(Armani Rogers photo courtesy Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports)
This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.
Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.
When and Where: Saturday, Sept. 7, Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nev., 10 p.m. EDT.
UNLV seeks its first 2-0 start in 20 years Saturday night when it wraps up a home-and-home non-conference series versus Arkansas State.
Arkansas State (0-1) opened its season with a 37-30 home loss to SMU last weekend despite Omar Bayless matching a school record with four touchdown catches. Bayless and Logan Bonner hooked up on scoring plays of 7, 8, 29, and 34 yards, and a potential game-tying drive was thwarted at the Mustangs’ 29-yard line when time expired.
Arkansas State’s defense struggled almost the entire game and gave up 508 yards to the Mustangs, including 360 through the air. There were struggles in all three phases of the game — the Red Wolves were 3 for 13 on third downs, committed 11 penalties and allowed a game-changing kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter after grabbing a 23-16 lead.
“It was a matter of mistakes that affect the football game,” interim head coach David Duggan told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “You can’t turn the football over. You can’t allow the explosive plays that happened, and when we had opportunities to make some explosive plays in the first half, we didn’t capitalize on them.”
Duggan, who is the team’s defensive coordinator, is expected to be in charge for Arkansas State’s road opener as Blake Anderson remains on a leave of absence following the Aug. 19 death of his wife Wendy following a two-year fight with breast cancer.
Anderson released a statement Monday offering thanks for the outpouring of support which read in part, “It’s impossible to adequately say thank you to so many amazing people who both energized Wendy’s fight and who now are carrying me and our kids daily through prayer, texts, hugs, cards, food and so much more.”
The Red Wolves will be trying to regroup from their loss to SMU behind Bonner, who completed 32 of 50 passes for 324 yards and those four TDs against one interception. Fellow wide receiver and junior Brandon Bowling nearly matched his entire 2018 output with 12 catches for 92 yards after totaling 15 and 108 in six games last season.
The expectation around the team is it will be easier to focus with the Red Wolves having a game under their belt and into a normal routine ahead of their road opener.
“We came in here [Sunday] and we said, ‘Hey, this team’s got a choice, and we can look at this game and we can feel sorry for ourselves that we got beat, or we can look at it and go OK, how can we fix it, how can we correct it, how can we be better moving forward, and they took it to heart in the meeting room,'” offensive coordinator Keith Heckendorf said. “To be honest with you, I expect us to take big steps this week and have a great week moving forward.”
Rebels gunning for first 2-0 start since 1999
UNLV got its season off on a positive note for just the second time in 10 years by rolling past FCS opponent Southern Utah 56-23 last weekend. The Rebels took full advantage of an alignment by the Thunderbirds that allowed them to plow through the middle of the defense, churning out 331 rushing yards and 534 overall.
Quarterback Armani Rogers topped 100 yards both running and passing, totaling 258 while accounting for three scores — highlighted by a 66-yard scoring scamper. Charles Williams had three first-half rushing touchdowns and finished with 143 yards on just 15 carries as the Rebels averaged 7.4 yards per carry.
“They were running a certain defense where we couldn’t go outside, so we had to attack the middle, and they kept giving it up,” Williams told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “So we kept attacking it until they stopped it.”
Getting Rogers to balance UNLV’s offense could prove critical in avenging last season’s 27-20 loss at Arkansas State. The junior signal-caller had 181 rushing yards — including a 64-yard burst — but completed just 5 of 21 passes for 23 yards and was intercepted three times on a rain-soaked evening.
Rogers completed 11 of 17 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown versus Southern Utah in just over two quarters of action, giving the Rebels a chance at their first 2-0 start since wins at North Texas and Baylor under John Robinson in 1999.
- 3-10 SU in its last 13 games played in Week 2.
- 0-4 ATS in its last four games following an ATS win.
- 1-4 ATS in its last five gams following a straight up win.
Arkansas State is:
- 5-1 ATS in its last six games after being held under 100 rushing yards in the previous game.
UNLV Pick’em 1st Half (-110)
Arkansas State’s road form in non-conference play the last few seasons has been nothing to write home about, trailing by 16 or more points in six of the last eight games and leading just once. The Rebels have taken care of business in their last three non-conference home games, and a spread within a single possession should work for the home team here.
OVER 63.5 points (-110)
Both teams’ primary offensive strengths play into their primary defensive weakness. Arkansas State had trouble getting off the field as SMU committed to the run game and finished with 148 rushing yards on 45 attempts while going 9 for 17 on third down.
UNLV has yielded 274 or more passing yards in seven of its last eight games dating back to last season, but the more alarming numbers are the 21 passing touchdowns and 13.8 yards per completion in that stretch. If the Red Wolves can cut down on the turnovers and Bonner gets off to a fast start, this game could quickly turn into a shootout.
OVER 32.5 points 1st half (-110)
Again another confidence pick in the offensives playing to their respective strength to exploit the holes in the other’s defense. UNLV has also scored 34 or more points in its last three non-conference home games, and the Red Wolves should be able to make an impact as well considering they are better than any of those previous three teams the Rebels beat.
Arkansas State +1.5 (-110)
Despite the lopsided win, the pass defense problems UNLV endured last season hardly looked fixed against Southern Utah as the Rebels allowed 295 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns while failing to record an interception.
Bonner’s predecessor Justice Hansen had a solid game in last year’s victory for the Red Wolves, throwing for 199 yards and three touchdowns — and that was with Bayless and Bowling in supporting roles and not the primary receiver. Arkansas State could be well-served by playing on the road given everything surrounding the team following the death of Anderson’s wife, and this could be a contest where Red Wolves rally around each other for a close victory.
Arkansas State -1/OVER 63.5 points double (+240)
Picking the Red Wolves to win outright coupled with offenses that looked on point in their season openers creates an aggressive play here to try and take the double. Arkansas State has scored 30 or more points in seven of its last eight games dating back to last season and should do so again in this contest to grab a victory.