UNLV (2-5) at Utah State (4-3) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Romney Stadium (25,513) -- Logan, Utah. Television: ESPNews. Home Record: UNLV 2-1, USU 3-0. Away Record: UNLV 0-4, USU 1-3. Neutral Record: UNLV 0-0, USU 0-0. Conference Record: UNLV 1-2, USU 1-1. Series Record: Utah State leads, 14-7.
GAME NOTES: Utah State tries to remain unbeaten at home this weekend when the Aggies host the UNLV Rebels for a Mountain West Conference showdown at Romney Stadium.
A perfect 3-0 in their own building here in 2014, the Aggies are still just a single game above .500 overall. The team had a two-game win streak snapped last weekend when they bowed to Colorado State in Fort Collins by a final of 16-13. The defeat dropped USU to 1-1 in conference play but, more importantly, saw the loss of quarterback Darell Garretson to a wrist injury.
As for the Rebels, a squad which actually made it to the postseason following a very successful 2013 campaign, they enjoyed some time off last week. UNLV's last outing took place on Oct. 10 versus Fresno State as the team captured a rare victory in overtime, 30-27. With the win, the first in the series in three decades, the Rebels snapped a four-game slide.
The Aggies own a 14-7 advantage in the all-time series with UNLV after posting a 28-24 victory in last year's meeting in Las Vegas.
Nicolai Bornand knocked through a 33-yard field goal in overtime to give the Rebels a monumental three-point victory over Fresno State at Sam Boyd Stadium a few weeks back.
The Rebels picked up their first win of 2014 versus an FBS opponent as Blake Decker converted 29-of-40 passes for 332 yards and a score, shaking off one interception and five sacks along the way. Decker also scored once on the ground for UNLV as the team produced 146 yards on 46 running plays.
Defensively, the Rebels surrendered 487 yards to FSU but allowed the visitors to convert only two of their 14 third-down opportunities. In addition to having one of his team's two interceptions, Kenneth Penny was also credited with three pass breakups.
Even with the efforts of players like Penny, the Rebels are still giving up 261.0 ypg through the air, which has them at 97th in the nation at the moment. But as bad as that number may seem, the run defense is much more maligned as it permits an incredible 276.0 ypg, which is 123rd in the country.
On the offensive side of the ball, Decker has appeared in all seven games for UNLV at the quarterback position, but has thrown a total of only six touchdowns against 10 interceptions, while completing 58.1 percent of his chances. Decker continues to be hampered by the fact that wide receiver Devante Davis remains unavailable due to a hand injury. Even though he has seen action in only four games, Davis is still second on the team with 17 catches for 268 yards and is first with two TDs through the air.
The ground game has provided little spark with just 137.4 ypg and eight TDs, averaging 3.6 yards per attempt. However, there is some excitement to be found from time to time in Keith Whitely who has 386 yards and a score on 79 carries.
As mentioned previously, not only did the Aggies come up short in the scoring department against Colorado State last weekend, the team now has to figure out how to move forward with yet another starting quarterback after Garretson, who was filling in for Chuckie Keeton, went down with an injury. Senior Craig Harrison did all he could to keep the Aggies in the hunt at Hughes Stadium, but in the end he and the Aggies just could not get over the hump.
Harrison, who converted five of his 12 pass attempts for a mere 28 yards versus the Rams, will have to be protected at all times this weekend, or else the Aggies will have to turn to freshman signal caller Kent Myers to keep hope alive.
In addition to having a poor passing attack at CSU, the Aggies managed a mere 100 yards on the ground as well, the lone offensive touchdown for the visitors coming from Joe Hill who finished with 64 net yards on nine carries.
On defense, it was again the play of Zach and Nick Vigil that kept the Aggies in contention as the duo combined for 23 tackles, four for loss, three sacks, a forced fumble and two quarterback hurries. The unit as a whole had an outstanding eight sacks.
For just the second time this season, the Aggies were unable to force a turnover at Colorado State, somewhat unusual given that the squad had forced 19 turnovers in the previous five outings. Still, Utah State is tied for 11th in the nation in turnover margin with a plus-1.0 per contest.
With an offense that was middle-of-the-road before Garretson got hurt, now is the time for Hill and the rest of the running backs to take on more of the load in order to give the Aggies a fighting chance at the postseason. USU is producing a mere 368.6 ypg of total offense, of which 132.7 ypg is coming on the ground and that's just not going to cut it as the team moves even further down on the depth chart at QB.
Still with one of the better defenses in the Mountain West, the Aggies will have to maintain pressure on Decker and the rest of the Rebels in order to come out on top this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah State 23, UNLV 17Game Date and Time
Saturday, October 25, 4 p.m. (ET).