Viva Las Vegas! The University of Nevada, Las Vegas football team officially held its first practice ever in the steamy month of July. This was due to the fact that they have a game just 20 days away in their Week 0 games at home against Idaho State. This team is withstanding the heat of the desert and preparing for the season ahead. There seems to be a buzz around the first few days of practice with a lot of new faces running around after a heavy recruiting off-season.
As I said before, UNLV has a predominately young squad with a few older guys being able to rise up and take more leadership roles. However, the biggest leadership role position on the team, Quarterback, has a few younger guys fighting for the position. The two Sophomores, Doug Brumfield and Harrison Bailey look to be the likely candidates to win the starting job this year. Bailey, a transfer from Tennessee, was a 5-star prospect coming out of high school and is now reunited with his former favorite target back in high school Richy White who was also a transfer from Michigan State. I see Bailey winning the starting job just because of his experiences with the game at a higher level in the SEC. The two freshmen, Jayden Maiava from Liberty HS in Las Vegas and Cameron Friel from Kailuah HS, in Hawaii could have more productive roles in the future of this season. I have a feeling this offense will have a lot of moving parts before guys establish that they are the definite starter.
Now the defense is something to take note of. A lot of additions on the defensive side of the ball can be a key part to help this team get more wins than in previous years. This defense is bigger, faster, and stronger than in previous because they have out-recruited themselves year-in and year-out. Bringing more guys in helps the returners play harder so they do not get their spot taken. Defensive Backs have gotten a huge upgrade and veteran Nohl Williams is there to help them get to the level of play he is at and maybe even better. Two guys on this defense who were transfers coming in that I really like are OLB Jordan Eubanks from Texas who was a Redshirt Freshman at Florida State has been playing great in practice and is listed as number two at the STUD position (Stand-Up Outside Linebacker). There is a chance he could be in that number one spot by the time the season is underway. Another guy that is on my radar is Trenton Holloway, a DB transfer from City College of San Francisco. He is big and explosive and should be able to be a disruption to the passing offenses of the Mountain West. He also is listed as the number two guy at safety but he also is a sleeper that possibly could get a lot of playing time in the future of this season.
With only being a two-win team last year, UNLV is ready to bounce back after the near rock bottom season. However, the only good thing about being near rock bottom is the really only way to go is up. I believe UNLV will win a few more games this year, but they will still have a challenging time against the bigger football schools in the Mountain West like Fresno State and San Diego State.
Week 0 (Aug. 27th) vs. Idaho State -
Idaho State played a Mountain West School last year and got destroyed by them. Now that school? That school was UNLV’s in-state rival, the Nevada Wolfpack. I know the Wolfpack had Carson Strong, Romeo Doubs, and Cole Turner, who all got drafted this April to the NFL, but with this new team of young recruits, this Rebel team can play the same way and put up big numbers against Idaho State.
Prediction - 38-13, UNLV W (1-0)
Week 1 (Sept. 10) @ Cal -
The Rebels will be going into Berkeley to play Cal as their first road game. Now even though the Bears have lost their starting QB to the NFL draft this year, they are still a PAC-12 school and will be a decent football program next year. The young UNLV squad will have a tough time against the PAC-12 opponent and it is also their first road game. I believe the Rebels can keep in close with their new recruits they got on both the offensive side and the defensive side. Everyone knows it is difficult to go on the road and win in college football.
Prediction - 28-17, UNLV Loss (1-1)
Week 2 (Sept. 17) vs North Texas -
Now North Texas was a middle of the road team last year, but being in the C-USA they play some pretty decent teams like Liberty and UTEP. This game will be a close game and really show the true competitiveness of the Rebels. I believe this game could go down to the wire and be very low scoring. I think UNLV pulls it out late in the fourth quarter or even in overtime.
Prediction - 17-16, UNLV Win (2-1)
Week 3 (Sept. 24th) @ Utah State -
Week 3 is when the conference games start. The Rebels go to Logan, Utah to face the Aggies. It is going to be difficult for the Rebels to get the win in this game because it is on the road and Utah State made it to the Mountain West Championship last year. They are a decent football team that will be able to keep the Rebels in check.
