Editor's note: On Wednesday night, the Mountain West announced that Friday night's scheduled game between Boise State and UNLV was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
The Boise State Broncos will hit the road to Las Vegas to take on the UNLV Rebels on Friday night at Allegiant Stadium. The Broncos (4-1, 4-0 Mountain West) look to keep pace with undefeated San Jose State in the race for a spot in the Mountain West Championship Game after having last week off. These two teams were scheduled to play each other last week, but the game was canceled due to COVID-19 issues within the Boise State program.
Two weeks ago, the Broncos went over to Hawaii and outlasted the Rainbow Warriors in a 40-32 shootout. Hank Bachmeier completed 21 of 31 passes for 278 yards, with one touchdown and an interception. Andrew Van Buren provided some nice balance for the offense running the ball by picking up 113 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns. Khalil Shakir caught 11 passes for 130 yards with two touchdowns as he continues to play at a high level. The defense did a nice job getting off the field on third down too, limiting Hawaii to just seven of 19 third-down conversions, which ended up being a crucial difference-maker in the game.
UNLV (0-5) is still in search of its first win of the 2020 season after the Rebels were overwhelmed by Wyoming on Friday in a 45-14 defeat. The line of scrimmage battle was a total disaster for the Rebels; they allowed Wyoming to rush for 399 yards on 57 carries, an overwhelming 7.0 yards per carry. Offensively, UNLV really couldn’t get much of anything going. Charles Williams was limited to 24 yards on nine carries, which allowed the Cowboys to tee off on the Rebels offensive line. Quarterback play was another issue as Max Gilliam and Doug Brumfield were not able to hold up very well against an aggressive Cowboys pass rush that registered five sacks on the night.
Boise State at UNLV
Kickoff: Friday, Dec. 4 at 8:30 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Boise State -17
When Boise State Has the Ball
The Broncos' offensive line will have a great opportunity to get right on Friday night by dominating the line of scrimmage all night long. UNLV is allowing 250.4 rushing yards per game through five games. Van Buren should end up rushing for at least 150 yards and a couple of touchdowns this week. Another added benefit of running the football effectively this week is that it will protect a Boise State defense that is a bit thin, especially along the defensive front.
Bachmeier and Shakir should be able to have their way with the Rebels secondary after Bachmeier threw for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns in last year’s 38-13 win at Sam Boyd Stadium. Shakir had a huge game last season against UNLV, too; he caught seven passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. CT Thomas is another player to watch, as he is averaging 19.5 yards per reception in 2020 and has caught 16 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns in his senior season.
When UNLV Has the Ball
Somehow, someway the Rebels will have to establish some semblance of a running game with Williams. They need to make this happen in order to limit possessions in this game to take pressure off of their defense. Also, this is a rare situation where UNLV has an opportunity to take advantage of a Boise State defense that is allowing 203.8 rushing yards per game this season.
Kyle Williams has been a bright spot for the offense as a freshman. He has caught 25 passes for 282 yards with one touchdown on the year. It will be up to Gilliam to find him early on in the game on a couple of deep balls to loosen up the Broncos defense. Gilliam will need to crank up his accuracy throwing the football since he is only completing 60.3 percent of his passes this season. That type of completion percentage is not good enough in this offense-friendly era of college football, so Gilliam needs to get that number closer to 70 percent this week to give his team a shot to win.
Boise State should end up getting off to a fast start by breaking off some explosive plays on the ground and through the air. That should allow them to survive any emotional high from the Rebels heading into their home finale. Shane Irwin and the defense will generate enough pressure on Gilliam to create a couple of turnovers in the second half and that will be the difference on Friday night. The Broncos will comfortably pick up their fifth win of the season and stay in contention for another conference championship.
Prediction: Boise State 44, UNLV 17
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— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Parler @Scottwhittum.
(Top photo courtesy of broncosports.com)