Mountain West Conference Preview: UNLV vs. Utah State

Chuckie Keeton has stepped into start in the wake of Darrell Garretson's injury.
Chuckie Keeton has stepped into start in the wake of Darrell Garretson’s injury.

MWC: UNLV-Utah State
Time: 4 PM ET
Spread: UTA -17
M/L: UTA -800; UNLV +575
Total: 51.5

Betting odds courtesy of Bookmaker

The Utah State Aggies are 4-3 on the season with a 1-1 split in Mountain West play. The Aggies have got it done with a stingy defense that surrenders just 22.1 points per game (40th in nation), while the offense has been just effective enough to make this a decent season for the Aggies.

A matchup against UNLV likely means a 5-3 record, since college odds set the line 17 points in favor of home team Utah State.

The Aggies suffered a disappointing 16-13 loss last week to Colorado State, which snapped a two-game win streak that featured the Aggies taking down then- No. 18 BYU. The 34-16 win over Air Force wasn’t quite as impressive, but it got the Aggies their first MWC win. Last week, it was a 46 yard field goal as time expired, and the Aggies were outdone in yardage 318 to 260.

The Aggies managed Aggies managed 100 rushing yards, and nearly had the thrust to win it on the Rams loss of 116 yards due to penalties. What sealed the Aggies fate was an inability to convert on third does, which led the Rams to control the clock, having over 11 minutes more with possession.

Utah State starting QB Darrell Garretson underwent surgery on his wrist and there’s no time table for his return. It’s a big blow because he was having a great season, and Chuckie Keaton is the backup for a reason. He’s about 12 percent behind Garretson in completions and has thrown more interceptions than Garretson already, while managing just two TDs.

The Aggies will look to its backfield and Joe Hill to pick up the slack. Though Hill has 232 yards on the season, he’s under four yards per carry, and only JoJo Natson has had great success on a per-yardage basis, at 7.3 yards on the season. Still the Aggies have scored eight rushing TDs on the season, and for the team to make any kind of surge in the standing, it’s going to have to come from the backfield.

UNLV has bee decent on offense, especially via the pass, but its defense is downright atrocious. The Runnin’ Rebels have allowed 37 points per game while scoring just 18.7 per game. Prior to last weeks overtime win against Fresno State, the Rebels had dropped four straight. The remainder of the schedule is soft, but UNLV is softer.

QB Blake Decker has done a decent job with 1,632 yards on the season at a 58 percent clip, but his 10 INTs to just six TDs is disconcerting from a team that doesn’t get good production from its backfield. Both Decker and RB Shaquille Murray-Lawrence have rushed for three TDs a piece, but no back averages more than five yards per carry (minimum of 30 attempts).

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