You find the evidence on Page 81 of the UNLV football media guide, where tentative nonconference schedules for the Rebels are listed through 2017.
There are teams such as UCLA and Michigan and Brigham Young.
There are teams such as Central Michigan and Idaho.
There are several TBAs.
If he has enough success this season to remain UNLV’s coach, Bobby Hauck has plans for the latter.
“Winnable games,” he said.
The Rebels open a fourth season under Hauck against Minnesota today on the turf of TCF Bank Stadium, and while the Mall of America in nearby Bloomington is the size of 78 football fields (9.5 million square feet for you trivia buffs), UNLV is concerned only with how it performs on one.
It has lost 20 straight road games under Hauck, and included among them are eight nonconference decisions to teams ranging from Wisconsin to Louisiana Tech to those mighty Idaho Vandals.
Now, the Rebels get another shot at a Big Ten Conference team that begins with the letter M but is hardly Michigan.
“There are no gimmes for us,” said Hauck, who is 6-32 at UNLV. “We just need to improve and find ways to win. For us, everyone is a quality opponent. We hope we are evolving to the point where everyone feels the same about us. We haven’t played well on the road. We need to flip that switch at some point. Whether it’s (today) or not, we get to see. I think it would be a major accomplishment if we were able to come in here and beat them.”
In the way of breaking such a horrid losing streak, definitely. But it’s also true Hauck has his best team at UNLV, and, while all things are relative given the program’s record under him, it in a fourth year should be good enough to compete with a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten opponent picked to finish last in its Legends Division.
The teams played at Sam Boyd Stadium last year, and Minnesota escaped with a triple-overtime victory. We’re not talking a talent disparity here of the New England Patriots to Palo Verde High School.
Minnesota went 6-7 last season, losing to Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Jerry Kill is the Gophers’ coach known for producing terrific third seasons while turning around losing programs, having gone a combined 20-5 at Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois in those times.
This is Year Three for Kill at Minnesota, a 14-point favorite against the Rebels.
It’s also exactly the type of game UNLV should play each season.
In building a scheduling philosophy, Hauck couldn’t be more correct about the path UNLV should follow to possibly deliver a competitive nature in football. It’s a difficult thing, a university reeling from harsh economic times, to turn down the sometimes seven-figure payout that comes with agreeing to such a game as at Michigan in September 2015.
It helps the bank account and yet usually does little for those players getting whacked on a scoreboard.
It goes to the decisions athletic directors must make about a budget’s bottom line as opposed to a coach worried about countless injuries to his interior line.
“When you talk about scheduling Wisconsin or Michigan or Texas or Florida or Ohio State, that’s easy,” Hauck said. “Those teams want to play games against our league in the nonconference. Those aren’t hard games to get. But when I look at scheduling and at teams that historically have not been good — at UNLV, we’re looking at maybe three (actually, six) winning seasons the last 30 years — I look at what Oregon State did in the late 1990s and Kansas State in the mid-1990s and how Colorado State turned things around under (former coach) Sonny Lubick.
“All those teams scheduled winnable games that at least put them near an even playing field in the nonconference. I don’t think anyone would say UNLV and Michigan are on an even playing field. That’s my scheduling philosophy — schedule games where we are even with people.”
Translation: Play an annual nonconference schedule much like the one UNLV faces in 2013.
This week is followed by home games against Arizona, Central Michigan and Western Illinois, meaning three bowl teams from last year exist among UNLV’s first four games and yet not to the level in which the Rebels shouldn’t have at least a chance to win each one.
That’s what should be expected in a coach’s fourth season, home or away.
The Rebels should compete for a win tonight, because the only thing Minnesota has in common with Michigan is the M.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.