quarterback. He and Takkarist McKinley are expected to generate a good amount of sacks in one-on-one situations this year, though they generated just one against Virginia.

In the secondary, Randall Goforth suffered a neck injury against Virginia, but it wasn’t thought to be serious. Assuming he’s good to go, UCLA has a very experienced secondary that, upon third viewing, actually played pretty well against Virginia. Fabian Moreau got locked up in coverage at one point for a pass interference, but he was largely pretty good outside of that. The safeties, in particular Adarius Pickett, were very good against the run.

UCLA was facing a relatively poor offense in Virginia, so it’s hard to take too much away from the game. The Bruins did mostly what they needed to do and didn’t show all that many pressure looks against the Cavaliers’ fairly conservative offense. This probably won’t be the week where we see a ton of pressure either.

ADVANTAGE: UCLA

We saw enough from UCLA’s defense against Virginia to confirm much of what we thought exiting fall camp: this is a fast, athletic defense with the ability to shut down interior run games. Now, with Vanderdoes’ injury, the interior run defense could take a hit, but we liked what we saw from Ankou, Dickerson, and Tuioti-Mariner on Saturday. There will be some drop-off, no doubt, but given the depth behind him, the injury isn’t necessarily catastrophic for UCLA’s prospects this season.

The thing is, even if UCLA has a weakness now at the front of the defense, UNLV is not the team to take advantage of it. The Rebels’ running game is fairly poor, and UNLV doesn’t have the kind of bruising runner it takes to run successfully up the middle. Whitley likes to bounce runs outside, and that actually plays to another one of the strengths of UCLA’s defense, the ability to pursue laterally.

UNLV has some talent. The receivers are fairly good, and the offensive line is not nearly as bad as many expected. There’s some potential for UNLV to put up some points, though it will require Decker playing fairly mistake-free, which has been a chore for him throughout his career. We think, though, that UCLA will have an easier time generating a pass rush against UNLV’s offensive line than the Bruins had against Virginia. We could easily see Hollins getting a couple of sacks, and McKinley getting his first of the year.

The difference in talent on the two teams is just so substantial that it’s hard to see UNLV winning either side of this matchup. If the Bruins have the kind of defensive talent and coaching that we think they do, this should be a dominant showing.

UNLV’s Defense vs. UCLA’s Offense

On the defensive side of the ball, UNLV is again breaking in a new coordinator, and again, it’s a coordinator with a good deal of experience: Kent Baer. Baer has been a defensive coordinator for basically every team in college football at one time or another, with stints at Utah State, Idaho, California, Arizona State, Stanford, Notre Dame, Washington, San Jose State, and Colorado. Colorado was most recent, where Baer handled coordinator responsibilities as well as the linebackers for a couple of years under Mike MacIntyre after handling the same role with San Jose State under MacIntyre.

Baer generally likes to run a 4-3 base defense, and tended, especially at San Jose State, to use a good amount of blitzing and pressures. At Colorado, he tended to be a bit more passive, which might have been due to the talent level in the program relative to the rest of the Pac-12. Interestingly, he took a massive pay cut to take the UNLV job -- he wasn’t fired by Colorado, but instead willingly took the UNLV job after being pitched on it by Sanchez.

The game one results for UNLV weren’t pretty on defense. NIU averaged just over 8 yards per play, which speaks to absolutely abysmal defense. The Rebels did apply some pressure, though, generating three sacks in the game, and that pressure did help force an NIU interception. There’s a long way to go for this defense, though, and this year could get ugly for the Rebels.

Up front, UNLV returns just one starter from last season: senior defensive end Sonny Sanitoa (6’3, 260). He is arguably the best individual pass rusher for the Rebels, but that isn’t saying a whole lot. He had 2.5 sacks last year while starting all 13 games for UNLV. Joining him up front at the two tackle spots will be some combination of senior Senituli Fakauho (6’1, 330), sophomore Dominic Baldwin (6’6, 265), and sophomore Michael Hughes (6’2, 300). The group up front as a whole did not fare well against NIU’s offensive interior last week, and it’s a fair bet they could get steam-rolled this coming weekend. On the other edge, sophomore defensive end Mark Finau(6’3, 230) will get the start. He transferred in from LA Valley College in the offseason and the hope is that he can help to bolster the pass rush.

