UNLV Rebels vs. WSU Cougars Week 2 Preview

UNLV (0-1) at Washington State (1-0) Analysis Week Two

How’s this for irony? Of the Northwest teams in the Pac-12, Washington State was viewed as the whipping boy, the butt of jokes entering 2011. Oregon, Oregon State and Washington looked down their noses at the lowly Cougars.

Low and behold, Oregon lost to LSU and may have kissed its BCS title hopes goodbye; Oregon State suffered a humiliating loss against the FCS’s Sacramento State; and Washington barely scraped by an FCS opponent of its own.

And then there was Washington State. The Cougars, funnily enough, were the only Northwestern Pac-12 team to impress in Week 1, hammering Idaho State 64-21 to start 1-0 for the first time in six years. Can the Cougars keep the momentum going at home to UNLV this week?

Washington State Cougars @ UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
Saturday, September 10, 5:00 p.m. ET
Martin Stadium, Pullman, Washington
Favorite: Washington State -13.5

Here we were a week ago talking up Jeff Tuel as one of the Pac-12’s most underrated quarterbacks. A week later, it’s “Jeff who?”

Backup quarterback Marshall Lobbestael stepped in for Tuel last week when the latter pulled out with a stomach virus. Lobbestael promptly led the Cougars on two touchdown drives. Tuel then entered the game – only to get immediately knocked out with a broken left clavicle.

For the foreseeable future, then, the starting quarterback reins belong to Lobbestael. He was a  tidy 14 of 19 for 230 yards, two scores and no interceptions against Idaho State, helping WSU stake a 40-0 halftime lead.

Will UNLV provide a tougher challenge than Idaho State this week? Probably, but it’s tough to tell since the Runnin’ Rebels faced such a deadly opponent last week. They couldn’t stop Russell Wilson and Montee Ball; Wisconsin amassed 499 yards of offense. Was UNLV that bad or was Wisconsin just that good?

It looks like UNLV will at least test the Cougars’ defense a bit more this week. Quarterback Caleb Herring didn’t totally flounder on the road against a tough Wisconsin “D” last week, going 18 of 27 for 146 yards and two touchdowns.

Still, even if they’re a greater threat, the Runnin’ Rebels are justified underdogs this week as a team that is 0-8 on the road dating back to last season. Washington State played with plenty of confidence last week. It appears the Cougars are still in good hands with Lobbestael replacing Tuel; here’s hoping he can show UNLV that last week wasn’t a fluke.

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