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UCLA Bruins vs. UNLV Rebels Preview and Prediction

Josh Rosen

Josh Rosen

UCLA won't stop off in Baker for beef jerky or take in a Cirque Du Soleil performance on its weekend excursion to Las Vegas. The Bruins are in Sin City for a business trip, taking on a new-look UNLV football team.

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The long-struggling Rebels tabbed Tony Sanchez to turn around the program last offseason. Sanchez, head coach of national prep powerhouse Bishop Gorman right there in Las Vegas, seems to have instilled confidence in his squad.

UNLV put up a fight in a 38-30, Week 1 loss at defending Mid-American Conference champion Northern Illinois. The Rebels jumped ahead 14-3, and led the Huskies at halftime.

Last week's effort signaled the alarm: UNLV is no pushover. However, another, less attractive thing stands out for the Rebels: Northern Illinois quarterback Drew Hare roasted the UNLV defense for 360 yards on 21-of-26 passing.

A UCLA passing offense that flourished in Week 1 should feast like a Vegas tourist with a comped buffet ticket.


Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: UNLV +29

Three Things to Watch

1. Rosen's Follow-Up

Anyone can be a one-hit wonder. Ballyhooed freshman quarterback Josh Rosen is looking to establish himself as a star for the long haul.

He debuted in impressive fashion last week against Virginia, passing for 351 yards and three touchdowns in UCLA's romp over Virginia. Rosen should put up monster numbers once against, faced with a UNLV pass defense that struggled mightily at Northern Illinois.

Related: College Football's Top 15 Quarterback Debuts of 2015

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2. Devonte Boyd

UCLA has a deep and multifaceted wide receiving corps, and with Rosen throwing to it against an overmatched secondary, should roll up impressive statistics. That said, the best single receiver Saturday just might be wearing scarlet-and-silver.

All Devonte Boyd did last week, in his first time out after an impressive 973-yard freshman campaign, was gain 107 yards on five catches with a touchdown.

Boyd poses UCLA its first threat since the loss of cornerback Ishmael Adams to suspension. The All-Pac-12 performer Adams likely would have drawn the majority of snaps opposite Boyd. Fabian Moreau and the rest of the Bruin secondary must be cognizant of where this explosive playmaker is at all times, or risk giving up big plays that could keep UNLV in striking distance.

3. Replacing Eddie Vanderdoes

The real negative to come out of UCLA's Week 1 romp was the loss of defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes for the season. With Vanderdoes alongside Kenny Clark and Takkarist McKinley on the other end, UCLA boasted one of the most formidable defensive fronts in the nation.

As it stands, Week 2 will provide some insight into how defensive coordinator Tom Bradley plans to fill that void.

Final Analysis

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Week 1 showed an immediate change in UNLV from the 2014 season, when lopsided losses were the norm. The Rebels could play spoiler in the Mountain West, but they appear to be overmatched by UCLA this coming Saturday.

UNLV was solid against the pass a season ago, ranking No. 51 in the nation, but Saturday was an inauspicious start for the Rebels. Kent Baer might opt to go nickel and dime packages extensively early, but that leaves a UNLV run defense that was awful in 2014 susceptible to the one-two punch of Paul Perkins and Soso Jamabo.

The alternative is fueling momentum for the Rosen Hype Train, which is already barreling down the tracks. Either way, the Bruins leave Las Vegas as few others do: winning.

Prediction: UCLA 49, UNLV 17

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.