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5 things to watch for in Saturday’s UNLV-Central Michigan game

Five things to look for in UNLV’s game at Central Michigan at noon PDT on Saturday (ESPN3) in Mount Pleasant, Michigan:

1. If Rebels can ground the Chippewas’ air attack.

Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush threw for 361 yards and four scores in a 30-27 upset win over Oklahoma State last time out and is the active FBS leader in career passing yards with 9,952. Four Chippewas wideouts had more than 550 yards receiving last season and tight end Tyler Conklin led the team with seven catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns against the Cowboys.

2. If UNLV can move the ball.

The Rebels are averaging 227.5 yards rushing per game, good for 35th in the nation, and 415.5 yards total offense. They’ll be tested by a Central Michigan defense that has been stout so far this season. It’s fourth in the country in rushing defense, allowing only 47 ypg, and 10th in total defense, giving up only 232 ypg.

3. If Rebels quarterback Johnny Stanton can continue to make strides.

Stanton followed up his near-flawless first Division I start (10-for-12, 217 yards, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions) with an uneven outing against UCLA in which he completed only 11 of 28 passes for 153 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He also had a 11-yard touchdown run that cut the deficit to 28-21 en route to a 42-21 loss. Stanton has the second-best passing efficiency in the Mountain West, at 153.2, and ranks 40th in the country.

4. If UNLV can wrap up runners.

Poor tackling has been arguably the team’s biggest problem this season. The Rebels haven’t discrimated between the haves and have-nots of college football as they’ve missed tackles and allowed large chunks of yards after contact in equal measure to UCLA and Football Bowl Subdivision school Jackson State.

5. If the Rebels can stay within striking distance.

UNLV is only 4-10 under coach Tony Sanchez but has been in just about every one of those games, leading or trailing by a touchdown or less in the fourth quarter of 11 of the 14. Sanchez expects the Rebels to be in a close game down the stretch again Saturday and believes they’ll eventually start pulling out some wins, perhaps by using a Hail Mary-and-lateral play.

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