Rebels big ‘dog vs. ASU

When he looks downfield, Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter seems to easily find wide-open receivers.

On Saturday, when Carpenter takes the field against UNLV, the Rebels’ only hope is that Carpenter is looking ahead to a much bigger Sept. 20 game against No. 2 Georgia.

Vegas Sports Authority handicapper Paul Stone said he realizes some respected handicappers will shy away from Arizona State as a 23-point home favorite over UNLV because the Sun Devils are in a classic look-ahead situation.

However, Stone said, enough fundamental and technical edges are in the Sun Devils’ corner to offset any situational advantages on the Rebels’ side. Stone is looking for a blowout, and he recommends laying the points.

“UNLV does not generate much of a pass rush, and if you give Carpenter time to throw, he’s about as good as any quarterback in the country,” said Stone, who expects big efforts from Arizona State wideouts Michael Jones, Kerry Taylor and Chris McGaha.

Compounding the Rebels’ defensive challenge is the loss of junior linebacker Starr Fuimaono, who will miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury last week against Utah.

“The Rebels are shifting some players around in response to Fuimaono’s loss,” Stone said, “but the net result is that true freshman linebacker Nate Carter will make his first collegiate start against one of the nation’s more prolific offenses.”

UNLV is 5-16-1 against the spread in its past 22 road games and 0-4-1 ATS in the second game of a road trip under coach Mike Sanford.

The Sun Devils, meanwhile, are 25-8 against the spread in their past 33 nonconference games. Also, in the role of double-digit favorite, Arizona State has covered 10 of its past 12.

Stone offers four more plays for Saturday (home team in CAPS):

• VANDERBILT (-8) over Rice: Although the season is only two games deep, Rice of Conference USA and perennial Southeastern Conference cellar dweller Vanderbilt have legitimate bowl aspirations. But the Commodores are much better defensively and will represent the Owls’ strongest opponent to date by far.

Rice’s preferred method of offensive travel — the forward pass — plays directly into Vanderbilt’s strength, which is a pass defense led by playmaking cornerback D.J. Moore. Also, quarterback Chris Nickson should prove effective against the Owls’ defense.

AKRON (+7) over Ball State: The Zips were impressive in tussles against Bowl Championship Series opponents Wisconsin and Syracuse. Akron, which takes a step down in class this week, is 19-8 ATS as a home underdog since 1996.

BUFFALO (-6) over Temple: The Bulls, coached by former Nebraska great Turner Gill, have significant advantages on offense with tailback James Starks and wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt. Quarterback Drew Willy provides veteran leadership for Buffalo, which has covered seven of its past nine home games.

SAN JOSE STATE (-6) over San Diego State: Some might be misled by the Aztecs’ near-win at Notre Dame, but San Jose State clearly is the better team.

The Spartans’ performance at Nebraska last week probably was more impressive, as they trailed the Cornhuskers 14-12 in the fourth quarter. San Jose State has thrived as a home favorite in recent years, covering nine of the past 11.

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

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