Rebels football:

UNLV Gameday: Rebels hit the road as big underdogs at Fresno State

Watch UNLV kick off at 7 tonight live on lasvegassun.com via the Campus Insiders stream

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck congratulates his players as they come off the field after a score against Hawaii on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, at Sam Boyd Stadium. UNLV won 39-37 on a last-second field goal.

Lackluster Mountain West play has made the back half of UNLV’s schedule look much easier than it did at the beginning of the season. Almost all of the games appear winnable. Almost.

Today is the exception as the Rebels take on No. 17 Fresno State in Bulldog Stadium, where the Bulldogs will celebrate homecoming as 25-point favorites. Kickoff is at 7 p.m., and fans can watch the game on lasvegassun.com via a stream from Campus Insiders.

UNLV (4-2, 2-0) is on its first four-game regular-season winning streak since 1984, but none of those victories came against a team near the caliber of Fresno State (5-0, 2-0). This is a significant jump in competition, and although it’s a battle of teams tied for first place in the league’s West division, it’ll be a challenge for UNLV to just stay in the game.

Still, with two offenses putting up a combined 80.7 points per game, there are a lot of fun things to watch for:

THREE STORYLINES

1. Devante vs. Davante

Though they’ll never be on the field at the same time, UNLV’s Devante Davis and Fresno State’s Davante Adams will do battle to determine the proper way to spell their first names.

OK, maybe I’m the only who will judge it that way, but both big receivers are going to be huge in their respective teams’ attacks. Davis is third in the country with eight touchdown catches while Adams and fellow Bulldog Josh Harper are tied for fourth with seven touchdown receptions.

Davis and Adams are two of the best receivers in the country. Though Davis’ team likely needs a bigger game from him than Adams’ does, both will be at the center of the opponents’ defensive game plans.

2. Souped-up Carr

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Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, left, escapes from Hawaii defensive lineman Beau Yap in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, in Honolulu. Fresno State held off Hawaii 42-37.

Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr may be the school’s career leader in touchdown passes by halftime and career completions by the end of the night, not to mention a 10,000-yard passer. At this point, setting records is old hat for the senior.

He needs only three touchdowns, 33 completions and 376 yards to reach each of those marks tonight. That may seem like a lot, but Carr has only had one game this season where he didn’t reach at least one of those marks.

If you haven’t already, read this story about what Carr and his family went through earlier this season. He’s an easy guy to root for in an offense that appeals to casual fans.

In other words, Carr makes the Bulldogs not only a large favorite at the sports books (25 points) but also a sentimental favorite.

3. Home cooking

This is homecoming for the Bulldogs, who may not remember what Bulldog Stadium looks like. Fresno State hasn’t played at home since a 41-40 victory against Boise State on Sept. 20.

Since then, the Bulldogs have traveled to Hawaii and Idaho, and they come into this game off a bye week. This is the first meeting between UNLV and Fresno State since 1997.

Key matchup

UNLV’s defensive line vs. Fresno State’s offensive line

If the Rebels are going to have any chance at keeping it close, it has to start up front. This offense is way too good to completely contain, especially for UNLV’s defense, but if the Rebels are able to at least knock Carr down a few times, then maybe they can make enough plays to keep this game reasonable.

Over/under: 100 rushing yards for Fresno State

In both of the Bulldogs’ one-point victories, they weren’t able to run the ball effectively and became one-dimensional. That’s how the Rebels defense wants to play this game, though it’s obviously easier said than done.

That’s what he said: “We’ve got to stop them from running it. They’re going to throw it. They’re going to get their yards. That’s just the way it is." — Hauck on defending Fresno State

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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