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‘Isn’t it awesome?’: UNLV eyes closing stretch for conference title

Updated November 3, 2023 - 10:46 pm

Two-thirds of UNLV’s season is complete. Bowl eligibility has already been achieved with four games remaining in the Rebels’ regular-season schedule, and coach Barry Odom’s squad is right in the thick of the Mountain West title race.

“Isn’t it awesome?” Odom said. “We’re getting into November, and we’re in the hunt for the conference championship.”

The difficulty of the schedule for the Rebels (6-2, 3-1 Mountain West) will ratchet up during this final stretch, but Odom and his players understand they still control their own destiny.

“We still feel like we’re the best team in this conference,” junior wide receiver Ricky White said.

No. 17-ranked Air Force (8-0, 5-0) leads the Mountain West, and UNLV is tied for second with Boise State (4-4, 3-1) and Fresno State (7-1, 3-1).

Here’s a preview of UNLV’s final four regular-season games:

Saturday at New Mexico

The Lobos (3-5, 1-3) earned their lone Mountain West win Oct. 21, blowing out Hawaii 42-21 in Albuquerque.

The Rebels have history on their side. UNLV leads the head-to-head series against New Mexico 14-12, making the Lobos the only Mountain West team with a sub-.500 winning percentage against the Rebels.

New Mexico is led by quarterback Dylan Hopkins, who has thrown for 1,638 yards and 11 touchdowns this season while completing 58.1 percent of his passes. He had 202 yards and three touchdowns against Hawaii to end New Mexico’s 14-game conference losing streak, but threw three interceptions during a 34-24 loss to UNR last week.

Nov. 10 vs. Wyoming

UNLV returns home for the first time since its walk-off win against Colorado State on Oct. 21 when it hosts the Cowboys.

Wyoming (6-3, 3-2), which defeated Colorado State 24-15 on Friday, has had a mixed season. The Cowboys started the year by upsetting Texas Tech in double overtime, hung tough with No. 7 Texas for three quarters and beat reigning conference champion Fresno State.

Wyoming has lost to the conference’s other best teams, though, dropping consecutive games to Air Force (34-27) and Boise State (32-7). The Cowboys are also 0-3 on the road this season.

Nov. 18 at No. 17 Air Force

The Falcons’ triple-option offense is demolishing opponents. They have scored 39 points or more in half their games, and they average 306 yards rushing per game, while their stout defense allows fewer than 14 points per game.

Air Force only has three conference games remaining, though it finishes the season on the road against Boise State.

Nov. 25 vs. San Jose State

The Spartans (4-5, 3-2) got off to a 1-5 start after a tough nonconference schedule that featured No. 24 Southern California, No. 16 Oregon State and Toledo (now 8-1), followed by losses to Air Force and Boise State.

San Jose State has turned things around with three straight wins and is on a bye week before facing Fresno State on Nov. 11.

If the Spartans lose to the Bulldogs, they will have to win out to become bowl-eligible, meaning the Rebels may have a very motivated opponent for the season finale at Allegiant Stadium.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on X.

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