UCLA Football 2015 Schedule Preview: UNLV Rebels


Who is ready to party? Sure, maybe the UCLA football team when they head out for Las Vegas for the second game of the season, but who is REALLY ready to party? That is right… Bruin fans! The UCLA faithful will head to Sin City in droves as this once in a lifetime weekend Vegas trip includes a game with your Bruin football squad.

Take caution friends, because even though this will be a fun filled weekend, there is still a football game to be had.

Nov 30, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins coach Jim Mora celebrates at the end of the game against the Southern California Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

UNLV Rebels

Sep 13, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies quarterback Drew Hare (12) runs the ball through a lane during the second half of an NCAA football game against UNLV at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Huskies won the game 48-34. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Head Coach: Tony Sanchez (1st season)

2014 Record: 2-11 overall, 1-7 in the MWC

From a UNLV perspective, there are a lot of variables to be considered with Rebels Football. First off, UNLV did something not completely out of the question, but something fairly unorthodox… they hired a high school coach. Tony Sanchez had been the head coach of Bishop Gorman High School for the last six season and posted an 85-5 record in that time.

Now that is all well and good, but Division I college football is a whole new ball game. But as SB Nation’s preview of UNLV states, “why not?” UNLV football has not been a power house in any sense of the word. It is sad but true… UNLV just cannot win.

That is good for the UCLA football program. Hoping to be 1-0 going into this game, the Bruins could use not only a victory, but a dominating one at that. Still, nothing is a “gimme” in this world, which is why the Bruins should be cautious heading into the desert for this match-up.

The UNLV Offense

Nov 29, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UNLV Rebels running back Keith Whitely (28) runs with the ball during a game against Nevada at Sam Boyd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Rebels have a lot of quarterbacks and running backs to choose from though it seems as though it will come down to QB Blake Decker and RB Keith Whitely as their many weapons on offense.

UCLA Bruins
UCLA Bruins /

UCLA Bruins

Decker had the majority of snaps last season but was not able to do a whole lot with it. Aside from only averaging 6.2 yards per pass last year, he was sacked 34 times (O-line problems, am I right?) and only had 15 touchdowns to his 18 interceptions. The upside is that Decker was first on the team in rushing with 566 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Whitely aided the running game with 504 yards and 2 touchdowns of his own. Though he is the best returning RB, the Rebels are going to have to fill the gap left by Shaquille Murray-Lawrence who had 552 yards and 9 TDs.

What is good about UNLV’s rebuilding mode is that they get a fresh perspective on what they want to do which is why Sanchez went out and got Barney Cotton who was the offensive coordinator at Nebraska under Bo Pellini. His style of offense relies on the power run, but they need to recruit and build into that scheme. Right now, there are a lot of holes to fill and questions to be answered about their personnel.

The UNLV Defense

It does not get much better on this side of the ball for UNLV, yet there are some rays of hope. The defensive line is going to be a work-in-progress (possibly for a season or two) but they have a lot of talent at linebacker and the secondary.

Aug 29, 2014; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats running back Terris Jones-Grigsby (24) runs the ball under pressure from UNLV Rebels linebacker Tau Lotulelei (55) during the third quarter at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

is the Rebels leading tackler from last season (72.5 per game, 10.5 tackle for loss) that will make a name for himself as a projected All-Mountain West player. He will have the help of nearly every returning linebacker which is good news for 1st year defensive coordinator Kent Baer, the former Colorado DC.

Baer also has a lot to work with in the secondary as he has a stud at safety, Peni Vea, who was second on the team with 72.0 tackles. Not only is he excellent in coverage but can be one hell of a pass rusher when needed.

Nothing is a “gimme” in this world, which is why the Bruins should be cautious heading into the desert for this match-up.

Aside from that, Baer has to improve his overall coaching strategy. Last season, Colorado was no higher than 10th in most Pac-12 defensive statistics (scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense, passing defense efficiency).

The one bright spot was his pass defense which was fifth in the conference behind Stanford, Utah, Oregon State and UCLA. needless to say, Baer has a tough road ahead, yet with a fresh start at UNLV, he should have time to put in place a defense to his liking.

UCLA at UNLV Outlook

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UCLA is quite possibly the best team UNLV will face in 2015, though it will be a tough schedule in general as the Rebels take on Michigan at the Big House, travel to Fresno State and welcome Fiesta Bowl Champions Boise State to Sam Boyd Stadium later in the year. Now those are Tony Sanchez and UNLV’s problems, but they start early as the Bruins look to invade and conquer Las Vegas in the second week of the season.

Barring changes and the lack of personnel, this should be a no brainer for any betting person to pick UCLA, whatever the spread may be. The Bruins have a balanced pass/run attack which should devastate the Rebels D-line and will most likely shut down the UNLV offense with Myles Jack leading the Bruin D.

MORE: UCLA Football 2015 Schedule Preview – Virginia Cavaliers

Way-Too-Early Prediction

In the last preview, I picked UCLA to beat Virginia by shutting them out. I believe that will happen two weeks in a row as UCLA will beat UNLV 42-0.