Two teams will be entering rarefied air on New Year’s Day in the Cotton Bowl stadium. It will be the sixth bowl game for the North Texas Mean Green, its first since 2004, and they opened as favorites against the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.
UNLV plays in just its fourth bowl game in the school’s history and first since winning the Las Vegas Bowl in 2000. Neither team has ever played in a New Year’s Day bowl.
Heart of Dallas Bowl point spread: Mean Green opened as 6.5-point favorites; the total was 56. (Line updates and matchup report)
Odds Shark computer prediction: 38.4-25.7 Mean Green
Why North Texas will cover the spread
The Mean Green (8-4) played an unusually tough schedule this year and answered the bell. North Texas faced six bowl teams and beat three of them. Running Back Brandin Byrd, who rushed for 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns this year, will have a monster day on the ground against UNLV’s 110th ranked run defense.
The Rebels gave up 221.8 rushing yards per game, and Byrd finished the season hot, with more than 200 yards in two of his final three games.
North Texas will rely on its run game and its stout defense that finished ninth with only 18.1 points allowed per game. A win would extend the Heart of Dallas Bowl betting history of favorites getting the job done.
Why UNLV will cover the spread
After a dismal start to the year, the Rebels (7-5) got on a roll to finish with more wins than the previous three years combined. They are led by senior quarterback Caleb Herring, who threw for 2,522 yards and 22 touchdowns, with another five touchdowns on the ground.
His main target, Devante Davis, finished the year with the fourth most touchdown catches in the country with 14. Davis is a big red-zone target that is especially dangerous on fade routes in the back of the end zone.
UNLV struggled against the run but played much better down the stretch. And they face a North Texas team that has struggled to a 1-3 ATS mark recently in bowl action.
This game is a matchup of two very evenly matched teams. In that case, it’s always good to have 6.5 points in your pocket. Taking UNLV +6.5 is the smart play, with this game looking like a prime candidate for a nail-biter.
UNLV’s passing attack, complemented by the school’s all-time leading rusher Tim Cornett, will move the ball on North Texas’ tough defense.
The Mean Green will have success running the ball, but UNLV’s 33rd ranked pass defense will limit them through the air. Look for the Rebels to possibly win outright but at least keep it close and cover the 6.5.
- Favored team has won both prior games (formerly TicketCity Bowl)
- North Texas is 1-3 ATS in bowls (first since 2004)
- First UNLV bowl since winning Las Vegas Bowl in 2000