Tuel Doubtful For Washington State At UNLV

By: Michael Robinson | Tuesday, September 11, 2012

UPDATE: Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel has been downgraded to doubtful for Friday's game at UNLV.

The Washington State Cougars offense has underachieved mightily so far under new coach Mike Leach. They visit the UNLV Rebels on Friday night and might be without their starting quarterback Jeff Tuel.

ESPN will have the kickoff from Sin City at 9:00 p.m. (ET) in the only game of the evening.

The Don Best odds screen has Washington State as 11-point road favorites despite the offensive struggles. The total has moved up to 55½ points after opening at 54.

Washington State (1-1 straight up, 0-2 against the spread) opened with a 30-6 loss at BYU as 13½-point ‘dogs before a close 24-20 win over Eastern Washington as 12½-point favorites in Leach’s home debut. The latter is not even a Division I (FBS) opponent, although the Eagles are one of the better FCS outfits.

The ‘under’ is 1-0 for Washington State as the Eastern Washington contest didn’t have a total. If it did, it certainly would’ve been significantly more than the 44 combined points scored.

Leach spent 10 years at Texas Tech ending in 2009 and his name is synonymous with a high-powered spread passing attack. That hasn’t translated so far in Pullman as the quarterback Tuel is only averaging 200 YPG despite completing 70.4 percent of his passes.

The senior Tuel also injured his knee in the fourth quarter last game and is listed as questionable. Sophomore Connor Halliday is the backup and he got some snaps last week (5-of-11 for 76 yards and one INT) and showed promise last year with a 494 yard passing effort against Arizona State.

Whoever is the quarterback will need help from the running game. The combination of Carl Winston and Teondary Caldwell combined for 113 yards against Eastern Washington (4.9 ypc) after just 11 against BYU (1.4 ypc).

UNLV (0-2 SU, 1-1 ATS) was expected to have a tough season out of the Mountain West Conference and hasn’t disappointed in that regard with home losses to Minnesota (30-27 triple OT) and FCS Northern Arizona (17-14). The attendance averaged under 16,000 and the Northern Arizona game was a further indignity as it was its first win over an FBS school in 25 years.

Coach Bobby Hauck won’t even match the two wins per season from his first two UNLV years at this rate. The offensive line returned all five starters and the team does have a good running back in junior Tim Cornett, who is averaging 134 YPG on 5.6 ypc.

The big problem is the passing game where redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Sherry has good size (6-5, 240 pounds) and a strong arm, but not the stats to match (177.5 YPG, 99th nationally). There is another option in junior Caleb Herring, who started eight games last year, but there is no talk of a switch.

These teams met last September at Washington State with the home team winning 59-7 as 14-point favorites. Then Cougars quarterback Marshall Lobbestael threw for 361 yards and five TDs, helping go ‘over’ the 54½-point total. Herring threw for just 60 yards on 20 attempts in an anemic performance.

UNLV is only averaging 13.5 PPG this year if the triple-OT against Minnesota is excluded, so it’s likely going to take another big offensive performance from Washington State to reach the 55½-point total.

Check out the Don Best Pro Odds for more information on this contest and the rest of Week 3 of the college football season.

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