college football picks U-N-L-V at Idaho 9-18-10

September 18, 2010

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DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 18th, 10:30 p.m. (et).

FACTS & STATS: Site: Kibbie Dome (18,000) — Moscow, Idaho. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: UNLV 0-1, Idaho 1-0. Away Record: UNLV 0-1, Idaho 0-1. Neutral Record: UNLV 0-0, Idaho 0-0. Conference Record: UNLV 0-1, Idaho 0-0. Series Record: UNLV leads, 3-2.

GAME NOTES: In an effort to break into the win column, the UNLV Rebels take their act on the road this weekend and will contend against the Idaho Vandals in a non-conference battle inside the Kibbie Dome in Moscow.

Under the direction of new head coach Bobby Hauck, the Rebels have dropped their first two games of the 2010 campaign and have not looked all that good in the process. First, the team bowed to 12th-ranked Wisconsin at home by a score of 41-21 and last weekend the team was thumped by 20th-ranked Utah in the Mountain West Conference opener, 38-10. The setback marked the eighth loss in as many tries versus the Utes in Salt Lake City.

As for the Vandals, they blew the doors off North Dakota on September 2nd to kick off the season, but then nine days later the squad dropped in on the sixth-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln and were turned away in a 38-17 final that saw the visitors simply make too many costly mistakes.

UNLV, which opened the season with back-to-back ranked teams for just the second time in program history, won the most recent meeting between these two schools by a score of 34-31 back in 2005, giving the squad a narrow 3-2 edge in the all-time series. This is just the second time the matchup is being played in the state of Idaho and the first since 1977 when the Rebels put up a 35-14 win over the Vandals.

The Rebels offense was held at bay by Utah last week, failing to score a single point in the 28-point setback. Granted, the squad did come up with a 28-yard field goal by Nolan Kohorst as they capped an 18-play, 79-yard drive that ate up more than nine minutes on the clock, but other than that there was little for the squad to be pleased about. Omar Clayton converted 18-of-37 passes for 217 yards, but he was sacked two times and because of that the team as a whole was left with only 102 yards rushing on 42 attempts. Clayton, who needs just 55 more passing yards to take over fourth place on the school’s all-time passing list, has had some trouble finding outlets while in the pocket and has converted just 45.3 percent of his attempts thus far. However, Clayton is leading the team in rushing after two games with 87 yards on 19 attempts, but still this group has yet to score on the ground and with the quarterback taking so many hits it might be only a matter of time before we see Mike Clausen handling more of the action under center.

Outside of the field goal tallied by the Rebels, the only other points came courtesy of the defense as Tim Hasson returned a blocked punt 19 yards for a touchdown in the lopsided setback. Utah was limited to just 14 first downs and less than 24 minutes on time of possession, but when the Utes were on they were tough to stop as the Rebels found out. Starr Fuimaono was credited with a team-best nine tackles and was responsible for a forced fumble, but other than that and the blocked kick very little went right for the group. Not only is the offense for the Rebels struggling right now, the defense is also bringing up the rear in the Mountain West Conference in terms of pass efficiency defense with a rating of 166.34. One of a handful of teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision still awaiting its first sack of the season, UNLV has logged just five tackles for loss through two games as well.

The Idaho offense was nowhere to be found in the first half against Nebraska last Saturday, coming up with just a 34-yard field goal by Trey Farquhar, but at least the group made some noise later in the contest with touchdown passes from Nathan Enderle and Brian Reader to make things a little more respectable. However, Enderle was exposed by the Cornhuskers defense as the group not only sacked the signal-caller five times, they also picked off five of his 31 pass attempts. Altogether the Vandals threw for 219 yards, but with seven sacks against them the squad was credited with just 60 rushing yards on 38 attempts. Not surprisingly, the Vandals rank last among the 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision this week with an average of 5.5 sacks allowed per contest. Last season after two games the Vandals had allowed just four sacks and by the end the group had permitted just 25 quarterback takedowns, so at this stage the squad is in danger of seeing that effort blown out of the water if the offensive line cannot get settled.

Take away the two interception returns for touchdowns by the Nebraska defense in the second quarter, in a span of barely two minutes, and the stats would look a little better for the Vandals. Nevertheless, Idaho watched helplessly as Nebraska produced a whopping 360 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, another area that had to be troubling for head coach Robb Akey and his staff. Were it not for the opener against North Dakota when the team held the opposition scoreless, the run defense for the Vandals could be considerably worse, but for now the group ranks last in the MWC and 114th in the country with 254 ypg allowed. On the positive side, the pass defense looks much better on paper with just 116.5 ypg permitted, best in the Western Athletic Conference and 15th in the nation right now, but that is perhaps a byproduct of opponents finding ways to move the ball on the ground much more easily.

As poorly as Enderle played last weekend, expect to see him and the Idaho offense rebound strong against an overmatched UNLV group that is on its way to yet another setback.


FREE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS : Idaho -7

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