WHEN: Wednesday, January 1, noon ET
WHERE: Cotton Bowl Stadium, Dallas,Tex.
CONFERENCES: MWC vs.C-USA
WEB STREAMING: Watch ESPN
After finishing tied for third in the West Division, the UNLV Rebels (7-5) (5-3) are headed to Texas to play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on January 1. They'll be up against Conference USA's North Texas Mean Green (8-4) (6-2), who finished tied for second in that league's own West Division. UNLV grabbed an invite after the Big Ten fell short of its tie-in allotment. The Mountain West has secondary rights to the game and can grab a bid if either C-USA or the Big Ten can't fulfill their obligation.
UNLV makes its first postseason trip since the year 2000, when they went 8-5 and defeated Arkansas in the Las Vegas Bowl. This is also the Rebels' first .500 or better record since 2003 (6-6), and the first time since 2009 they won more than two games in a single season. North Texas has never beaten UNLV in three tries, most recently losing 38-0 to the Rebels in 2000.
Both UNLV coach Bobby Hauck (who likely saved his job this season) and athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy expressed their excitement about the game in a press release this afternoon. While the pomp and circumstance of a "New Year's Day Bowl Game' has faded a bit over time (what with 35 games this season), this is still an important achievement for both teams, but especially the Rebels. It's been a rough decade and change for the football program and winning a game like this could mean big things going forward.