UNLV (0-1) @ #20 Utah (1-0)

LAS VEGAS - SEPTEMBER 04: Members of the UNLV Rebels dance team perform during the Rebels' game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Sam Boyd Stadium September 4 2010 in Las Vegas Nevada. Wisconsin won 41-21. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)


Next Game

UNLV Rebels
@ Utah Utes

Saturday, Sep 11, 2010, 2:00 PM MDT

Rice-Eccles Stadium

TV: the mnt.

Radio: ESPN 700

Complete Coverage >


 

Utah and UNLV haven't really had many memorable games since the Mountain West Conference began play in 1999 and the Utes hope that doesn't change this Saturday.

In fact, even if you include 2007's awful performance down in Las Vegas, this series has been the most lopsided of any of Utah's conference rivalries. There is no reason to believe their final meeting as Mountain West members will prove any different.

Of course, if 2007 told us anything, it's that upsets do happen. I don't think any Ute fan is easily going to forget that defeat because it marked the low point of the Kyle Whittingham era here at Utah and though the team has bounced back nicely since (32-4 kind of nice), that game's outcome still lingers. Sure, we've suppressed much of that performance and the Utes haven't allowed UNLV to even come remotely close to replicating that performance again - but if it's happened before, it can happen again. 

That means Utah can't overlook the Rebels - even at home. Thankfully, I see no reason to believe they will.

For the Rebels, Saturday's game will mark the second consecutive contest against a ranked opponent. They began the season hosting No. 12 Wisconsin and outside of capitalizing off of a few Badger turnovers in the first half, the game was hardly close. 

Which kind of surprised me because even though I didn't expect UNLV to win, they have a history of at least contending against the BCS at home. Even last season, which was abysmal for Mike Sanford, they took the Oregon St. Beavers to the wire. In 2007, had it not been for a late-game drive by the Badgers, the Rebels would've shocked a similarly ranked Wisconsin team. 

They've held their own against BCS opponents at home lately. That wasn't the case Saturday. 

Much of that could be the transition between Sanford and new Rebels head coach Bobby Hauck. Hauck took over the program after a successful stint at Montana and while the jury will continue to be out on his coaching prowess over the next few months, it's safe to say he's not going to rapidly turn UNLV into a conference power. Not that anyone expected him to when he took the job in December. 

There will growing pains and a showdown with a Utah team coming off a huge win Thursday probably won't make things any easier. 

It's also not going to help that the Rebels have yet to settle on a quarterback. The coaches will decide this week whether Mike Clausen or Omar Clayton will get the nod for the Utah game. 

Clausen started the game against Wisconsin and wasn't terribly effective. He went only 4 of 10 for 23 yards, though he did have a touchdown. Clayton, who played parts of the second half, wasn't much better, completing 6 of 16 passes for 82 yards.

Overall, the Rebels' offense wasn't anything great. They only managed 217 yards and if it weren't for the defense, they probably would've only managed seven points at the most. It was that defense, though, that kept the Rebels in the game during the first half.

After falling behind 14-0, and on the verge of being blown out entirely, Will Chandler had a pick six that got UNLV back into the game. Chandler also scooped up a fumble and roared 84 yards down the field setting up the Rebels' next touchdown. That made the game 17-14 at the half. 

It was as close as UNLV ever got, as outside an early touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Badgers pretty much dominated the second half.

Same old Rebels. 

The loss was UNLV's 23rd since upsetting Utah in 2007. It's hard to imagine on that night, Mike Sanford and his boys thought the program had finally turned the corner. Instead, they continue to find themselves stuck in a labyrinth-like maze. 

Good luck, Hauck - you're gonna need it. 

Utah wins if...They don't overlook the Rebels toward their epic, once in a lifetime showdown with the...New Mexico Lobos. But seriously, if the defense plays as well as it did last Thursday, this game shouldn't be close. 

UNLV wins if...They catch the Utes sleeping and manage a few early scores to knock Utah back on their heels just a bit. They've got to come out firing and put a bit of pressure on Jordan Wynn if they have any chance of staying competitive with Utah. 

What will happen...After a close first quarter and a half, the Utes will open the game up a bit and go into the break with a nice, though hardly dominant, lead. In the second half, however, the game will play out much like it did in 2008 and Utah will walk off the field winning 45-17

What are your predictions?

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