Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#315 UNLV 55 vs.
#316 Fresno State -14
Friday, October 18, 2019 at 10:00pm EDT
Bulldog Stadium, Fresno
Written by Nick Raffoul

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#315 University of Nevada, Las Vegas
#316 California State University, Fresno
2-4
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3-2
25
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The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels will travel to Jim Sweeney Field at Bulldog Stadium on Friday evening for a Mountain West Conference showdown against the Fresno State Bulldogs.

Fresno State(2-3, 0-1) is in a rebuilding year after losing plenty of production from their 2018 title team, including quarterback Marcus McMaryion, four starters on the offensive line and three of the team’s top four wide receivers. Their offense completely stalled in the second half of last week’s loss to Air Force, when they ran just 13 plays and averaged 1.3 yards per play. Can the Bulldogs get back on the winning track at home versus UNLV on Friday night?

UNLV (2-4, 0-2) pulled off arguably the upset of the week in college football in Week 7, taking down SEC opponent Vanderbilt 34-10 despite opening the game as 14.5-point underdogs. The victory was UNLV’s first ever on the road against an SEC team and it was the Rebels’ first Power Five win since 2008. Sophomore running back Chad Magyar had a career day, rushing for 116 yards and a touchdown, while freshman quarterback Kenyon Oblad completed 11-of-16 passes for 172 yards and two scores to help UNLV snap a four-game losing streak. UNLV controlled the line of scrimmage, while allowing just 306 yards of total offense and forced two turnovers to pull off the historic upset.

Fresno State battled through a tough non-conference schedule, losing one-possession games to USC and Minnesota to start the year before bouncing back with a pair of wins versus Sacramento and New Mexico State. However, the Bulldogs disappointed in their Mountain West Conference opener, losing on the road to Air Force 43-24. Senior quarterback Jorge Reyna tossed for 209 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while junior running back Ronnie Rivers led the team with 45 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Fresno State had no answer for Air Force’s rushing attack, as the defense surrendered a whopping 340 yards and 4.9 yards per rush on 69 attempts. The Bulldogs also allowed the Falcons to convert 5 out of their 10 third-down conversions and all four of their fourth down conversions in the lopsided loss.

Oblad leads UNLV to upset win over Vanderbilt

If last week’s stunning win at Vanderbilt proved anything, it was that Oblad is starting to gain confidence under center. One week after throwing a career-high 55 times in a 38-13 loss to No.16-ranked Boise State, the freshman bounced back with an efficient 172-yard, two-touchdown performance last week, while averaging a healthy 10.8 yards per attempt. Starting as a freshman is nothing new for Oblad, who also started as a freshman for his high school team. Oblad is only under center because starter Armani Rogers is still recovering from a sprained knee. Rogers was the “emergency quarterback” last week, but he might have to relinquish his starting job even when he returns if Oblad continues to play well under center. Rogers struggled to move the ball through the air last season, completing just 44.4 percent of his passes and he had thrown more interceptions (3) than touchdowns (2) before getting hurt.

Unheralded sophomore running back Chad Maygar might be the key for the Rebels’ offense moving forward. Maygar was a standout in spring camp, but a personal issue kept him off the field for the team’s first four games. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound bruiser ran for his first 100-yard game versus Vanderbilt, rushing for 116 yards and a touchdown. He’s averaged a healthy 5.0 yards per carry versus two major conference teams and should provide a solid compliment in the backfield to leading rusher Charles Williams (598 yards, seven touchdowns).

The schedule is about to get easier for UNLV after facing five straight D-I opponents. The remainder of their regular season slate is much less daunting and after last week’s upset at Vanderbilt, it appears the Rebels could contend for a bowl game despite a poor 1-4 start. The first challenge will come this week on the road against Fresno State in game that the Rebels are once again double-digit underdogs. UNLV opener at +14, but the spread has moved to +16 ahead of Friday’s matchup.

UNLV comes in scoring 25.2 points, while averaging 368.8 yards of total offense per game, including 180.2 yards per game on the ground. On defense, they are giving up 32.8 points per game and 431.8 yards of total offense per contest. Stopping the run will be especially important for the Rebels’ defense this week, especially with questions looming under center for Fresno State.

Ball security an issue for Bulldogs' Reyna

Reyna appears to be the unquestioned starter under center for the Bulldogs. The senior has put up respectable numbers through five games, throwing for 1,226 yards, nine touchdowns, and four interceptions, while completing 64.2 percent of his passes for the season. However, ball security has been a problem for him and the rest of the Bulldogs’ offense this year. Fresno State is 0-3 in games that Reyna has thrown an interception and he has had four passes picked already in 2019. Last week, the offense managed just 25 net yards after halftime, failing to score a point in an eventual blowout loss to Air Force. Fresno State comes in scoring 29.2 points and averaging 386.4 yards of total offense per game, including 245.2 yards per game through the air.

Meanwhile, the defense seemed to wear down in the latter stages of the game and they were unable to get off the field against a fierce Falcons’ rushing attack. Fresno State comes in allowing 29.8 points and 361.6 yards of total offense per contest, including 155.6 yards per game on the ground. The Bulldogs tried to make some changes on defense ahead of the start of the Mountain West season, including moving defensive end Mykal Walker to middle linebacker. The move fills a gaping hole in the defense, while also giving the senior a chance to bolster his stock at the next level.

The Bulldogs were dealt another blow earlier in the week when they lost their top 2020 quarterback recruit. Three-star prospect Jaden Casey backed away from a long-standing commitment to the Bulldogs, announcing that he would instead be signing with the California Bears. Casey was a loyal recruit, who received a scholarship from Alabama and several other schools after committing to Fresno State, but he cited academics as a primary factor in his decision.

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The Rebels are improving on offense and they come in with some confidence after last week’s upset over Vanderbilt. However, this is still a defense that has given up 6.5 yards per play versus D-I opponents and 6.3 yards per carry on the ground, which ranks as the second-worst mark in the nation. Even in last week’s win, the Commodores rushed for 7.5 yards per carry on the ground, which means this could end up as a breakout game for Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers. Rivers finished with over 1,000 total yards and 13 combined touchdowns out of the backfield last year, but has largely been held in check in 2019. Look for Fresno State to get their ground game going and work in some play action passes to help Reyna stay efficient under center. Take the Bulldogs to cover the spread at home in this game against the Rebels, who are fresh off an impressive upset win.

Prediction: Fresno State Bulldogs -16

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Fresno State struggles with stopping the run, which looks to be UNLV’s bread-and-butter on offense. Meanwhile, the Rebels come in allowing 32.8 points per game and 34.8 points per game versus D-I opponents, so this could end up being another high-scoring affair. UNLV allowed 53 and 38 points, respectively, in their first two conference games versus Wyoming and Boise State, while Fresno State’s defense is fresh off giving up 43 points after getting worn down on the road against Air Force. Look for this game to go over the projected total on Friday night.

Prediction: Over 53
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Written By Nick Raffoul

Shortly after graduating with an Honors in Business Administration, Nick turned his attention from traditional stocks and bonds to investing in the performance of sports teams. And has now joined our team here at Winners & Whiners. Nick uses a combination of advanced stats and historical data to create sports investment models to identify value and generate consistent profits. Let Nick win for you.