FORT WORTH, Texas — Barring a near miraculous upset victory, today’s game at No. 18 Texas Christian is irrelevant for UNLV in the big picture.
It’s what happens after the 11:30 a.m. PST season finale that will go a long way in determining the future of Rebels football because coach Bobby Hauck has a number of decisions to make regarding recruiting and staff makeup.
The Horned Frogs have greater immediate goals than UNLV, because a victory gives them the outright Mountain West Conference championship in their final season before leaving for the Big 12. TCU (9-2, 6-0 MWC) is a 38½-point favorite.
Though Andy Dalton is chasing NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Frogs didn’t lose much at quarterback. Casey Pachall, who has a deep receiving corps led by Josh Boyce, has completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 2,530 yards and 24 touchdowns, with six interceptions.
"Both of them are great players," UNLV linebacker Nate Carter said of Pachall and Dalton. "I’d say either way we have our hands full."
TCU’s usually vaunted defense isn’t as stellar this season, but linebacker Tank Carder is the reigning Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.
For UNLV (2-9, 1-5), this is the end to another long season, and as Hauck finishes his second year, he must figure out a way to improve a program that hasn’t posted a winning record since 2000. The Rebels, who have lost 15 consecutive road games, probably will finish with two victories for the sixth time in eight seasons.
Hauck brought an 80-17 record from Montana but is 4-20 at UNLV. He has said multiple recruiting classes are needed to turn around the Rebels.
Coaches recruited in Las Vegas at the end of this week, and they will leave as early as Sunday night to visit out-of-town prospects. Hauck is expected to be out of the office recruiting most of next week.
"Playing this week can be viewed as a detriment to us a little bit because we are in an active recruiting period," Hauck said. "All the staffs that aren’t playing this week are on the road recruiting, and we’ve got to prepare for a ranked TCU team. It shorts us one of the three weeks prior to Christmas.
"So we’ve got to multitask a bit this week."
Next year, the Rebels should receive key players lost to academics before the season — wide receivers Marcus Sullivan and Eric Johnson, defensive lineman Louvan Green and safety Dre Crawford.
Others who redshirted could make significant impacts next season, including freshman quarterback Nick Sherry, freshman cornerback Fred Wilson and offensive lineman Allen Carroll, a junior college transfer.
Player personnel isn’t the only issue. Hauck also will take a look at the coaching staff.
"That’s all stuff that you do after the season wraps up," he said.
Neither Hauck nor athletic director Jim Livengood will discuss specifics regarding the staff, but it’s clear they have open communication on any potential changes throughout the program.
"Will I have discussions with Bobby as we move forward?" Livengood asked. "Absolutely. That’s a no-brainer.
"I would say, and I’m sure Bobby would say, our offseason winter conditioning, recruiting and spring ball are real important. It’s important any time. It’s more important because we’re in a growth period. We will be in Year 3. The offseason is very important in every aspect.
"Very important would be an understatement."
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.UNLV VS. TEXAS CHRISTIAN
■ WHEN: 11:30 a.m. today
■ WHERE: Amon Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
■ TV/RADIO: Versus (38); KWWN (1100 AM, 98.9 FM)
■ LINE: Texas Christian -38½; total 57