UNLV (5-5) at Air Force (2-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, November 21, 9:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Falcon Stadium (46,692) -- United States Air Force Academy, Colorado. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: UNLV 3-3, AF 2-4. Away Record: UNLV 2-2, AF 0-4. Neutral Record: UNLV 0-0, AF 0-0. Conference Record: UNLV 3-3, AF 0-6. Series Record: Air Force leads, 13-5.
GAME NOTES: Two teams from the Mountain West Conference coming off bye weeks get together in Colorado on Thursday night, as the Air Force Falcons clash with the UNLV Rebels.
Air Force has a total of just two wins all season and only one of those has come against another member of the Football Bowl Subdivision (Army). Since taking down the Black Knights by a score of 42-28 on Nov. 2, the only other outing for the Falcons was a 45-37 setback versus New Mexico on the road Nov. 8.
Meanwhile the Rebels, a team which had won just two games each of the previous three campaigns, are on the verge of quite possibly taking part in the postseason. Needing just one more victory to become bowl eligible, UNLV also had last week off following a 28-24 loss to Utah State on Nov. 9. The defeat was the second straight and the third in the last four games for the program.
Air Force owns a 13-5 advantage in the all-time series, yet it was UNLV that won last year's battle by a score of 38-35.
Blazing a trail on the ground for the Rebels these days is Tim Cornett as he averages close to five yards per carry and has scored 11 touchdowns on 200 attempts. Of the team's 1,716 rushing yards, 970 are accounted for by Cornett. With 171.6 ypg on the ground, UNLV ranks in the middle of the pack nationally and the same can be said for the passing attack pretty much as the group produces 249.8 ypg.
Doing most of the damage through the air is Caleb Herring who has completed 63.0 percent of his passes for 17 touchdowns and a mere four interceptions. Prior to Herring being inserted into the starting lineup, Nick Sherry had thrown only three TDs and five picks.
Devante Davis is clearly the primary receiver for whomever might be standing under center, sporting 63 catches for 948 yards and 10 touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball the Rebels have run into some problems, specifically trying to slow down opposing runners. Teams are averaging a hefty 234.5 ypg on the ground versus UNLV, and that has the unit ranked 114th in the country this week. In terms of total defense, the Rebels are giving up 461.0 ypg which is 106th in the nation.
As is the case with the other two service academies that play at the FBS level, keeping the ball on the ground and grinding out yards is the way to go. The Falcons rank a little low by their own lofty standards, generating 277.0 ypg to come in at 11th nationally, but still it is by far the best option for the program. Anthony LaCoste has carried the ball the most (111 times), resulting in a team-best 781 yards and six touchdowns.
Nate Romine, one of several players to have been the starting quarterback for the Falcons this season, has given the team some balance with four passing touchdowns and close to 60 percent accuracy, but whatever he might accomplish through the air, in the trenches is where Air Force functions the best.
More often than not the Falcons are undersized defensively, compared to the offenses that they suit up against, but still players like Joey Nichol are putting their best foot forward. Unfortunately, the team's leading tackler with 80 stops, not to mention a team-best 7.5 TFL, Nichol is currently listed as questionable for this week due to a groin injury.
Undersized and overmatched, the Falcons have a hard time keeping more athletic opponents from piling up the yards and the points. After 10 games Air Force is 117th in the country in stopping the run, giving up 244.3 ypg, and all of that has led to a hefty 478.3 ypg overall for the competition. The yards then roll into 38.1 ppg, which means the Falcons rank 112th in the country in that department.
Because UNLV can put together a balanced offensive attack, being at home might not be enough for the Falcons to get them back into the win column. Also, with needing just one more victory to be considered for the postseason, the Rebels need to take advantage of this opportunity.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UNLV 31, Air Force 24
11/20 10:40:13 ET