Boise State and UNLV will square off on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. These two teams last met back in 2016, when the Broncos defeated the Rebels by a score of 42-25 on the blue turf of Albertsons Stadium.
Boise State (4-0, 1-0 Mountain West) was off last week after knocking off Air Force 30-19 on September 20 to wrap up a successful homestand. That win over the Falcons came at a heavy price, though, as the Broncos lost linebacker Ezekiel Noa to a season-ending torn ACL and a broken wrist, which is a blow to a defense that is allowing only 299.3 yards per game.
Nevertheless, the Broncos have positioned themselves as the front-runners for the Group of 5 New Year's Six Bowl bid after UCF's loss to Pittsburgh on Sept. 21. They are led by freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier, who has stepped up nicely to fill the shoes of Brett Rypien.
UNLV (1-3, 0-1) is banged up after a 53-17 loss to Wyoming. Quarterback Armani Rogers is a bit up in the air health-wise after getting hurt against the Cowboys. Rogers, when healthy, provides the best opportunity for the Rebels to win games. Running back Charles Williams also suffered a knee injury against Wyoming in a serious blow to the offense. Williams is off to a great start this season, rushing for 472 yards in the first four games. Defensively, the Rebels did not have any answers for the Cowboys at the line of scrimmage, as they surrendered 374 rushing yards.
Boise State at UNLV
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 5 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Spread:Boise State -24
When Boise State Has the Ball
The Broncos should be able to showcase a balanced attack on Saturday night against UNLV. Quick passes that don't take too long to develop should help Bachmeier have early success throwing the football. CT Thomas is the leading wide receiver for Boise State (14 rec, 283 yards, 3 TDs), but the wide receiver group is very deep, which will cause headaches for the Rebels secondary. Robert Mahone should see plenty of touches in the running game, as Boise State shouldn't have any problems running the football on Saturday.
UNLV is allowing 444.5 yards per game defensively. The Rebels will have to find a way to make Boise State one-dimensional or at least get behind the sticks by making negative plays. Evan Austrie has had a start strong to his 2019 season with 34 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and one sack. He will need to have a huge game on Saturday night to keep UNLV in the game for 60 minutes.
When UNLV Has the Ball
The key to pulling off an upset for the Rebels on offense will be playing keep-away from the Broncos. UNLV has done a good job of running the football, averaging 201.5 rushing yards per game. Armani Rogers gets the job done running the football but does need to be more consistent throwing the football, as he is completing only 51.9 percent of his passes in 2019. With Rogers limited due to injury, Kenyon Oblad will get the start at quarterback. Getting the ball down the field a couple of times to Randal Grimes and Steve Jenkins early on will help the Rebels' cause a great deal. The Rebels also must protect the football; they currently are -6 in turnover margin, which is a big problem.
Boise State will look to force the Rebels to take to the air. Linebacker Curtis Weaver is having a huge season for the Broncos with six sacks and seven tackles for a loss. Nose tackle Sonatane Lui will have a huge role in clogging up the middle to free up everyone else along the defensive front to lock down the UNLV running game. Also, the Broncos should have plenty of opportunities for turnovers if they get a big lead early, as it will force the Rebels to open up and throw the football.
If Boise State comes out with plenty of focus and emotion early on, the Broncos will be in prime position to win on Saturday night. This game will be UNLV's Super Bowl, so the Rebels will play with emotion themselves. However, look for the Broncos to get a 300-yard passing effort from Bachmeier, force about three turnovers and pull away for a decisive win to improve to 7-0 in Las Vegas.
Prediction: Boise State 45, UNLV 17
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.
(Top photo courtesy of broncosports.com)