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UNLV ready for title shot: ‘We understand the responsibility we have’

Updated December 2, 2023 - 8:58 am

Barry Odom, just like he does every week, took his seat in the media room at the Fertitta Football Complex on Friday.

The UNLV football coach still donned his white baseball cap with the school’s logo emblazoned across the front. He thanked people for attending, recapped the Rebels’ past game and talked about the upcoming challenges.

The Mountain West logo lingering over his right shoulder was the only difference. It served as a reminder of the upcoming conference championship game and the chance UNLV has to make program history.

“We’re one of 20 teams practicing today,” Odom said. “We’re getting ready for a championship game, and I think that speaks volumes about the locker room we have and the opportunities they’ve created for themselves.”

UNLV (9-3) will host Boise State (7-5) at Allegiant Stadium in the Mountain West championship game at noon Saturday. It’s the Rebels’ first appearance in the conference title game in program history. Both teams were selected by composite computer rankings after finishing in a three-way tie for first place with San Jose State.

“We understand the responsibility we have to go play really well and play our best ball in all three phases,” Odom said. “It will take that effort to have a chance to have success.”

Reaching a conference championship game is an achievement in and of itself for the Rebels and Odom, who is finishing his first season in charge of the program.

UNLV’s nine wins rank second in program history. It’s also just the Rebels’ second winning season since coach John Robinson led them to an 8-5 record in 2000.

Boise State, on the other hand, has long represented the Mountain West’s best. The Broncos have won 10 or more games eight times since joining the conference in 2011. They’ve played in six of the past seven conference championship games, winning their most recent title in 2019. Boise State hasn’t had a losing season since 1997.

The Broncos’ all-time record against the Rebels is 8-3, including a 5-0 mark since the two became Mountain West foes. The most recent meeting between the two teams was a 38-13 Boise State win at Sam Boyd Stadium in 2019.

Fortunes have shifted this season. UNLV cruised to a 6-1 start with Odom at the helm, only falling to No. 2 Michigan. Boise State was blown out in its opener by No. 3 Washington 56-19 and lost 18-16 to Central Florida the next week.

The Broncos dropped three of their next seven games as well to fall to 4-5. A 42-14 win against New Mexico on Nov. 11 brought the team’s record back to .500, but coach Andy Avalos was fired the next day.

Defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson was named Boise State’s interim coach for the rest of the season. He led the Broncos to consecutive wins against Utah State and Air Force to clinch their spot in the championship game.

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

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