UNLV Football: Ohio State Preview
Tony Sanchez will open his third season as head coach of the UNLV Rebels with redshirt freshman Armani Rogers at quarterback. Game three of 2017 is a trip to Ohio State.
UNLV travels to Ohio State to close out non-conference play.
Look alive, UNLV super fans, a new era of Rebel football is upon us.
Tony Sanchez enters his third season at the helm of southern Nevada’s preeminent collegiate football program, and he does so with weaponry that has not been at this disposal during his first two campaigns. Chiefly, redshirt freshman quarterback Armani Rogers.
That’s who will be under center when the season gets underway in Las Vegas September 2nd, against Howard. Last month Sanchez anointed Rogers his new starting signal caller, beating out Kurt Palandech and Johnny Stanton.
A week after Howard, the Rebels have a road date with Idaho. A bye week follows, then a matchup with Ohio State in Columbus. Say a prayer, UNLV fans. Here’s what the Buckeyes look like.
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Mascot: Brutus Buckeye
Coach: Urban Meyer
Conference: Big Ten (East Division)
2016 Record: 11-2, 8-1 Conference
JT Barrett, Quarterback
If you’re even a casual consumer of top tier college football, I’m unlikely to tell you anything you don’t already know about JT Barrett. The Ohio State senior QB holds his share of Buckeye football records. The important ones like career touchdowns, passing touchdowns, and total offense.
Last season he threw for north of 2,500 yards and 24 touchdowns while adding another nine scores on the ground. It’s possible we haven’t seen the best of Barrett. In January Urban Meyer added offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson to his staff. The former Indiana head coach has a penchant for getting the most out of offenses. He could make an already supremely talented group that much more dynamic.
Jerome Baker, Linebacker
Jerome Baker returns to a defensive unit that allowed fewer than 15 points per contest last year. That’s against Big Ten opponents. They played a pair of non-Power Five schools before the start of conference play, Bowling Green and Tulsa, and won those games by a combined score of 125-13.
Baker’s 83 tackles were second on the Buckeyes a season ago, and he’ll only feature more prominently in the Ohio State defense in 2017. He’s an All-Big Ten level talent. The UNLV offensive line is arguably the top unit in the Mountain West Conference. They’ll need to play to that level, and then some, if the Rebels are going to keep this one respectable. If things do get out of hand, hopefully the UNLV can find some solace in appreciating they’re watching NFL talent in Baker. Maybe that’s no solace.
Ohio State is very good. UNLV is little more than a blip on their schedule. The Rebels are entering of the most important seasons in program history. Fans are looking for Sanchez’s squad to take a noticeable step towards bowl eligibility.
Anything short of a trip to the College Football Playoff will be a significant disappointment for the Buckeyes. Six wins and a mid-December bowl will be enough to have UNLV fans partying through the winter and spring. Win or lose the trip to Columbus and the national television exposure that comes with it is a nice feather in the cap for the Rebs.
That said, there’s a big difference between the 20-13 loss Northern Illinois suffered against Ohio State in 2015, and the 77-10 beat down the Buckeyes gave Bowling Green in the opening week last season.
What do you want me to say? I’m a UNLV fan. So the goal here is to offer a prediction that is realistic, while not being overtly insulting to the Rebel faithful. In the Sanchez era, the Rebs have faced three Power Five opponents. While they’ve not come close to pulling an upset, they’ve also not been crushed to the extent that they’ve made headlines.
Last year at UCLA, the Bruins ran it to 42-24 against the Rebels. The season before UNLV fell to Michigan 28-7, more than covering the five touchdown spread.
Rogers under center makes this one difficult to call. OSU should win handily, but how close can Armani and company keep things in front of 104,000 scarlet and gray clad fans? Whatever the outcome, welcoming San Jose State to Sam Boyd Stadium on September 30th should be a welcome reprieve.
Ohio State 45, UNLV 14