UNLV Rebels (3-1) vs New Mexico Lobos (2-2)

Friday, September 30, 2022 at 11:00 pm

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In 2020, New Mexico head coach Danny Gonzales inherited a roster that was JUCO-heavy and has been patient in rebuilding the program from the ground up. Gonzales enters his third year in Albuquerque with a roster largely consisting of players he recruited and has brought stability to the program as all three coordinators (offense, defense, special teams) have been with him from the outset. Gonzales made an outstanding hire by making former New Mexico and San Diego State head coach Rocky Long his defensive coordinator. Long is one of the best defensive minds in the game and his 3-3-5 defense returns eight of its top ten tacklers from last year’s unit that allowed just 143 rushing yards per game (3.7 yards per carry) and recorded 25 sacks. New Mexico’s stop unit improved significantly last season (from 1.2 yards per play worse than average in 2020 to just 0.2 yards per play worse than average) and is currently ranked 82nd in overall defense this year (70.1), per Pro Football Focus (PFF). Edge defenders Reco Hannah, Omar Darame and Jaden Phillips anchor the Lobos’ front seven and are three of the nation’s best tacklers with PFF grades of 87.9, 80.1 and 76.0, respectively. Linebacker Alec Marenco is excellent at defending against the pass as evidenced by his PFF coverage grade of 72.6. The Lobos’ secondary possesses legitimate top-40 talent behind A.J. Haulcy (80.7), Tavian Combs (76.2) and Donte Martin (74.4), all of whom have earned above-average PFF defensive grades in 2022. Haulcy leads the team with an 86.3 PFF coverage grade, while Martin (76.9) and Ronald Wilson (71.8) have also been very good at defending the pass. In New Mexico’s 31-14 loss to Boise State in Week 2, Long’s defense limited the Broncos to a 10% success rate on passing downs and a 15% success rate on third downs. Boise State also scored a non-offensive touchdown that skewed the final score. While I have been impressed with UNLV this season, the Rebels’ 34-24 win at Utah State last week was one of the most misleading results in Week 4. Specifically, UNLV finished with a post-game win expectancy of just 34% despite winning by double-digits! My math model only favors UNLV by 11.4 points and the home team is 0-5 SU and ATS in the past five meetings in this series. The past four meetings between these teams have all resulted in outright upsets and the Lobos are once again live underdogs in Las Vegas. Grab the points with New Mexico and invest with confidence.

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Jeff’s Pick New Mexico Lobos: +14.5 -106

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