Week Three College Football Preview: Washington St Cougars at UNLV Rebels

Washington St Cougars at UNLV Rebels
Friday, September 14, 2012, 9:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Sam Boyd Stadium – Las Vegas, Nevada
Opening Line: Washington St -10 1/2
Current Line: Washington St -10 1/2
Opening Total: 54
Current Total: 55
Opening Money Line: WSU -425 / UNLV +350
Current Money Line: WSU -415 / UNLV +345

Washington St is a 10.5 point favorite at UNLV Friday night in Las Vegas. This is the sixth meeting ever between the schools.

The Washington St Cougars and UNLV Rebels meet for the sixth time ever Friday night. Washington St has won all five previous meetings by at least 13 points, including a 59-7 rout last year in Pullman. This is only the second ever meeting in Las Vegas between the schools. The first meeting in Las Vegas was in 1991.

Washington St is coached by Mike Leach, in his first year with the Cougars. Washington St is 1-1 this season with a 30-6 loss at BYU and a 24-20 win at home against Eastern Washington. With Leach’s “Air Raid” version of the spread offense, you would expect the Cougars to score more than 15 points a game and throw for more than 238 yards a game, but that is what they have done so far. Of course, he doesn’t quite have the same talent in Pullman that he did as coach of Texas Tech a few seasons back, at least not yet. The running game is almost non-existent so far with 51.5 yards per game. Only four other teams in FBS football have rushed for less yards per game than the Cougars.  On defense, Washington St is giving up 25 points a game which is 71st out of 124 teams. The Cougars are 0-2 ATS this season and the total is 0-1.

Washington St was a 12.5 point favorite last week at home against Eastern Washington. The Cougars and Eagles were tied at 14 early in the second quarter. WSU scored 10 points before the end of the half to take a 24-14 lead. Neither team scored until late in the fourth quarter when Eastern Washington pulled to within 24-20. The Eagles missed the extra point, and then attempted an on-side kick. Washington St recovered the kick, but were unable to run out the clock. The Eagles got the ball back with just under a minute and a half to go at their own 16. They drove all the way to the WSU 32 before time ran out.

The Cougars had 355 total yards including 247 passing yards. Quarterback jeff Tuel completed 20/26 passes for 171 yards and 2 touchdowns before leaving the game with a knee injury early in the fourth. He is questionable against UNLV. If he can’t go it will be back-up Connor Halliday who starts at quarterback for the Cougars. Halliday was 5/11 passing with 76 yards and an interception. Running back Carl Winston had 12 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Gabe Marks had 3 carries for 77 yards. Isiah Myers had 6 catches for 58 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Eastern Washington gained 469 yards including 370 passing yards. Each team had two turnovers, and the two schools combined for 18 penalties for 168 yards.

UNLV is 0-2 this season under third year coach Bobby Hauck. The Rebels have only won 2 games in each of Hauck’s first two seasons. They have suffered two heartbreaking losses at home so far, including 30-27 to Minnesota in triple overtime and an inexcusable 17-14 loss to FCS school Northern Arizona last week. UNLV is 1-1 ATS and the total is 1-0 this season. The Rebels are averaging 177.5 passing yards and 174 rushing yards a game. UNLV is being outscored 23.5-20.5 so far this season.

UNLV opened as a 13.5 point favorite at home against Northern Arizona. The Rebels took a 14-0 halftime lead. Norhtern Arizona scored on a 75 yard punt return early in the third. The rebels drove down the field in the fourth but missed a 30 yard field goal. The Lumberjacks tied up the score on the next drive. Northern Arizona kicked a field goal to take a 17-14 lead with 12 seconds left. UNLV attempted a Hail Mary but it was incomplete. It was the first victory for the Lumberjacks over a FBS school since 1987.

UNLV had 428 total yards including 189 rushing yards. NAU had 288 total yards including 197 passing yards. The Rebels were 10/21 on third and fourth down conversions, while the Lumberjacks were 4/15. Neither team had a turnover. UNLV had 8 penalties for 78 yards, and Northern Arizona had 5 for 29. If you look at the numbers, UNLV should have won easily, but miscues such as the missed chip shot field goal and too many penalties doomed them.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Sherry completed 16/29 passes for 239 yards. Running back Tim Cornett is almost the whole offense for UNLV. He had 25 carries for 141 yards and a 42 yard touchdown run, along with 2 catches for 26 yards. Bradley Randle also had a touchdown run along with 13 carries for 42 yards. The top receivers are Marcus Sullivan, Davante Davis, Anthony Williams and tight end Jake Phillips. However, Sherry has only thrown one touchdown pass in 2 games with 3 interceptions.

Washington St is 4-1 ATS in road games against teams with losing home records, 6-2 after failing to cover, and after a straight up win, 7-3 after allowing more than 280 passing yards, 3-7 after allowing less than 100 rushing yards and 5-13 in September games.

UNLV is 4-0 ATS in Friday games, 9-4 at home, 19-44-1 after a straight up loss, 2-5-1 in non-conference games, 4-10 after scoring 20 points or less, 10-30 after allowing less than 100 yards rushing, 1-3-1 in September, 1-5 after failing to cover, and overall.

Though UNLV is still 0-2 they are showing signs of life under Hauck. The Rebels are 6 points away from being 2-0. Clearly even a lower rung Pac 12 team like Washington St has more talent than the Rebels. I think even if Tuel can’t go for the Cougars, it is asking a lot for UNLV to pull off the upset even at home. I like Washington St to cover the 10.5 point number.

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