Utah State at UNLV: Game Overview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction

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Aggies seeks to get back on track against struggling rebels

WEEK 7: Utah State Aggies (3-2) vs. UNLV Rebels (0-5)

WHEN: Saturday October 16, 2021 – 5:00 p.m. MT / 4:00 p.m. PT

OR: Allegiant Stadium; Las Vegas, Nevada (72,000)

TV: CBS Sports Network

DIFFUSION: FuboTV – Get 7 Day Free Trial

RADIO: Utah State radio broadcasts to the 1280 area (1280 AM), 1280thezone.com / Tunein.com

SERIES REGISTRATION: Utah State leads the all-time series, 17-7. In the last meeting on October 13, 2018, the Aggies defeated the Rebels, 59-28, in Logan.

PLAY NOTES: State of Utah | UNLV

CHANCES (via ESPN): State of Utah -7

SP + PROJECTION: State of Utah by 2.4

FEI SCREENING: State of Utah by 7.6

The state of Utah has just gone through a desperately needed week off after suffering back-to-back losses. They will face a winless UNLV team hungry for their first win of the season. While the Rebels are yet to win, they have been competitive in most of their games and have enough talent on the offensive end of the ball to scare the Aggies. There won’t be an easy win in Las Vegas and it will be a fight to the end.

Three keys to Aggie’s victory

1. Build a better running defense

The Aggies’ run defense has been lackluster for five games. The USU is currently giving up 204.2 yards per game, which is near the low in college football. Against BYU, the Aggies gave up several huge points to RB Tyler Allgeier and wasted their chance to surprise late in the game. It happened right after Aggie’s offense scored a touchdown to get closer to the Cougs as well.

With a chance to put the team on its back, this defense has failed more than once this season. And when you’re up against a desperate opponent like UNLV, it’s not a good math to win unless something big changes.

RB superstar Charles Williams is going to have a field day for the Rebels if USU can’t find a way to counter their attacking prowess. The senior back is very experienced and dynamic. Sporting a solid 4.3 ypc race average, Williams single-handedly kept UNLV competitive against a then-ranked Fresno State team in Fresno. Its size is remarkable and it is both fast and powerful. He effortlessly tore off many screens against the Bulldogs and intimidated anyone who got in his way.

Even if that means exposing themselves to the pass, the USU would be smart to hire an extra defender in the box to spy on Williams. It is highly doubtful that the USU can stop him, but frustrating him and slowing him down is the second best option.

2. Turn on the secondary of the UNLV

The Rebels, like the Aggies, have major weaknesses in defense. The UNLV allowed the fewest points this year against UTSA, which limited the Roadrunners to 24 points. All other teams UNLV has played have scored 30 or more. Fresno State scored 38 points and Iowa State scored 48 points. With weak defense, the USU should do everything in their power to put as many points on the board as possible to avoid a disappointment.

Arguably the biggest weakness that USU can take advantage of is the secondary of UNLV. The Rebels are currently giving up 299.8 yards per game in the air. With the guns the Aggies brag about in the slot machine, players like Brandon Bowling and Deven Thompkins should have career games against the Rebels. Their defenders allow huge sets of pieces and their opponents collect nearly 12 yards per completed pass. The UNLV’s defense hasn’t improved in any measurable way from game to game and if the USU can avoid being one-dimensional, it should have what it takes with that defense.

3. Keep Logan Bonner standing

The USU are going to have a tougher time in this contest unless they can protect their QB.

It’s no secret that Logan Bonner has played for much of the season. He sustained a deep thigh bruise from Wazzu and suffered a severe blow to the back from the Air Force. On top of those big shots, he threw the ball with the read option to keep the defenses honest. While a runner’s effectiveness is questionable, it is evident that he has been hampered at a few crucial points in games this season. Even in the last game against BYU, he suffered knee hyperextension and Andrew Peasley had to play the rest of the game.

By all reports, head coach Blake Anderson has made it clear that Bonner is as healthy as he has been since the start of fall camp. He said Bonner would be ready to start against the Rebels. Nonetheless, there have been some alarming trends which cannot be ignored.

Bonner runs more often than necessary. His main strengths as a QB are making quick decisions and using his quick release to counter defensive blitzes. The UNLV’s defense is weak enough that Bonner can rely on the body of the USU’s running backs to perform heavy offensive operations on the ground. This will then free Bonner to distribute the ball to the many receivers the USU is expected to employ against a terrible secondary. To do otherwise can not only render the game plan ineffective, but also put the quarterback in physical danger.

Establishing an offensive pace should be a priority for the USU this week after consecutive poor performances. If Bonner gets injured again, having to rely on Andrew Peasley may mask some of the difficulties of the UNLV’s pass defense, as they will be tempted to charge the box and force Peasley to step away from his main strengths as the QB. In a game that will be a slugfest, USU must maximize production in the air, which Peasley has struggled to do consistently.

Prediction

On paper, it’s supposed to be an easy win for the Aggies. In practice, UNLV will give them everything they can handle.

Whatever talent UNLV lacks in defense, it certainly has a lot of it in attack to make up for it. The rebels may not stop the Aggies, but they will make sure that the USU has time to try to thwart them in return. With both teams sporting extremely flawed defenses, this game has the makings of a classic shootout.

The easiest way for USU to leave Las Vegas with their fourth win of the season is to get higher production from Bonner. The Rebels have a QB situation that is anything but settled and that can help the USU defense with opportunities to frustrate any offensive pace the UNLV can get. If the Rebels take higher risks and try different games with varying signal callers, the USU must force the issue and try to force a turnover or two, even if they drop the footage in the process.

USU 42, UNLV 27



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