The North Texas Mean Green and UNLV Rebels will meet on New Year’s Day in historic Cotton Bowl Stadium in the fourth annual Heart of Dallas Bowl, formerly the Ticket City Bowl. This will be the fifth time these two teams have met, with UNLV winning all previous meetings. The last meeting was in Las Vegas in 2000, which UNLV won 38-0. But this is not the same North Texas type of team which struggled in previous meetings. This year’s Mean Green team has a “never say die attitude” and can surprise teams who think they won’t struggle with them, just ask Ball State.
This will be the first local Bowl game for the Mean Green, but it will be their third game in the state of Texas. This will also be the second time the Mean Green has played on New Year’s Day. North Texas will enter the game trying to win their ninth game for the fifth time in school history and this year’s team could tie for 2nd on most wins in a season on school history. There has been a big attitude change under head Coach Dan McCarney, North Texas has outscored out of conference opponents 116-105, and this is the first time a Mean Green team has done this since 1994.
While North Texas carries a balanced attack, the key to this game will be getting the rushing attack going early, because this team is undefeated when they can rush for 150 plus yards. Take into account it is a local bowl game, the Mean Green aren’t afraid of out of conference opponents and this team wants to end this bowl drought with a victory, it will almost be a home game for the Mean Green and they should rise up to the challenge.
UNLV on the other hand has had to travel to Dallas, but this team is back in a bowl game for the first time since 2000. But don’t think there isn’t some familiarity to Texas for the Rebels squad, they have 10 players from the state of Texas on their roster and their trip to the Heart of Dallas Bowl will be the 16th time they have played in the state of Texas. But this will be their first time playing on New Year’s Day and second time playing in historic Cotton Bowl Stadium. This will also be the first time since 1984 that UNLV is playing at a neutral site and only the fourth time in program history.
UNLV has never lost a bowl game and is the only school to accomplish that feat with at least three appearances. But this will be their first bowl game outside of Las Vegas since 1984. While this team hasn’t traveled a lot for their bowl destinations, they have won and will be a tough opponent for North Texas. Don’t think this Rebels team lies down and dies when they get behind, they have come back from as much as 21 points down to win games this season, so the Rebels can fight back from behind and win a game.
This will be the first time since 2004 for the Rebels to wear player’s names on their uniforms. This will make the game more special for the players, especially the seniors. While North Texas will look to be balanced and rush the ball, the Mean Green defense will have their hands full with Caleb Herring; he has made a name for himself in the Mountain West conference and has climbed the charts of the career stats at UNLV.
This will be a great start off to the New Year’s day slate of games, I expect to see a back and forth affair between these two offenses, but I think the Mean Green find a way to pull this one out so close to home. North Texas 35 – UNLV 28.