UNLV’s Bobby Hauck has been around college football’s coaching block long enough that he certainly doesn’t need any help when it comes to the fine art of motivating players. Indeed, it’s pretty safe to assume he’ll thumb through his Roledex of psychological tricks and find just the right one to get his team’s attention in the wake of last week’s 34-24 home loss to San Jose State.
Still, being the giver that I am, I’d like to offer the following motivational services—free of charge, of course—to the Rebels coach: Grab a pair scissors, cut out this column, blow it up, thumbtack it to your locker-room bulletin board and highlight this sentence: The Rebels aren’t nearly as good as their 5-4 record might indicate—and they’re in trouble this week against Utah State … big trouble.
Not to throw a wet blanket over what has been UNLV’s most successful season since the going rate for a DJ was $20 an hour—after three straight two-win campaigns, Hauck should be applauded for having the Rebels on the precipice of bowl eligibility—but the numbers don’t lie: UNLV has yet to beat a team with a winning record; in fact, its five victims—including Division I-AA Western Illinois—are a combined 11-32 and have been outscored by 396 points.
On the other hand, the Rebels’ four losses have been by an average of 26 points (all double-digit blowouts) against teams (Minnesota, Arizona, Fresno State and San Jose State) that are a combined 26-7. Well, here comes another opponent with a winning record—albeit the same 5-4 mark that UNLV sports. But here’s where the numbers do lie: Utah State is 5-4 with a plus-161 point-differential; UNLV is 5-4 with a negative-45 point-differential. Also, while the Rebels’ five wins were by an average of 12.4 points, the Aggies have won their five games by 39.6 ppg—all by at least four touchdowns.
To paint this picture with a different brush, consider that UNLV last month needed a last-second field goal to escape with a 39-37 home win against Hawaii—the same Hawaii that Utah State throttled Hawaii 47-10 at home last week … with a third-string freshman quarterback.
This explains why the 5-4 Aggies are a near-two-touchdown road favorite against 5-4 UNLV—and why I’m confidently laying the big points. (One final motivational note for Coach Hauck: Before you put away that highlighter, be sure to mark up my “Best Bet” record below!)
Lucky Seven: Utah State -13½ at UNLV (Best Bet); Baylor -14 vs. Oklahoma; LSU +13 at Alabama; Arizona +1 vs. UCLA; Bengals -1 at Ravens; Falcons +6½ vs. Seahawks; Panthers-49ers UNDER 42½.
Last Week: 3-4 (0-1 Best Bet). Season: 30-36 (16-17 college; 14-19 NFL; 1-8 Best Bets).
Says Steve Fezzik (@FezzikSports) from Pregame.com: Disagree with the Panthers-Niners “under.” Both offenses are flying high and producing points, and in the “new” NFL, if you have two quarterbacks playing well, reasonable totals like this one tend to go “over.”
Matt Jacob appears Wednesdays on Pregame.com’s First Preview, which airs 10-11 a.m. weekdays on ESPN Radio 1100-AM.