Air Force vs. UNLV Picks & Predictions: Can Rebels Cover at Home?

Air Force vs. UNLV Picks & Predictions: Can Rebels Cover at Home? article feature image

Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Courtney Reese (UNLV)

  • UNLV hosts Air Force and is looking to rebound from a tough loss last week.
  • Air Force boasts the No. 1 rushing attack in the country, will the Falcons be able to rush their way to victory?
  • Continue reading for a full breakdown and a best bet.

Air Force vs. UNLV Odds

Saturday, Oct. 15
10:30 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network
Air Force Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

UNLV returns to Vegas on Saturday night looking to bounce back as it celebrates homecoming. The Rebels lost in blowout fashion to San Jose State in their last game, scoring just seven points in a 40-7 rout.

Getting back into the win column may be easier said than done though, as the Rebels will welcome Air Force and its No. 1-ranked rush offense in the country.

Air Force is looking to get back on track itself, as it heads into its second road game in a row. Despite Brad Roberts posting the second-most rushing yards he's had this season, the Falcons could not overcome Utah State last week, losing 34-27 in Logan.

The Falcons lead the all-time series against UNLV, 17-6, and have won the last four by an average margin of 17.75 points.

However, due to Mountain West scheduling, Saturday's matchup will mark just the second time Air Force has played in Las Vegas in the last eight years.

The Falcons' last visit came in 2018 when they were a 9.5-point favorite. They failed to cover in that matchup, but beat UNLV, 41-35.

Saturday will also be Air Force's first time playing in Allegiant Stadium.

Can the Falcons get back on track and spoil the homecoming party in Sin City?

Air Force Falcons

I shouldn't have to tell you about the Falcons' run game — it's the best, and it's been the best for quite a while. They will continue to run it more than anyone else in the country, and more often than not, they will do it better than anyone else.

What we do need to talk about is what can cost the Falcons their third loss of the season: Turnovers.

Only three teams in all of FBS have more fumbles this season, and it's getting worse.

Air Force has eight fumbles on the season — four have come in their last two games. Meanwhile, UNLV has recovered six fumbles in six games so far this season.

That means ball security will be priority No. 1 against a Rebels team tied for ninth in the country in turnover margin.

You would think a team with the best offensive running game in the country would have no problem stopping the run.

Unfortunately, that has not been the case this season. Air Force ranks 65th among FBS teams in rushing defense, giving up 139.2 yards per game.

They'll need to figure it out this week as they face off against Aiden Robbins, who not only challenges Brad Roberts as the best running back in the Mountain West, but is among the best in the nation.

UNLV Rebels

UNLV fans had something to be excited about for the first time in a long time heading into last week's matchup against San Jose State, but that excitement didn't last long for the Rebels.

At halftime, the Spartans boasted a 23-0 lead. Meanwhile, starting quarterback Doug Brumfield — who was off to a fantastic start to the season — was sidelined with head and ankle injuries.

However, I don't think Rebels fans should give up just yet.

First and foremost, Brumfield is currently day-to-day. I don't think he will play this weekend against Air Force, but that isn't the end of the world. Health comes first, and head coach Marcus Arroyo knows that.

Second, and I say this with all due respect, San Jose State was going to smoke that UNLV team regardless of who was under center for the Rebels.

I think it helps the Rebels tremendously in this week's matchup that backup Cameron Friel got reps with the first team in real game action last week.

No starting quarterback has been announced for UNLV, and I don't expect one to be. Most importantly, it has little effect on my handicap for this game.

The two options are Friel (reigning Mountain West Freshman of the Year) and Harrison Bailey (a recent transfer from Tennessee).

Friel went 15-of-22 against SJSU, throwing for 153 yards and one touchdown.

But again, I don't think it matters who the signal caller is for the Rebels on Saturday because this offense will work almost entirely through Robbins.

He averages just 24.7 yards less per game than the well-known Roberts. He also has as many rushing touchdowns on the season as Roberts and is facing the worse rushing defense among the two teams.

I wouldn't be surprised to see him out-rush Roberts on Saturday.

Air Force vs. UNLV Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Air Force and UNLV match up statistically:

Air Force Offense vs. UNLV Defense
Rush Success295
Line Yards480
Pass Success9874
Pass Blocking**6550
Finishing Drives4881
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

UNLV Offense vs. Air Force Defense
Rush Success3376
Line Yards6943
Pass Success120120
Pass Blocking**2989
Finishing Drives36122
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling10197
PFF Coverage6853
SP+ Special Teams5012
Seconds per Play32.2 (131)27.5 (91)
Rush Rate87.9% (1)53.8% (67)
Data via (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.

Air Force vs. UNLV Betting Pick

Air Force and UNLV are the top two scoring offenses in the Mountain West, led by the top two running backs in the conference.

But they are also the top two in terms of time of possession, which is what I expect to be the deciding factor in this one.

I think we see a chess match that ends with Arroyo keeping it much closer than many expect. The Rebels' loss last week was due to their inability to defend the pass, something they won't have to worry about with Air Force.

They won't shut down the Air Force rushing attack by any means, but I think they can slow it down as much as they did against North Texas, the 17th-best rush offense in the country.

Our Action Network projections make Air Force an 8.5-point favorite, and I have no problem backing the Rebels, especially at home.

And while I'm not much on trends, this felt like a familiar spot for the Falcons, and I wanted to know if my memory served me right.

It in fact did, as double-digit home underdogs are 14-7 against the Falcons dating back to 2006.

Back the Rebels at no less than +10.

Pick: UNLV +10 or Better

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