Linebacker Tau Lotulelei, USA Today

The linebacker corps has a talented returning starter in junior weakside linebacker Tau Lotulelei (6’1, 230). His brother is current Jacksonville Jaguar John Lotulelei. He had 100 tackles last season, and also generated three sacks. He has a great motor and will probably be asked to blitz on occasion this Saturday. At strongside linebacker, UNLV will start sophomore Matt Lea (5’10, 215). He started six games a year ago, and is effective covering tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. He plays a little bit bigger than his size, but can still be exploited a little in the run game. Junior middle linebacker Ryan McAleenan (6’2, 220) returns after starting nine games a year ago. He had 70 tackles last season, including one sack.

The secondary also didn’t have a good showing against NIU last weekend. The defensive backs are generally an older group (three seniors and a junior in the starting lineup), but it’s actually not a very experienced secondary, with very few starts among the four. Junior Torry McTyer(6’0, 180) will man one cornerback spot. He actually was originally a California commit out of high school, but ultimately wound up at UNLV. He’s one of the faster players on the team, but hadn’t emerged as a starter until this offseason. Senior Fred Wilson (6’0, 180) will man the other corner position. He has been a backup and special teams player for the last three years, but the lack of talent on the team overall has forced him into a starting role this season. Senior safety Peni Vea (6’1, 205) is definitely the star of the group, and the most experienced player on the whole defense. He started every game the last two years and is going to end up one of the top defenders in UNLV history -- at least from the perspective of total tackles. UNLV loved to use him as a blitzer last season, and we’d bet Baer uses him in that role this season as well. At the other safety position, senior Blake Richmond (6’3, 205) or senior Kenny Keys (6’4, 200) could get the start. Both played last year, but neither has much starting experience.

This year is going to be full of growing pains for the defense. It’s not a very talented group and isn’t particularly deep. The defensive line is likely going to be sieve all year, and that’s going to make it tough on what is a slightly more talented back seven. Baer will be aggressive, and UNLV has nothing to lose by playing a high-risk, high-reward defense, but the raw numbers for UNLV’s defense are probably going to look pretty ugly by the end of the season.

After Josh Rosen’s sterling performance against Virginia last week, he drew national acclaim. Stewart Mandel, a national writer for Fox Sports, even went so far as to put Rosen No. 1 on his Heisman list after week one. It’s easy to see why Rosen drew such hype after the game. His stats were impeccable, but actually watching him perform was as close to revelatory as you can get on a football field. Every decision was essentially perfect, and all but a small handful of throws were perfectly timed and placed. It was a surgical performance, and all the more impressive given that it was this surgeon’s first ever college game.

So, what’s the encore? It’s probably unreasonable to expect Rosen to perform at that level throughout a whole season. He’s a freshman, sure, but more importantly, he’s going to face tougher opponents who do different things to confuse him and he’s going to have days where his throws aren’t as perfect. That’s simply going to happen. But if pundits were looking for an answer to that ultimate offseason question -- can UCLA get above-average play from the quarterback position this season-- they found a resounding affirmation.

Part of why Rosen had so much success, though not the most significant part, was that Virginia keyed against the run pretty heavily. Paul Perkins found very few holes in the first half, so his stats didn’t look as gaudy as many were expecting. He found a little more running room in the second half of the game, and true freshmen Bolu Olorunfunmi and Sotonye Jamabo both had nice showings in their first college game. Now that Rosen has shown he can beat teams with his arm, UCLA’s running game should be able to get off to a better start in games to come.

The offensive line had its best day of pass protection in a really long time on Saturday. After much deliberation, it was determined that the line didn’t give up a single sack, since the one time Josh Rosen was hit for what would have been a sack, the linemen helped carry him forward for a no-gain. Even if you count that as a sack, though, it was a very good performance against an aggressive defense. The interior linemen picked up Virginia’s blitzes well and Conor McDermott and Caleb Benenoch both handled the Cavalier edge rushers very effectively. As run blockers, UCLA did a nice job when not faced with a stacked box, but there was only so much they could do when the safeties were lining up just 10 or so yards off the line of scrimmage.

OT Caleb Benenoch, photo by Steve Cheng

UCLA’s receivers also helped to make it a pretty pain-free day for Rosen. Every time he stayed in the pocket to buy time, he was rewarded with some receiver flying free. Thomas Duarte was really effective in this game, and Rosen might have found himself a favorite target in the big receiver. Eldridge Massington, Devin Fuller, and Jordan Payton all also had big games, and Nate Iese, who has always impressed us with his athleticism, showed how he can be used as an outlet out of the backfield as well as a tight end.

