Hello, Bruins! We are joined this evening by Jeremy Mauss, the founder and managing editor of the excellent SB Nation site: Mountain West Connection. As a Utah alum, Jeremy started blogging on the Mountain West way back in 2007, and even after his alma mater moved out to join us in the Pac-12, he still carries the flag for the Mountain West. Thanks to Jeremy for taking the time to answer our questions, and you can check and join in the conversation at out his excellent site Mountain West Connection here.
Bruins Nation: Last week was Tony Sanchez's first week as a collegiate head coach. How much does his learning curve help or hurt UNLV on the field and with recruiting?
Jeremy: Being from a great high school like Bishop Gorman and having connections to possibly the best high school program in the country can only help, but he still needs to convince top-flight Division I players to go to UNLV instead of Notre Dame, UCLA, Oregon, Texas, etc... and he has just one recruit so far from his former high school. On the field he made the right hires to help him out by bringing in Barney Cotton from Nebraska as the offensive coordinator and Kent Baer from Colorado to run the defense. Having the right coaches around him will be a big help and it showed in the opener against an always solid Northern Illinois program in a close game.
BN: What should UCLA fans expect from the Rebel offense?
Jeremy: UNLV added a wrinkle with adding a running game from the quarterback position with starter Blake Decker, but something unexpected we saw on Saturday was having backup Kurt Palandech who ran the ball five times for 42 yards with a touchdown, and he also completed a pass. The passing game is the strength of this team as Decker threw for over 300 yards and while his accuracy has improved a bit in this first game, he still hovers just over 50 percent. The key player that UCLA needs to focus on his wide receiver Devonte Boyd who is one of the best in the country and will be in the NFL in a few years. He is who the Bruins defense should target since the running game is still a work in progress in starter Kevin Whitely.
BN: UCLA's true freshman QB had a great debut against a Virginia defense that stacked up to stop the run. What do you think the UNLV defense should do against the Bruin offense this week?
Jeremy: The UNLV defense has very little depth and it showed as they were wore down after a solid first half where they gave up just 10 first half points. Based on what UCLA did against Virginia, the Rebels will need to stop the passing game and they have one player who is very good in the secondary in safety Peni Vea who is a first-team All-Conference player. UNLV will give up a lot of points and it will be just a matter of when since they are not particularly great at this point in time in stopping the run or the pass. Getting after Rosen and attempting to make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket is a way to disrupt the offense, but I stress attempt because I am not so sure UNLV can do that consistently enough to make a large impact.
BN: How much of a home field advantage is that desert heat in Las Vegas?
Jeremy: Both teams have to play in it so each will be affected by the temperatures, however this game is being played at night with a 7:30 p.m. kick. So, the temperatures will be in the low 80s and not be an impact at all in this game. Had this game been played during the day than UNLV might had an edge but that is void in this game.
BN: Looking ahead - way ahead - what do you see as the future of the MWC? There's a big disparity between the so called Big 5 conferences and the rest in terms of bowl positioning and the associated revenues. Does the MWC survive, or do the teams jump at any chance to join a major football conference, and if so, can you see UNLV joining the Pac-12 if/when it becomes the Pac-16?
Jeremy: The Mountain West is pulling away as the best conference outside of the power conferences as a whole. The American has good teams as does Conference USA but there is a bit more depth in the Mountain West. It all depends on if there are going to be conferences of 14 to 16 teams, and if that happens schools like Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, Air Force and maybe UNLV move due to their potential. However, it really depends on if the Big 12 hangs around and adds teams to their league. For any team from the non-power conferences that gets a chance to move up, no one can blame them for moving up the food chain for that bigger pay check. I am skeptical there will be even larger conferences but if there are the Mountain West is probably dead or a shell of its former self
Thanks again to Jeremy from Mountain West Connection for sharing his time and insights with us. You can check out Bruins Nation's preview of the UNLV offense and defense and special teams/coaching, and then swing over to Mountain West Connection and join in the conversation over there, and follow MWC on twitter at @MWCConnection.