Breaking down the UNLV-Utah State game

Quarterbacks

Utah State’s Jordan Love is playing as well as any quarterback in the Mountain West, having completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 1,235 yards with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Max Gilliam had a rough starting debut for UNLV, completing 15 of 35 passes Saturday against New Mexico for 123 yards with an interception. But he played better late in throwing two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter.

Advantage: Utah State

Running backs

Lexington Thomas needs to show he is just as effective without injured quarterback Armani Rogers (toe) to keep defenses from keying on him. And UNLV’s coaches need to give him the ball more than the six times he received it against the Lobos. Utah State has two quality backs in Darwin Thompson (374 yards, 8.3 per carry) and Gerold Bright (349, 6.5).

Advantage: UNLV

Receivers

UNLV’s receivers haven’t been this unproductive since 2001 when Michael Johnson led the team with 25 catches. They had eight dropped passes last Saturday, which is unacceptable. Five Aggies have caught at least 11 passes, and though they aren’t game-breakers, they help Utah State average 260.6 yards through the air.

Advantage: Utah State

Offensive line

The Rebels, who have given up 16 sacks, need to do a better job of pass protection. They also need to create more holes to improve on the 43 yards gained rushing against the Lobos. Utah State is getting done up front in pass blocking (six sacks) and run blocking (5.4 yards per carry).

Advantage: Utah State

Defensive line

Good luck running on the Aggies, who allow just 3.4 yards per rush. Their starting linemen have made a combined six tackles for loss. UNLV’s starters have made 8½, with five coming from Roger Mann alone, but opponents average 4.7 yards per carry.

Advantage: Utah State

Linebackers

Gabe McCoy spends so much time as a standup end for the Rebels, he’s not a pure linebacker anymore. Whatever position, he still gets the job done with nine tackles for loss, including two sacks. Teammate Javin White has four tackles for loss, including two sacks. Utah State’s top three tacklers are linebackers.

Advantage: UNLV

Secondary

Both teams have done well against the pass, with UNLV allowing 218.4 yards per game and a completion percentage of 50.0. The numbers are 200.6 and and 56.1 for the Aggies. But Utah State has been much more opportunistic in intercepting six passes compared to one for the Rebels.

Advantage: Utah State

Special teams

Utah State excels, averaging 27.7 yards on kickoff returns and 15.2 on punt returns, Dominik Eberle having made all nine field goals that include three from beyond 50 yards, and Taylor Hintze averaging 43.1 yards per punt. UNLV, well that’s another discussion.

Advantage: Utah State

Intangibles

The Aggies are 32-9 over their past 41 home games, and they are blowing through teams. UNLV comes off a dispiriting home loss to New Mexico, and the Rebels should bring more fight than they did in that game. Utah State also could have a letdown after beating rival Brigham Young by 25 points.

Advantage: UNLV

Handicapper’s take

■ Bruce Marshall (goldsheet.com):

Utah State 45, UNLV 17 — Carrot Top might be ready to introduce mention of UNLV into his comedy act at the Luxor if the Rebels continue to play as they did when falling into the abyss versus New Mexico. Not sure things improve with shaky junior college transfer Gilliam now at the controls as catalyst Rogers remains out until November. Rebels coach Tony Sanchez has provided pretty good value as a road underdog (13-4 last 17), but the hot Aggies and gunslinger Love are unbeaten vs. line at 4-0-1, and showing no signs of slowing down after BYU romp.

More Rebels: Follow all of our UNLV coverage online at reviewjournal.com/Rebels and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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