Without a signature win on the season, the UNLV Rebels are looking to make a statement following their 7-5 campaign with a win on New Year’s Day. The Rebels have lost to some top teams in the college football world this season and a win to give them eight on the year will ease the pain of five losses.
On the other side of the field, the North Texas Mean Green have had one of the best seasons in recent memory for the program. An 8-4 record heading into the postseason bowl game is more than anyone in the program could have hoped for after a 4-8 record in 2012.
The Rebels have a relatively balanced and consistent offense. They have ranked in the 50-range in the nation for most offensive categories this season. Senior quarterback Caleb Herring is having his best season as a college QB, passing for 2,522 yards and 22 touchdowns to go along with just four interceptions and a 64 percent completion rate. Devante Davis has been Herring’s favorite target this season, catching 77 passes for 1,194 yards and 14 touchdowns. Tim Cornett is, by far,the best rusher on the team with 1,251 yards and 15 touchdowns for the 52nd-best rushing offense.
North Texas has had one of its best season in quite some times thanks to the strong play of the running backs. However, you can’t sleep on the pass game, either, as there are two talented wide outs that have helped senior QB Derek Thompson excel at his job. Thompson has passed for 2,640 yards and 14 touchdowns while hitting Brelan Chancellor and Darnell Smith a combined 1,434 yards and seven touchdowns. Brandin Byrd leads the run game with 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns on a solid 5.6 yards per carry.
Defensively, the Mean Green have been solid this season. North Texas ranks ninth in the nation in points allowed per game as well as 24th in yards allowed per contest. The Rebels have been quite the opposite, ranking 94th in points allowed per game as well as 100th in yards allowed per game.
North Texas and UNLV will face off in the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl in Dallas, Texas, at 12 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Jan. 1. The game will be broadcasted on ESPNU.
PREDICTION: UNLV 28, North Texas 24
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.