BYU comes off of their bye week, ready to go against the Rebels of UNLV. The Cougars are looking to win the next three games in order to qualify for a bowl game, before they prepare to face-off against Utah. UNLV, Colorado State, and New Mexico are the bottom of the MWC barrel, and BYU should be able to win these games without too much hassle.
UNLV is (1-7) on the year. Their lone win came against the down-and-out Lobos of New Mexico (0-8). Bronco Mendenhall has not lost to the Rebels in his five season tenure at BYU, and he likely won’t lose on Saturday. UNLV averages 273 offensive yards per game, and only 16.9 points per game, while at the same time, giving up an average of 37.9 points per game. Also notable, Colorado State blew out the Rebels (43-10) by about the same score as TCU did (48-6).
BYU is now (3-5) coming off of their bye week and a pair of wins that sandwich the TCU loss. Their most recent win, against Wyoming, came as the Cougars held off a last minute effort by Wyoming’s offense. BYU’s offense seemed to keep Wyoming close enough to be dangerous. Hopefully the extra practice offered by the bye week will make a difference on the field. Look for Bronco’s defense to dominate UNLV, and we might also get to see a glimmer of BYU’s past and future offense as well.
Keys to the game
Jake Heaps and the Receivers. Bronco Mendenall reiterated this week that Jake Heaps is the number one quarterback this season. Sticking with the talented freshman seems like the best way to go – Jake Heaps should develop into the leader this team is looking for, and the only way to do that is by practice and experience. Jake had a horrible throw that turned into a pick-6 for Wyoming. He came back out later in the game and threw a touchdown pass for the Cougars as well. If the offense can avoid game-changing mistakes, they should be able to distance themselves from the Rebels fairly quickly.
Special Teams. Last week, Cody Hoffman and JD Falslev were outstanding on kick returns last week, each with an average of 26 yards per return. This made a big difference for the struggling offense, giving them short fields to work with, and lengthening the field for the opposition.
The Rush Attack. BYU is a run-first team now, and they have had success with it against SDSU and Wyoming. JJ DiLuigi, Bryan Kariya, and Josh Quezada should have a 200+ yard running game against the Rebels. This will eat up the clock, put points on the board, and continue to offer Jake Heaps pressure-free passing attempts.
It’s all about the D. The revitalized Bronco defense has continued to dominate their opponents’ rushing games, especially in the first half, where they have held proficient runners to few or negative yards. They should have another great showing against what is a very poor offense.
On paper, these teams look pretty evenly matched. BYU rushes for more yards per game, and has three wins as opposed to just one, but the rest of the offensive numbers at least are similar. In my season preview, I chose BYU over UNLV, 38-0. While most of my rosy pre-season picks have been off the mark, I think this one is close. I am going with BYU over UNLV 31-7.