Well here we are. Idaho's last meaningful home, out-of-conference game. At least for the foreseeable future. The Vandals will look to go out on a high note and extend their 6-game winning streak against the Rebels of UNLV. And boy, where to start with these guys? It's hard to think of a more devastating situation than being the victim of the largest upset in college football history going strictly by betting line (Seriously,what's more embarrassing than that? I can't think of anything). The Rebels were favored by 45 at one point last week before falling to the Fighting Caylin Newtons of Howard University 43-40 in Vegas. I'm not really joking about that mascot name either. Newton accounted for 75% of Howard's offense last week throwing for 140 and a TD and rushing for 190 and two more scores. I can't imagine how much money Howard paid Cecil Newton to get Caylin on that team. This kid has FBS level talent. So yes, UNLV got throttled by one player last week and they were probably a little over confident going into that one. Shit happens. I'm not about to write these guys off. I'll start with obvious bad new for the Rebels. 1. Their run defense looked terrible. No other way to put it here. They gave up 300+ rushing yards and 5.1 ypc to an FCS school. Who does that? It's not that some struggles on the defensive side of the ball weren't expected for the Rebels, they did lose 7 starters from last season, but this was still a disappointing result for Tony Sanchez and crew even when considering the players lost from last year's defense. It's worth mentioning that although the UNLV defense struggled against Newton, they did only give up 3 ypc against all other rushers. Linehan isn't exactly a running threat so I don't expect the Rebel D to struggle as much as they did last week. 2. The Rebels did not hold onto the ball well and did not force turnovers. Regardless of their defensive performance, if UNLV does not fumble three times (two leading to TD's) and force zero turnovers they likely still win that game. Again, how do you turn it over 3 times and force 0 TOs against an FCS school? Who does that? Now for the good news for UNLV. 1. Armani Rogers looked great in his college debut. Talk about Caylin Newton all you want, but the Rebel true freshman QB also put up 300+ yards of total offense throwing for 220 and rushing for another 82. 2. The UNLV rushing attack also looked pretty formidable. Sure, it's FCS competition but 344 yards at 7.5 ypc is nothing to scoff at. The Rebels are a run first offense just like last season. They return all their top backs and they're going to try to pound the rock and win that T.O.P. Idaho's a little weak on depth on the d-line so this could be a big advantage for the Rebels late in the game. 3. Davonte Boyd. The senior WR and MWC first-team all-conference selection has NFL talent. He's always a threat to score and provides a real good reason for opposing defenses to avoid stacking the box all game. UNLV's offense will get theirs on Saturday. It's just a matter of if they can outscore Idaho's offense. And that segues perfectly into talking about the Vandals. Idaho beat Sacramento State last week in dominating fashion as they throttled the Hornet offense and rushed for nearly 200 yards in a 22 point win. That's how I've seen this game summarized at least a few times. It only takes a quick glance at the game film to know that this isn't really what happened. In reality Idaho struggled on offense early and had no answer for the Hornet pass rush. They ran the ball pretty reliably but Linehan was under duress on nearly every dropback. Matt took a few unnecessary sacks when he should have thrown the ball away, his two worst throws were intercepted, and GOD DAMMIT MATT YOU NEED TO WATCH RUSS WILSON SCRAMBLE TO LEARN HOW TO GET THE FUCK DOWN!! Finishing up the bad news, it looks like Idaho's best returning WR Alfonso Onunwor will be out this week. Presumably this means Mwehla moving to flanker, Ungerer coming in at split end, and Sannon remaining as the slot guy (much like last week). It's worth noting that after Onunwor went out on Saturday Linehan only completed passes to three other WRs: Mwehla, Sannon, and Duckworth. And other than one huge Marshawn Lynch-esque play by Duckworth they had pretty close to zero YAC. That's going to have to change if they want to move the ball against UNLV. Oh and how could I forget the offensive line (specifically in pass protection)? Man, the newbies really struggled against a defense that was at the very bottom of the Big Sky last season. Johnson and Rose looked solid overall but still had some issues themselves. Petrino mentioned there were a few blown assignments which is worrisome. We may see some new faces in there against the Rebels, specifically at QT. I imagine Vrba and Dixon will still fill out QG and center positions. Good news for Idaho: 1. Matt Linehan. Okay I get it. He didn't look fantastic last week and made a handful of really bad mistakes. But he did that last year as well and improved over time. I think it's just first game jitters. And since I picked on his bad plays last week I'll mention some excellent ones he had last week as well. First, the big play to Duckworth. Duck grabbed the big YAC in this one but Matt scrambled out of a tackle and dumped it off to Duck to make this possible. Check downs are going to be important in this game if the Vandal WRs struggle to get separation like they did last week. Secondly, the TD to Mwehla. Perfection. He stood in the pocket and dumped one right into Reuben's lap. Finally, the first TD to Sannon. Yeah, a real competent tackler takes him down on this play but he showed good scrambling ability to get out of the pocket, avoid a sack, and find a wide open Jacob Sannon for a TD. Matt's extra bulk probably helped him not lose yardage on that play. 2. The defense. Solid performance all the way around. They got gashed on a few run plays but overall did exactly what they were expected to do against a really bad offense. It won't be hard to improve on their performance against the Rebels last year when they gave up 539 yards. Two big Kaden Ellis picks set up 10 points early in the game and were the defense's only real saving grace last season. If they can force a few TOs in this one and force UNLV into third and longs I like Idaho's chances. I talk about the big 3 LBs a lot, but I also want to single out LB Ty Graham, DT Arie Anderson, CB Dorian Clark, and LB Leonard Hazewood as guys who had great games last week. 3. The running game. The O-line seemed to have no trouble opening up holes for Sanders and Duckworth when Sanders went down with an injury. Sanders will be back this week but I don't know how Duckworth doesn't cut into his carries after a spectacular performance in the opener. Idaho's going to have to get a lot from both their star backs to win this one IMO. Can't finish this section without mentioning DJ Henderson coming in as the short yardage guy taking over Tueni's role from last season. Two big conversions for the EMCC transfer and D-lineman last week. Prediction: UNLV was embarrassed losing to Idaho at home last year in OT. They were more embarrassed losing to Howard last week and they're going to be pissed coming into this one. They'll be a tough out. It's to the advantage of both teams to control the clock and get their running game going. The difference in this one will come down to turnovers and right now I'm trusting Idaho's more experienced D and QB to do their part in winning that TO battle. Sticking to my original prediction ( the line's too high on this one btw, take UNLV to cover). Idaho 34 UNLV 28 God I hope I'm right, if Idaho comes out slow I could see UNLV really snow-balling this one into a blowout. I'll trust Petrino knows WTF he's doing. Go Vandals.