2011 Record: (2-10, 1-6 in MWC)
Head Coach: Bobby Hauck (4-21 at UNLV, 84-38 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2000 Las Vegas Bowl: beat Arkansas 31-14
Must Win: 9/8 vs Northern Arizona
Stat to Cheer: +0.25 turnover margin (4th in MWC)
Stat to Fear: converted 28% of third downs in 2011 (last in MWC, 119th in Nation), had 103 plays of over 10 yards in 2011 (last in MWC, last in Nation); allowed 35 sacks in 2011 (tied for last in MWC, 104th in Nation)
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: (Offense: 7; Defense: 5; Specialists: 2)
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Princeton Jackson, DE James Boyd, CB Sidney Hodge
Key Offensive Returnees: RB Tim Cornett (671 yds rushing, 7 TD), QB Caleb Herring (8 TD, 6 INT), OT Brett Boyko
Where to start? Bobby Hauck went 80-17 at Montana but that wasn't exactly a rebuilding job. Hauck took over after Joe Glenn went 39-6 in three seasons at Montana. Hauck kept the machine going. At UNLV, Hauck has stepped into a job where the last coach only won 25% of his games. This will be Hauck's third season and in theory it should be one in which we start to see a turnaround.
UNLV's passing game really struggled last year and it's still unknown who will be the QB for this team when games start this fall. Returning starter Caleb Herring (54% completion %, 8 TD, 6 INT) will battle it out with redshirt freshman Nick Sherry. Not matter who wins the job, the passing game must be better if UNLV expect any improvement this season. The starting QB will have to improve the passing game without four of the top five receivers from last years squad. The good news is that there is a lot of experience returning on the OL.
UNLV leaned heavily on the running game last year as they ran the ball 65% of the time. Despite leaning on the running game, the Rebels weren't particularly good at it as they finished 76th in the Nation at 3.94 yards per carry. It's tough to be good at something when the opponent knows what is coming. In order for the running game to improve this year, the passing game has to improve. If that happens, then the running lanes will open up more and give the Rebels a choice on how to move the football.
On defense, UNLV loses three of it's top four tacklers but they do return a lot of young depth. They lose leading tackler Nate Carter but the linebacking corps should be a strength of the defense. One big concern for the defense will be getting after the QB. UNLV also loses DE James Dunlap and he was responsible for 6.5 of the teams 14 sacks. The front seven of this defense will decide how good the UNLV defense can be because they must replace four DBs that played a lot of downs last year.
UNLV is one of those teams that have a ton of question marks going into the season. They are also a team that quite honestly has a history of losing and the fact that they haven't been to a bowl game since 2000 cements that. Losing is something that is hard to correct and we are watching Bobby Hauck struggle with turning this team around. UNLV must show some type of improvement this season even if it doesn't translate into a huge change in their win-loss record. I guess UNLV doesn't think much of it's bowl chances this year because they have scheduled 13 games, that's one way to improve your wins year-over-year.
2012 Prediction: 3-10
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