In total, it was a great offensive performance for UCLA, not just in the production but what it means going forward. Now that Rosen has shown, definitively, that he can beat a team with his arm, teams are not going to be able to simply line up with a stacked box against the Bruins, which should open up even more offensive options for UCLA.

ADVANTAGE: UCLA

Look, outside of unpredictable calamities, there’s simply no way UCLA should have any trouble offensively with UNLV. Even if the Rebels stack the box, the Bruins should have an easier time running on them than they did against the Cavaliers. And, if the Rebels do elect to stack the box and attempt to take away the run, Josh Rosen should actually have an easier time picking apart this secondary than he had against Virginia, which is kind of silly to contemplate since he had such an easy time against the Cavaliers.

Offensively, we expect Baer will try to throw some blitzes at Rosen in an attempt to rattle him and force him into mistakes. UCLA’s offensive line and running backs were great at picking up blitzes last week, but one or two might get through to force Rosen into a mistake or two. We wouldn’t be stunned if Rosen threw his first interception in this game, since UNLV will have nothing to lose with the occasional seven-man pressure.

But UCLA should really smash this defense. NIU has a good enough offense, but UCLA showed elite potential last week against Virginia, and UNLV showed last week why it’s probably going to be, once again, one of the worst defenses in the country this season. The Bruins should be able to run and pass all over the Rebels, and the only shame is that we won’t get to see Eddie Vanderdoes throw his first touchdown pass in this one.

Special Teams

UNLV actually has a pretty good kicker in junior Nicolai Bornand (6’1, 225). He made three of three field goals last week, including a long of 51 yards, and before being lost to injury last year, made four of his six field goals, with a long of 54 yards. He has a big leg, and UNLV isn’t afraid to use him on deep kicks. He also acts as the kickoff specialist.

UNLV’s punter is senior Logan Yunker (6’2, 200), who’s on the Ray Guy preseason Watch List. He is fairly consistent, with a solid 40.5 punt average last season, including 14 punts over 50 yards and 30 of his 81 kicks downed inside the 20.

The kickoff returner will be receiver Aaron Criswell. This is his first year on the job, but he has plenty of speed and is a threat. Last week, he had three returns for just 39 yards, but that spoke more to bad special teams blocking than anything. At punt return, Keith Whitely will get the first look. He has been nothing special on returns throughout his career (43 yards on 22 total punt returns).

For UCLA, the kicking game was about what we expected in game one: inconsistent. Ka'imi Fairbairn missed from 50 or so but made a couple of shorter kicks. He has yet to prove to be reliable from over 40 yards. At punter, Matt Mengel had three punts for a 37.7 yard average, with a long of 45, which sounds about right. One was fairly bad, one was fairly good, and one was just OK.

At the returner spots, it’s an open question what UCLA will do this week. Ishmael Adams is still suspended, and Randall Goforth suffered a minor neck injury last week during the game. If he’s unable to return kicks, it actually looks like Devin Fuller could get the nod at punt and kick returner. It’s interesting -- Fuller wasn’t really in the mix at those spots during fall camp, with Mossi Johnson and Stephen Johnson both looking more likely to take those jobs. But in the game last week, Fuller was the first-string kick returner and the second-string punt returner. On three punt returns in his career, he has six total yards, and on 19 kickoff returns, he has averaged 21.6 yards, with a career long of 38.

What sets UCLA apart, though, like always, is its excellent kick return coverage. The Bruins have rarely allowed much in the way of returns under Jim Mora, and we’d have to imagine UCLA will be able to smother UNLV’s returners in this game, which should help to balance out UNLV’s advantage in the kicking game.

ADVANTAGE: Even

Prediction

We’re not going to mess around with this one too much. UCLA should beat UNLV soundly. The Bruins should be able to run the ball or pass the ball at will against what is likely going to be a miserably bad UNLV defense.

On defense, even without Eddie Vanderdoes, there’s every reason to think that UCLA should be able to hold UNLV to a sub-par performance in the running game. UCLA’s pass rushers should also be able to generate more than one sack in this game, since UNLV’s offensive line is significantly worse than Virginia’s.

This is a tune-up game, the last before UCLA starts to hit the meat of the schedule, with BYU, Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford, and California all coming up in the next five games. And given what we saw last week from the Bruins, this instrument already feels finely tuned.

UCLA 49
UNLV 17


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