College Football Picks Week One: UNLV Rebels at Arizona Wildcats

UNLV Rebels at Arizona Wildcats
Arizona Stadium – Tucson, Arizona

Friday, August 29, 2014, 10:30 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Arizona -24
Current Line: Arizona -24
Opening Total: 57
Current Total: 60
Opening Money Line: Arizona -2500 / UNLV +1400
Current Money line: Arizona -2000 / UNLV +1200 

Arizona is a heavy favorite against UNLV Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
Arizona is a heavy favorite against UNLV Friday night in the season opener for both teams.

The UNLV Rebels and Arizona Wildcats meet for the third time ever as they two teams open the season in Tuscon. Arizona has won both games in the series including 58-13 last season in Las Vegas.

UNLV is coached by Bobby Hauck now in his fifth year with the Rebels. The Rebels went 7-6 and went to a bowl game for the first time since 2000 and only the fourth time in school history. After an 0-2 start, the Rebels would go 7-3 for the rest of the regular season. UNLV lost to North Texas 36-14 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. UNLV averaged 239 passing and 173 rushing yards per game on offense. On defense, the Rebels allowed 218 passing yards and 217 rushing yards per game. UNLV was outscored 32-30 last season. Thirteen starters are back including 7 on offense.

Arizona is coached by Rich Rodriguez, now in his third year with the Wildcats. Arizona went 8-5 last year including a 42-19 thrashing of Boston College in the Independence Bowl. The Wildcats averaged 265 rushing yards and 194 passing yards per game. On defense, Arizona allowed 233 passing yards and 168 rushing yards per game. The Wildcats outscored their opponents 34-24 last season. Thirteen starters are back for Arizona including seven on offense.

Nick Sherry entered last season as the starting quarterback for UNLV. However, he was benched after three games and replaced with Caleb Herring. Herring has graduated. Sherry was supposed to be the starter in 2014 but Hauck decided to go with JUCO transfer Blake Decker as the starter. Decker threw for over 4,200 yards and 47 touchdowns last season for the hilariously named Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes. Sherry threw for 337 yards with 3 touchdowns and 5 interceptions before being yanked.

The Rebels must replace leading rusher Tim Cornett who had 264 carries for 1,284 yards and 15 touchdowns, plus 30 catches for 164 yards. Shaquille MurrayLawrence should get most of the carries after he had 47 carries for 418 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 11 catches. Keith Whitely, George Naufahu and David Greene will also get a lot of carries.

Receiver Devante Davis could have left early for the NFL but returns for his senior season. He had 87 catches for 1,290 yards and 14 touchdowns. Marcus Sullivan only played in 9 games last season but still had 45 catches for 505 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Most of the returning starters on offense are on the line. The Rebels hope the experience will help them improve after struggling at times last year.

UNLV was very good at pass defense last year but terrible at stopping the run. The secondary should be very strong again with 3 returning starters but the front seven has some questions.

Freshman Anu Solomon won a four way battle for the starting quarterback job for Arizona. Solomon will replace the now graduated B.J. Denker. Solomon beat out last year’s back up Jesse Scroggins, as well as transfers  Connor Brewer and Jerrard Randall.

The Wildcats must replace two time All-American running back Ka’Deem Carey who rushed for 1,885 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Jared Baker is the leading returning rusher from last season with 127 yards.

Arizona has arguably the deepest receiving corps in the country. Receiver Austin Hill missed all of 2013 with an injury after a monster year in 2012. Nate Phillips was the #1 receiver last year without Hill but he will go back to the secondary receiver. Trey Griffey, Samajie Grant and DaVonte’ Neal will also get plenty of targets.

Four starters are back on the offensive line for Arizona, so the line should be strong.

There are questions in the front seven for Arizona but the secondary should remain strong. Only two starters return for the front seven.

UNLV is 4-0-1 ATS in Friday games, 8-3 overall, 5-12 on grass, 2-5-2 in non-conference games, and 12-37-4 in road games.

Arizona is 4-0 ATS in August, 6-1 in Friday games, 5-2 in non-conference games and 2-5 against Mountain West teams.

Both teams have questions at quarterback and running back. Still Arizona is deeper and just a better team. They should win this game handily.

Our college football handicappers are red hot to start the season. Don’t miss out on any more winners.



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