First look: WSU vs. UNLV
Time: 2 p.m. Saturday
Records: WSU (1-0, 0-0 in Pac-12); UNLV (0-1, 0-0 in Mountain West)
Last week: WSU defeated Idaho State, 64-21. UNLV lost at No. 11 Wisconsin, 51-17
Last time: WSU defeated UNLV in Las Vegas, 40-13, in 1991
The line: WSU by 14
What it means for WSU: Two questions: Can the Cougars play with the same efficiency they showed in the opener against a better-quality opponent? And how will the loss of starting quarterback Jeff Tuel affect the offense? The offensive side worked well against the overmatched Bengals, powered by a dominating line. That group will be tested by UNLV’s front seven. If the line can be anywhere near as effective versus the Rebels, Marshall Lobbestael, Tuel’s replacement, should be OK. The defense will have to deal with senior receiver Phillip Payne (20 TDs at UNLV) and sophomore running backs Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle, who combined for 126 yards against Wisconsin.
What it means for UNLV: The Rebels are in their second year under former Montana coach Bobby Hauck and hope to take big strides from last year’s 2-11 record. But the nationally televised opener didn’t help as the Badgers led 51-3 at one point. UNLV played 14 true freshmen in 2010 and had another 21 players make their collegiate debut against Wisconsin. That youth is especially prevalent on defense, with 14 first- or second-year players in the two-deep. The defense will be tasked with slowing down a WSU offense that put up 590 yards of total offense in the opener.
Key matchup: UNLV weakside linebacker Tani Maka versus WSU running back Rickey Galvin.
Though Wisconsin is known as a running team, the Badgers actually had more passing yards (258) than rushing yards (241) against the Rebels. Part of that was because Maka, a sophomore, did a good job in run support, with five tackles, including one for loss. But the Cougars will spread the field more often than Wisconsin did, putting a premium on tackling in space. Galvin has the ability to make people miss and, if the Rebels don’t tackle well, make them pay. Galvin only carried the ball seven times versus Idaho State, but two of those went for scores, and he finished with 64 yards.