Prediction - 28-17, UNLV Loss (2-2)
Week 4 (Oct. 1st) vs New Mexico -
New Mexico is not a good football team. They actually lost to UNLV last year when they both only had about three wins on the season. They play them at home in Allegiant Stadium, their first conference game at home. I believe that UNLV will win this one by a few. Last year’s score was 31-17, I believe it will be around that same score in this year’s battle.
Prediction - 35-20, UNLV Win (3-2)
Week 5 (Oct. 8th) @ San Jose State -
Going into San Jose could be a difficult game to win for UNLV, but the Spartans are not what they were a few years ago. With their stadium they will not be able to hold the capacity of a normal college stadium so the home team fans will not be a factor in the game. UNLV could go into San Jose and pull this win off and get their first road win of the season, which is a difficult feat in itself. However, it will be a close and gritty football game.
Prediction - 21-17, UNLV Win (4-2)
Week 6 (Oct. 15th) vs Air Force -
Even though they will be at home, the Rebels will have a very tough time against an Air Force squad who always seems to be decent. The Rebels are going to fight hard but they will not be able to pull this one off. This game will most likely be their first home loss of the season. The young UNLV team will have to show toughness to maybe win this game, but it will probably be too tough of a test for the Rebels.
Prediction - 42-31, UNLV Loss (4-3)
Week 7 (Oct. 22nd) @ Notre Dame -
This game is going to be a challenge for them as Notre Dame is one of the best teams in the country. But, sometimes, the better the competition, the better teams will play. That is because the want to win is greater than playing someone like Idaho State. If the defense can step up to get some four and outs out of the Fighting Irish, it will give the offense more opportunity to score without being too far behind.
Prediction - 49-13, UNLV Loss (4-4)
Week 8 - BYE
Week 9 (Nov. 5th) @ San Diego State -
After most likely having a very difficult week at Notre Dame before the bye week, after their week off they will be going to the beautiful San Diego, Calif. to play the Aztecs of SDSU. SDSU won the Mountain West last year and they are a well put together team this year. I don’t see this game going in UNLV’s favor. They will be rested coming off their bye week so it’ll be a good football game after it is all said and done, but UNLV will probably won’t be on top.
Prediction - 30-24, UNLV Loss (4-5)
Week 10 (Nov. 12th) vs Fresno State -
UNLV, last year, went into Fresno and was leading at half time. They didn’t end up winning because of a prolific passing attack from Fresno State. This year it is in Vegas, but the Bulldogs will have pretty much the same passing attack this year, if not better. This will be another challenging task for the Rebels to beat a team that will most likely start with a Top 25 spot or eventually get one throughout the season. Also, former Bulldogs Derek Carr and Davante Adams will most likely be at the game, given that they play for the Las Vegas Raiders.
Prediction - 42-20, UNLV Loss (4-6)
Week 11 (Nov. 19th) @ Hawaii -
Now, the University of Hawaii is not usually very good at football, but somehow they always have a decent record at home. That’s because it is hard to fly six plus hours to play a football game. It’s also Hawaii which is hard to stay focused on. Even though UNLV could possibly be a better team, they are going to have a tough week against the Rainbow Warriors.
Prediction - 30-27, UNLV Loss (4-7)
Week 12 (Nov. 26th) vs Nevada -
It’s the battle for the Fremont Cannon. The rivalry for essentially the only two big schools in Nevada. The cannon has been blue for the past few years. Does the cannon get painted red this year? With most of Nevada’s star players either going to the NFL or transferring elsewhere, this could be in UNLV’s favor. It will be the last game of the year so both teams are going to be playing their hardest and wanting to paint the cannon their respected schools color.
Prediction: 27-24, UNLV Win, (5-7)
Thoughts and Opinions
The Rebels have the potential this year to be a 6/7 win team if they can pull off some upset games. A realistic prediction is them winning 5 games and taking down the in-state rival Nevada and painting the Fremont cannon red for the first time in a few years. I believe this team is just about a couple or so years from being a good team in the Mountain West and putting together 7, 8, even 9 win seasons.
We will find out in a little less than three weeks from now as Week 0 kicks off at home in Allegiant Stadium for the Rebels.