The UNLV Rebels have a lot of hope these days, as they seek that elusive post-season bid, although their wins have come against lesser lights, to be honest about it. Still, they are getting the job done when they have to.
On Saturday this Mountain West program travels eastward to face off against the Arkansas State Red Wolves of the Sun Belt Conference, who have to be considered a favorite to end up in that league's championship game.
The action will take place on Saturday night at Centennial Bank Stadium in Jonesboro, AR.
TV: ESPN 3, 7 PM ET. LINE: Arkansas State -7.5
ABOUT UNLV: In their first game of the season, the Rebels hung tough with USC for three quarters, and that offered a certain degree of encouragement. What followed were wins over UTEP (52-24) and Prairie View A&M (46-17) which have brought their record to 2-1, both straight-up and against the points. This is their best start in nine years. And both of those victories amounted to games where they jumped out to an early lead, then cruised home. The Rebels have a pretty potent duo running the ball; Lexington Thomas notched his 15th career 100-yard game last Saturday, while Armani Rogers, the dual-threat quarterback, had 122 yards on the ground and four rushing touchdowns. They were also applauded for the job they did on defense, as Prairie View running back Dawonya Tucker, who was leading the nation in rushing yards per game, had just 61. There was bad news, as junior cornerback Ty’Jason Roberts suffered a spinal fracture and subsequently underwent surgery at the local trauma center. Head coach Tony Sanchez has acknowledged that his team needs to be a little more accuracy in the passing game to be able to prevent Arkansas State from putting too many people in the box, but also added, "We’re going to have to do a good job of establishing our running game to set up the passing game.” Prairie View prioritized stopping Thomas and did not let him go for more than 15 yards on any single carry. But the Rebels wore their opponent down with volume, as Thomas got 30 attempts.
ABOUT ARKANSAS STATE: ASU (2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS) did one of those "play-for-play" gigs in the season's second week, and were beaten to the tune of 57-7 as the Crimson Tide had 599 yards of total offense. That confirmed something a lot of people already knew - that even one of the best Sun Belt teams is not competitive with the #1 squad in the nation. Last week's game was a little more like it, as Arkansas State took to the road and beat Tulsa 29-20. They had 415 yards, but the big play was a pick-six by Demari Medley. Quarterback Justice Hansen completed 20 of 33 passes for 191 yards and added 80 yards on the ground. Coming out of high school, he was actually one of the most sought-after QB recruits in the nation, and last year he set a Sun Belt record for touchdown passes with 37, with almost 4000 yards through the air and another 422 (net) over land. In recent years, Arkansas State has become known as a "one and done" destination for coaches who have gone from there to jobs with more prestigious football programs. Hugh Freeze was the coach in 2011 before he took the job at Ole Miss (eventually ill-fated). Gus Malzahn followed Freeze in 2012, then went back to Auburn as head coach (he had previously been offensive coordinator). And in 2013, Bryan Harsin took over, then left the next year for Boise State. Interestingly, all three coaches led their ASU teams to the GoDaddy.com Bowl. There's a little more stability with Blake Anderson, who is in his fifth year in Jonesboro (currently with a record of 33-21).
1. A judge gave Arkansas State and Miami (FL) until December 20 to find a mediator to resolve a dispute over the 2017 game scheduled for Jonesboro that was never played because the 'Canes maintained Hurricane Irma prevented them from traveling. ASU is seeking $650,000 in damages.
2. With 345.3 yards a game, UNLV is currently the #2 rushing team in the country.
3. Under coach Tony Sanchez, UNLV has covered 12 of its last 16 games as a road underdog.
PREDICTION: Arkansas State 37, UNLV 31 Bet Now
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