UNLV has not made the postseason since their appearance in the Heart of Dallas Bowl following a seven-win season in 2013. The Rebels have started the 2019 season 1-1 and are hoping to break their bowl drought. With a win over Northwestern, they could shock college football and put themselves in position to return to another bowl game. For Northwestern, UNLV should be a nice first win before entering the team’s gauntlet Big Ten schedule. In order to get the inside scoop on UNLV, we spoke to Mike Dixon of Vegas Sports Daily:
INU: UNLV started the season with a blowout victory over Southern Utah and last week suffered a 43-17 loss to Arkansas State. How would you assess the team’s season so far?
MD: Based on a small sample size of (2) games from UNLV. I think this team is still searching for their identity. When Armani Rogers plays at a high level, he opens up the passing and running game for the offense. However, when Rogers struggles to pass the ball, the offense becomes one dimensional and defensive coordinators key on the QB and rushing game.
INU: After last week’s game against Arkansas State, head coach Tony Sanchez publicly criticized starting quarterback Armani Rodgers. Sanchez has left the door open for talented backup freshman quarterback Kenyon Oblad to play on Saturday. What can you tell us about the two quarterbacks and how do you expect the quarterback situation to play out on Saturday?
MD: I asked coach Sanchez about making a change at QB after UNLV struggled to put up points in the first half against Arkansas State. Sanchez stated that “we (I) have to convene with the coaches.” Armani Rodgers is a dual threat QB so he can run and pass. However, Rodgers tends to be inaccurate downfield which limits the offense.
On the other hand, Oblad has a high ceiling. He is strong and accurate and can move the chains. UNLV will benefit tremendously if Oblad is under center because he can spread the ball around the field. Running back Charles Williams is ranked third in the nation in rushing yards. If Oblad plays, Williams could climb even higher on the FBS leading rusher list.
INU: UNLV has been a successful rushing offense with running back Charles Williams this season. How does the offense utilize him? Do you believe UNLV’s rushing offense is strong enough to be successful against Northwestern’s front seven?
MD: Williams is the ideal RB: he runs between the tackles, can pass block well, and makes plays receving the ball out of the backfield. Williams keeps UNLV’s offense on schedule. On Saturday, NU’s front seven will certainly challenge Williams and their O-line. My projection for Williams against NU’s front seven: 16 carries, 80+ yards, and 1 TD.
INU: Northwestern’s offense struggled in its first game against Stanford. Hunter Johnson will make his second career start for NU against UNLV this weekend. How do you expect UNLV’s defense to approach this game? What are the strongest and weakest parts of Rebels’ defense?
MD: UNLV struggled against Arkansas State’s passing attack. IMO, Sanchez will rely on the secondary to shut down Hunter Johnson. Northwestern should expect a three man rush and mixture of coverages. NU will also see man-to-man schemes, zone coverages, and heavy dime looks.
INU: Finally, what is your prediction for the game?
MD: My prediction: 41-17, NU over UNLV.