In a weekend that had one of the weaker slates of the college football season, UNLV’s overtime win against Vanderbilt proved to be one of the most exciting games of the day. With a big win over a power-five school under their belt, the Rebels will head on the road to UTEP this weekend to take on the 1-3 Miners. We’ll preview the game before going over why I’ll be backing the road favorite in this matchup.
Last weekend, the UTEP Miners were on the road against a power five opponent for the second consecutive week, and in both games, they were highly overmatched. When playing Northwestern in week two, the Miners opened the game with a touchdown drive and then failed to find the end zone for the rest of the game. This past weekend against Arizona, the Miners would instead wait until the fourth quarter to score their first touchdown in a 31-10 loss to Arizona.
Offensively, the Miners have only looked well-rounded in one game, which was their win over Incarnate Wood, in which they rushed for 331 yards. That was the lone game out of their four that the Miners' run game was a threat to the opponent, as they rushed for just 49 yards last weekend, ranking them 90th in EPA on rush plays this season according to CFB Graphs.
If the offense can’t get the ground game working again this weekend, it will be up to quarterback Gavin Hardison to move the ball downfield. Lining up against the Rebels could be a good matchup for the UTEP signal caller, as UNLV is 123rd in the country in passing yards allowed per game. After allowing 335 passing yards in their 40-37 win over the weekend, the Rebels now rank 111th in EPA per pass play on defense.
While they struggled to stop the passing game, UNLV still did enough offensively to hand around and kick a game-winning field goal. The Rebels finished with 127 rushing yards and were led by quarterback Jayden Maiava, who replaced Doug Brumfield after an early injury. Maiava played well, throwing for 261 yards and a touchdown, but head coach Barry Odom said Brumfield is healthy and will be back under center this weekend.
UNLV comes into this matchup listed at (-2.5) point road favorites, and I’ll be backing them for my play. The Miners have played a tough schedule over the past two weeks, but even beforehand, against closer-rated opponents, I was not impressed with their offense. With UTEP ranked 115th in defense EPA, keeping up offensively could be a problem for the third straight week.
Entering tonight, the Miners are 112th in EPA per rush play on defense and 113th in defensive success rate against run plays, so the Rebels should have no problem establishing a run game, which is what they’ve wanted to do this season. UNLV is 57th in EPA per rush play and is averaging 35.5 rushing attempts per game, so with Jai’Den Thomas leading the charge on the ground, I think the Rebels could put up some points this weekend.
UTEP has attempted to establish a run game the past two weeks and failed to do so. If they try again this weekend, they are running into a UNLV defense that is 34th in EPA on rush plays and 61st in opponent rushing yards per game. Gavin Hardison played his best game under center when his rushing attack was dominant, but if that’s not the case again this weekend, I don’t think the Miners can score enough to stay in it.
UNLV Rebels (-2.5)