New Mexico (2-5) at UNLV (2-6) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sam Boyd Stadium (36,800) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: ROOT Sports. Home Record: UNM 0-4, UNLV 2-1. Away Record: UNM 2-1, UNLV 0-5. Neutral Record: UNM 0-0, UNLV 0-0. Conference Record: UNM 0-3, UNLV 1-3. Series Record: UNLV leads, 11-10.
GAME NOTES: New Mexico heads out on the road this weekend, the only place the Lobos have tasted victory in 2014, as they clash with the UNLV Rebels in Mountain West Conference action at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The Lobos, winless in four home dates to this point, have victories at New Mexico State and Texas-San Antonio and are hoping for similar results when they show up in Sin City. Since taking down UTSA the first week of October, the Lobos have bowed in back-to-back efforts, most recently losing to Air Force in Colorado by a final of 35-31 on Oct. 18.
As for the Rebels, a team that went to the postseason following the 2013 campaign after a lengthy time away, they too have only two wins to this point in the season, and one of those came against Northern Colorado at home by a single point, 13-12. Last weekend, the team traveled to Logan, Utah to challenge the Utah State Aggies and came up short in a 34-20 final, the fifth defeat in the last six contests for UNLV.
These two teams combined for 98 points in last year's meeting, the winner being the Rebels, which gives UNLV a slight 11-10 advantage in the all-time series.
Wins have been very hard to come by for the Lobos in recent years and 2014 is no different. The offense has managed to produce some significant numbers in the running game, specifically 304.4 ypg to rank fifth in the nation this week, but that doesn't equate to tallies in the win column.
The team lists as many as five players with at least 269 yards rushing to this point, each of them having scored at least two touchdowns, but even with 17 total TDs on the ground UNM is still being outscored on a regular basis. Jhurell Pressley is tops on the list with 580 yards and six TDs, while quarterback Cole Gautsche checks in with another 311 yards and two TDs.
Unfortunately, the aggressive rushing attack means the passing game is left far behind. In fact, with a mere 84.6 ypg through the air, the Lobos rank next-to-last in the FBS in that department. Gautsche and Lamar Jordan have been handling the bulk of the snaps, but only the latter has managed to have any of his 53 pass attempts end up in the end zone.
In an odd twist, even though the Lobos are a team that practices running the ball over and over again, the defense for UNM apparently hasn't paid much attention to all of that action because the squad ranks 123rd nationally in stopping he run, allowing 284.3 ypg on the ground. Add that to a pass defense that is surrendering another 204.1 ypg, and it is easy to see why New Mexico sits 114th in the country in total defense (488.4 ypg).
With opponents running the ball time after time against the Lobos, it only makes sense that there are plenty of tackles to be made, which is why Dakota Cox is one of the nation's leaders with a whopping 95 takedowns. David Guthrie, who is second with 51 stops, has two of the team's five recovered fumbles and one of its three blocked kicks.
As for the Rebels, they managed to fight their way back from an early deficit against Utah State and trailed by just four points at the half on the road, but from there the Aggies rattled off 17 unanswered points in order to knock UNLV into the loss column yet again. The Rebels finished with only 282 yards of total offense, of which a meager 15 yards came on 27 rushing attempts.
Blake Decker, who was sacked six times for a loss of 53 yards, converted 22- of-38 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns, but at the same time he was intercepted twice by an aggressive USU defense.
Defensively, Tau Lotulelei finished with 15 tackles, of which he made three behind the line of scrimmage, while Sidney Hodge was tied for second with seven stops and accounted for 1.5 sacks in the setback.
Outside of the narrow win over Northern Colorado in the second game of the season, the defense for the Rebels has been exposed by the competition. Through eight games, the program ranks 121st in the nation in both yards allowed on the ground (263.4 ypg) and overall (525.4 ypg), so it should come as little surprise that UNLV is giving up a hefty 36.6 ppg, a number that ranks them 114th in the country.
Lotulelei is doing all he can to keep the Rebels close to the competition, leading the group with 69 tackles and seven stops behind the line of scrimmage. However, the efforts are being minimized by the fact that UNLV has but five interceptions and six recovered fumbles.
Those numbers above would not be an issue if not for Decker and his 12 interceptions, against only nine TDs. Add in two more picks by fellow quarterback Nick Sherry and one by wide receiver Marcus Sullivan and it is clear that the Rebels are hurting themselves most of all.
Unable to run the ball last week, the Rebels would be smart to focus a bit more on moving the ball on the ground this weekend since that appears to be a vulnerable point for the UNM defense. However, if the Lobos are able to maintain possession for a considerable amount of time, Decker and the Rebels may be forced to change course, and that's not necessarily a good thing.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: New Mexico 28, UNLV 24Game Date and Time
Saturday, November 1, 5:30 p.m. (ET).