3 Most Important Games on UNLV’s 2017 Schedule
Will the UNLV Rebels ever be real players on the college football scene? Three games on their 2017 schedule will tell us whether or not they’re for real.
Here are the three games on the 2017 UNLV Rebels football schedule you should pay particularly close attention to.
2017 is the most important year in UNLV Rebels football history. Do the Rebs have to be bowl eligible this season to call the campaign a success? No. But they have to come damn close.
Three games stand out on this season’s UNLV football schedule. They’re not all winnable, but they will give us a good look at what we can expect from the Rebels moving forward.
UNLV’s situation is unique. There is no program in the nation like theirs. They’re a Group of Five team without much success to speak of, and if this team were located virtually anywhere else in the country, there would be little reason to think this reality would change.
The Rebels are different, though. If they play their cards right they have a chance to eventually enter the national conversation. The NFL is coming to town, as well as a gigantic new house in which to play football.
The Rebs are going to get a piece of that pie. Whether or not that translates into marked success for UNLV, we’ll have to see. All the opportunity is there. Shiny new football facility, check. Young, charismatic head coach, check. Athletic quarterback with loads of upside, check.
The time is now. Circle these three dates on your calendar.
September 23rd – at Ohio State
UNLV is not going to beat Ohio State the third week of the season. Let’s get that out of the way.
But we’re going to learn a ton about the Rebels when they travel to Columbus, Ohio for their third game of the season. Last season the Buckeyes delivered a 77-10 beating to Bowling Green the first week of the season. Figures like that could set an awful tone for the start of the UNLV conference season.
The year before a pair of MAC opponents, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan, played the Buckeyes considerably closer. Ohio State and WMU reached a 38-12 outcome while Huskies were within a touchdown at 20-13. Both those scores would be fine with the Rebs. There’s losing and then there’s losing.
Most important though, is the quarterback play of redshirt freshman Armani Rogers. He carries a lot of expectations with him. A road date with Ohio State is a tall task for his third game under center. He does not need to put the Rebels in a position to win. That’s unrealistic. He does need to make head coach Tony Sanchez and the UNLV faithful confident that they have found their quarterback of the future. By limiting turnovers and showcasing a few bright spots in a hostile environment, he’ll do just that.
September 30th – vs. San Jose State
It’s going to be an important couple of weeks for the Rebels. The first conference game of the season against the San Jose State Spartans is more critical than it may seem.
Firstly, it may be the opportunity for UNLV to enter October with a .500 record, an accomplishment they’ve not achieved since the 2013 season. Howard to open the season is a probable win, Ohio State certainly is a probable loss. A win at Idaho on September 9th and the SJSU game provides UNLV with an opportunity to take a measurable step towards climbing the West Division ladder.
Greater still, the game against the Spartans is one the Rebels typically lose. I don’t just mean games against San Jose State necessarily, though that’s also true, but games against opponents that are like San Jose State.
UNLV in the Sanchez era can play up to their competition. The best example of that is probably last year’s game against Wyoming. The Cowboys entered Las Vegas 7-2 and left Sin City on the wrong end of a 69-66 triple overtime thriller.
That’s probably the marquee win of Sanchez’s tenure thus far at UNLV. But now he’s got to win the ones he’s supposed to win. San Jose State has beaten UNLV in four consecutive seasons. Last year it was a six point game in northern California, the season before the Spartans outlasted the Rebels 33-27 in overtime. The SJSU game in sandwiched in between the Ohio State game and San Diego State in Vegas. I’ve said enough. UNLV needs to beat San Jose State.
November 25th at Nevada
I know, I know. You could easily say that UNLV’s game with the Nevada Wolf Pack for the Fremont Cannon is among their biggest games every year. This year’s installment of the 43-year rivalry could mean more than it ever has.
Maybe that’s hyperbole, but not by much. It’s entirely possible that the game with the Wolf Pack could be what determines whether or not UNLV is bowl eligible for just the third time this millennium.
It would also help get a bad taste out of the mouths of UNLV fans. A week after last year’s Wyoming game, the Rebels suffered a predictable loss at #22 Boise State. They wrapped up the 2016 season with their rivalry game, and it would have been easy to call the year a big success, at least by UNLV standards, with a win.
The Wolf Pack smashed the Rebels 45-10 in front of considerably fewer UNLV fans than were present at kickoff. Nevada is in a place of transition itself. Last season’s win over the Rebels capped a 5-7 campaign for Reno but it wasn’t enough to save head coach Brian Polian’s job. He was fired the day after Nevada captured the Fremont Cannon.
All of which is to say this is a game UNLV needs a victory in this one. Las Vegas locals have been patient but are ready for a winner. Convincing a fan base to stay invested late in the season isn’t getting easier. It will get that much harder if the Rebels struggle to close the gap between themselves and their in-state rivals.