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UNLV vs. Hawaii Football Prediction and Preview

UNLV vs. Hawaii Football Prediction and Preview

UNLV vs. Hawaii Football Prediction and Preview

Following the cancelation of two games in the last three weeks, the UNLV Rebels have one more chance to deliver career victory No. 1 to first-year head coach Marcus Arroyo. The task will be a difficult one, however, as the 0-5 Rebels must travel to Aloha Stadium to take on the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. Hawaii is set to play its fourth straight home game after its previously scheduled trip to San Jose State was relocated. The Rainbow Warriors lost 35-24 and fell to 3-4 under first-year head coach Todd Graham.

UNLV at Hawaii

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 12, at 11 p.m. ET

TV: Spectrum PPV (in Hawaii)/Team1Sports App (outside Hawaii)

Spread: Hawaii -20.5

When UNLV Has the Ball

Quarterback and newly minted reality television show star Max Gilliam has started all five games for UNLV this season. Gilliam's ascension to the top of the depth chart was a surprise to many as he beat out incumbent starter Kenyon Oblad and TCU transfer Justin Rogers for the job. The senior has completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 599 yards and four touchdowns and three interceptions, and he is the team's second-leading rusher with 191 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

Gilliam has averaged just 5.0 yards per pass attempt, the lowest average in the Mountain West and among the worst for any signal-caller nationally, which suggests Arroyo might look to get others more involved Saturday night. Rogers is 14-for-22 passing for 161 yards and a touchdown, plus 11 yards on 10 carries, but has been limited to two games by injury. Oblad has made just one appearance this season after throwing for 2,081 yards and 18 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2019. And it was freshman Doug Brumfield who took the garbage-time snaps against Wyoming, during which he led UNLV on a 75-yard touchdown drive — finishing it himself with an eight-yard run.

Running back Charles Williams has been the most consistent player for UNLV on offense in recent years. Williams ran for 1,257 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior in 2019 while averaging 5.9 yards per carry but has been limited to 347 yards and two touchdowns on the ground (3.7 ypc) on 94 attempts this year. Gilliam, who has carried the ball 51 times, and Rogers, are the only other Rebels with double-digit rushing attempts.

Freshman Kyle Williams leads the Rebels with 25 receptions and 282 yards and has caught one touchdown pass. Tyleek Collins (12 rec., 146 yds.) and Steve Jenkins (9, 79) share the team lead with two touchdown receptions. Zyell Griffin has averaged 19.2 yards on his five catches, and athletic tight end Noah Bean has chipped in 103 yards on 14 grabs.

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When Hawaii Has the Ball

Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro hasn't posted the huge passing numbers we're used to from Hawaii quarterbacks, but he has developed into a true dual-threat signal-caller. Cordeiro has completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 1,695 yards and 11 touchdowns with five interceptions, highlighted by a 410-yard, four-touchdown performance against New Mexico. He also is the team leader with 362 rushing yards and five touchdowns on a team-high 96 carries. Running back Miles Reed is next with 267 rushing yards on 65 carries, including one touchdown.

The Rainbow Warriors have found creative ways to get transfer Calvin Turner Jr. involved offensively. Turner acts as a Wildcat quarterback, running back and receiver, and leads the team with 381 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 27 carries while also contributing 216 yards and three scores on the ground. Rico Bussey caught seven passes for 57 yards and his first touchdown of the season last week, boosting his season totals to 29 receptions and 252 yards. Bussey, a transfer from North Texas, is tied for the team lead in receptions with Jared Smart, who has 260 yards and one touchdown to his credit. Melquise Stovall (22 rec., 159 yds.) has been more productive in recent weeks, and Nick Mardner (9, 173, TD), Zion Bowens (5, 145, 2), Jonah Panoke (11, 95), and Dae Dae Hunter (105 rushing yds., 62 receiving, 2 total TDs) have all shown promise.

Final Analysis

It's now or never for Marcus Arroyo and the Rebels, and as nearly a three-touchdown underdog, it's difficult to imagine UNLV entering the game with a lot of confidence. Hawaii has been far from perfect under Todd Graham, but the transition from former head coach Nick Rolovich's Run-and-Shoot has been relatively smooth thanks to Chevan Cordeiro's athleticism and the emergence of new faces at the skill positions. Having a solid, experienced offensive line has certainly helped.

College Football Rankings: Hawaii

Led by linebackers Darius Muasau and Quentin Frazier, Hawaii also has made some progress defensively under the new regime. Having allowed 6.01 yards per play this season, the unit is still susceptible (especially against the run), but compared to UNLV, which has surrendered 7.27 yards per play — worse than all but two other FBS units — the Rainbow Warriors have an edge. It might be closer than the oddsmakers think given the similar talent profiles of the two teams, but Hawaii is rightly favored and should get back to .500 to finish the regular season.

Prediction: Hawaii 38, UNLV 21

Podcast: CFB Rankings, Coaching Changes and Week 15 Preview and Predictions

— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and football research director of CFB Winning Edge. Follow him on Twitter @CFBWinningEdge.

(Chevan Cordeiro photo by Matt Burn/University of Hawaii)