Las Vegas, NV - With McKay Jacobson injured, BYU is without perhaps its best big-play threat. A matchup with UNLV, though, should give the Cougars plenty of opportunities to rack up big chunks of yardage.
The 18th-ranked Cougars look to remain undefeated on the road against Mountain West Conference rival UNLV on Saturday night by taking advantage of a team coming off the worst defensive performance in Division I this season.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made BYU –16.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 87% of bets for this game have been placed on BYU –16.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
BYU (4-1, 1-0) has won back-to-back games, defeating conference rival Colorado State on Sept. 26 before beating Utah State 35-17 on Oct. 2 despite losing Jacobson during pregame warmups.
Jacobson will miss four to six weeks with a strained hamstring he suffered while stretching. The sophomore wide receiver had 11 catches for 280 yards, including an 80-yard TD reception, and three scores overall in his first four games.
Without Jacobson, the Cougars relied more on their running game and rushed for a season-high 213 yards versus the Aggies. BYU has rushed for at least 209 yards in winning its last four against UNLV (2-3, 0-1) and is averaging 43.3 points and 493.0 total yards during that stretch.
The Cougars have won all seven of their road games against the Rebels and lead the series 13-3.
UNLV doesn't appear to be in any position to end that skid. The Rebels gave up 773 yards in a 63-28 loss at Nevada last Saturday. It was the worst defensive performance by a Division I team this season, eclipsing the 663 yards Troy surrendered against top-ranked Florida on Sept. 12.
BYU has been strong defensively, other than in its 54-28 loss to Florida State on Sept. 19. In their other four games, the Cougars have given up an average of 14.0 points.
"A lot of grit, determination and physical play are how I would describe the defense right now for four of our five games," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "We've been right on in four of the five games."
Tough play defensively has helped the Cougars overcome their difficulties hanging on to the ball. They beat Utah State despite throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble, giving them 15 turnovers in five games.
"It's tough to say 'outside of the turnovers' because that's a big part of the game," tight end Dennis Pitta said. "I think that's something that we've kind of struggled with this season."
Max Hall made up for his two picks by throwing for three touchdowns. The senior has completed 68.0 percent of his passes for 1,403 yards and 11 TDs while getting picked off 10 times.
Though Hall doesn't have Jacobson, Pitta remains his most consistent target. He has 26 receptions for 339 yards and three TDs after catching 83 balls for 1,083 yards last season.
Pitta has caught a pass in 35 straight games, but he was held to two catches for 19 yards in BYU's 42-35 win over UNLV last season.
Rebels quarterback Omar Clayton, who threw for 321 yards and a TD in that contest, may miss a second consecutive game due to a sore shoulder and knee. Mike Clausen filled in for Clayton against Nevada, completing 26 of 50 passes for 276 yards and a TD without an interception.
Whoever starts Saturday will be looking often to top wide receiver Ryan Wolfe, who has 36 catches for 420 yards. He had 136 yards and a TD on 10 receptions in last season's matchup with the Cougars.
Wolfe is complemented by a running game featuring Channing Trotter, who has 313 yards and leads the team with six TDs.
Posted: 10/6/09 6:29PM ET