NCAAF Picks: Week 1 Preview, UNLV Rebels vs Arizona Wildcats

David Lawrence

Thursday, July 17, 2014 2:08 PM GMT

Thursday, Jul. 17, 2014 2:08 PM GMT

The UNLV Rebels made a bowl game last season, snapping a long drought and bringing new life to a program that had fallen on hard times. UNLV had been given a bowl ban earlier in the offseason, but that ban might very well be lifted. The Rebels will probably be able to go after a second straight bowl season. Now comes the hard part: Getting the work done. Their opener at Arizona will definitely rate as a challenge. 

UNLV Rebels @ Arizona Wildcats
Friday, August 29th – 10:35 PM ET
NCAA Football Odds: Arizona -26.5

The Rebels can win because…
They are finally starting a season as a confident team, something that hasn’t been said in Las Vegas in a long time. UNLV football had been one of the worst programs in all of Division I, now known as the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Rebels broke one of the longer-running bowl droughts in the FBS last season, so the mood in the program is noticeably different from what it used to be. The Rebels can enter this game believing in themselves in a way that didn’t apply to past season openers such as last year’s trip to Minnesota to play the Golden Gophers.

What should also help the Rebels here is the fact that Arizona is starting over at two basic skill positions. Quarterback B.J. Denker and running back Ka’Deem Carey are both gone. They carried the workload for this offense last year for the Wildcats. Even if Arizona might be good this season, and even if the Wildcats might be better in 2014 than they were in 2013, the process of getting to those points might take time. The opener could be a game in which Arizona is very rusty and goes through a lot of struggles. If Arizona is sloppy and doesn’t take care of the ball, UNLV could pull the shocker with a strong performance.

 

The Wildcats can win because…
They are playing a clearly inferior opponent. UNLV did a lot of good things last season, but the Rebels don’t return quarterback Caleb Herring. They’re also in a position where they’re having to develop a new leader for their offense. There are always two sides to a story, and so while Arizona might take a step or two back this season, UNLV is likely to do the same thing. Had UNLV returned some of its most important offensive starters, the Rebels would have been able to say that they had progressed more than Arizona in the offseason and were better equipped to win this opener. However, these teams are roughly even in terms of the losses they’ve sustained since the 2013 season ended. This puts Arizona ahead of UNLV, even though the Wildcats are likely to have a tough time doing much of anything in the Pac-12 Conference. Those are two different conversations.

 

Outlook & NCAA Football Betting Prediction
If UNLV comes close to winning, it would be a surprise, so we don't recommend to choose their moneyline as one of your college football betting picks. Yet, is Arizona four touchdowns better than UNLV right now? It’s more like three. The Rebels will barely cover the spread.
NCAA Football Picks: Your betting pick should be UNLV +26.5 at TheGreek

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