Yesterday the Mountain West Conference announced the schedule for all 12 football teams for the 2020 season.
We knew who UNLV football’s non-conference opponents would be, but now, we know who the conference opponents are and the dates of the game.
With UNLV’s schedule announced, here is a quick reaction and breakdown of the Rebels’ schedule month by month
Cal August 29th
The first regular season football game in Allegiant Stadium will be a UNLV football game, as the Rebels host the Cal Golden Bears. There will be a lot of hype and anticipate around this game. It will be the first UNLV game in Allegiant Stadium and first game for new head coach Marcus Arroyo.
There should be a great crowd on hand to see not only a new era of Rebel football, but a new era of Las Vegas sports. Cal is slowly improving under head coach Justin Wilcox. The Bears should take another step forward this year and compete in the PAC-12 North.
Louisiana Tech September 5th
Arizona State September 12th
At Iowa State September 19th
The tough non-conference schedule is only beginning when Louisiana Tech and Arizona State make trips to Sin City. Currently, there is uncertainty where those two games will be played, as the Rebels are in a dispute with the Raiders over how many games the Rebels can play in Allegiant Stadium in this first season (as the Rebels have seven home games). What will likely happen is the Louisiana Tech game will be at Sam Boyd and the Arizona State game will be at Allegiant Stadium.
Enough of the stadium talk, regardless where UNLV plays its next two games, it will be a challenge. The Bulldogs won 10 games last season and are always contenders in Conference USA. Arizona State, just like Cal, is on the rise with coach Herm Edwards. The Sun Devils should compete for a PAC-12 South championship this year.
The Rebels take its first road trip of the year to face Iowa State. The last time UNLV went to Ames was under Mike Sanford and the game ended in bizarre fashion as Sanford ran in the athletic department building and tripped over wires on a catch that he did not think was a catch. It might be a relief for the Rebels to go on the road, and this could be a game UNLV could shock some with a statement win.
At San Diego State October 3rd
Wyoming October 10th
At San Jose State October 17th
Colorado State October 24th
At Boise State October 31st
UNLV does get a physical break, with a bye week, after the difficult non-conference schedule, but they do not get a break in difficulty of opponent with San Diego State and Wyoming. UNLV begins conference play with San Diego State, who is led by new coach Brady Hoke, but there should not be much fall off from the Rocky Long tenure.
Wyoming is a team that could push Boise State in the Mountain division and they gave the Rebels problems when UNLV went to Laramie last year. The game against the Cowboys will be the final of a six-game stretch of teams who made a bowl last season.
Next come two games the Rebels will have to win, if they are aspiring to get to a bowl game. UNLV gave up 50 points the last time they played in San Jose. The Spartans are much improved, after going 5-7 last season, but the Rebels were able to get a victory over them in the “final” game at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Colorado State comes to Las Vegas after the Rams blew out UNLV in Fort Collins last year. The Rams are led by new coach Steve Addazio. I am not sure where the Rams stand in the conference, even though they finished 4-8, they gave UNLV a lot of problems last, so this could be a close one.
UNLV rounds out October with a scary trip to the blue turf (on Halloween). Boise State might take a step back this season, but they will still be tough to beat at their place.
Fresno State November 7th
At Hawaii November 14th
UNR November 28th
After playing five games in the month of October, the Rebels get a light load to finish the season. They begin hosting Fresno State and on the road against Hawaii. Both programs will be with new head coaches. The Rebels made a lot of mistakes when they played Fresno State last year. Being at home should help UNLV against a Fresno State team we still have some questions on.
The road trip to Hawaii is always tough. Former Arizona State coach Todd Graham is at the helm for the Rainbow Warriors. The past few games between these two teams have been close. A lot of the questions about how this game will go down will stem from who the Hawaii quarterback is.
UNLV finishes its 2020 with a home game against UNR, the Battle of the Fremont Cannon. Given how the last two games in this series have gone, anything can happen. We have seen in the past, even if a team’s season is over (like UNLV’s has been the past two years), they will still come out fighting (literally) to win the Fremont Cannon. I am positive of one thing, UNR will not be happy if the lose three years in a row to UNLV.
What to expect
Marcus Arroyo did not get any breaks with the schedule in his first year. There is a possible path to six wins, but it will take a lot of things to go right for UNLV if they want to get to a bowl game this season. Even though Arroyo has brought in a great class, the first year will still be a challenging one. Expect some high points, like a possible win in Ames or San Diego, and head-scratching losses, like potentially Colorado State.
It is never fair to harshly criticize a coach after one year, especially with how tough this schedule is. But the biggest thing will be improvement. Just like how things are going with T.J. Otzelberger and the basketball team, Arroyo should be judged on how his team grows from the beginning of the season to the end.
It is also not fair to give a prediction, right now, on what UNLV’s record will in 2020. There still is spring ball and summer workouts that must take place before we get an idea on the identity and stars of the 2020 UNLV Rebels. If things go according to Arroyo’s plan, this will be the first year of a changing UNLV football culture.