The two quarterbacks come into this game with similar passing efficiency ratings, with UNLV’s Johnny Stanton at 106.9 through three games and Idaho’s Matt Linehan at 105. Stanton has been more effective with his legs, however, with 22 rushes for 100 yards.
Lexington Thomas and Charles Williams have been a highly effective duo for the Rebels, with the former averaging 6.2 yards per carry and the latter averaging 5.7. The Vandals have utilized a number of ballcarriers this year, with Aaron Duckworth (5 yards per carry) being the most dependable.
Outside of UNLV’s performance against Jackson State, neither team’s passing attack has done much damage this season. The team’s assortment of weapons through the air appear relatively even, except Devonte Boyd’s 219 yards and three touchdowns for the Rebels stand out from the rest of the pack.
UNLV’s starters weigh, on average, five pounds less than the linemen Idaho has used to date, but there’s no doubt they’ve been a more effective unit. The Rebels average 76 more rushing yards per game than the Vandals and have allowed only two sacks this year. Idaho has allowed five sacks.
The Vandals have sacked opposing quarterbacks five times this season, with three of those sacks coming against Washington and Washington State. One of UNLV’s two sacks came against Power 5 opponent UCLA and the Rebels allow five more rushing yards per game than Idaho.
The Vandals top two linebackers, Tony Lashley and Kaden Elliss, have been productive this season, combining for 46 tackles, five tackles for loss and two sacks. Idaho is thin at the second level though, as only five pure linebackers have made a tackle for the team this season. Seven Rebels linebackers have made a tackle this year.
Both teams have picked off two passes this season, and UNLV has the edge in passing yards allowed. The Rebels also have an advantage because they have Troy Hawthorne. The senior has two tackles for loss, one interception, two passes defensed, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery this year.
Idaho averages 7.8 more net yards per punt. UNLV averages 6.3 yards more on kick returns. The Vandals have hit four of six field goals while the Rebels have yet to even attempt one. Give the slight edge to Idaho.
UNLV has had two tough road losses after crushing Jackson State in its home opener. A return to Sam Boyd Stadium could be just what the team needs as it licks its wounds and gets ready for the Mountain West season.
Bruce Marshall (goldsheet.com): UNLV 45 – Idaho 26 — Unlike the preceding Bobby Hauck years when UNLV was often caught overlooking lesser foes, the Tony Sanchez Rebels have taken care of business as heavy chalk. The team pounded FCS Idaho State and Jackson State plus last year’s Mountain West doormat Hawaii when laying more than 7 points. Idaho, off of crushing losses vs. Pac-12 Washington and Washington State, is again in the wrong place at the wrong time, as the Rebels can release some frustrations after back-to-back losses. Expect junior college quarterback Stanton and his 250 pounds to be too much for the smallish Vandals defense to handle on scrambles outside of the pocket.
Ben Gotz is a sports reporter as the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenSGotz.