Quick, who would win between the Montana Grizzlies and the UNLV Rebels? I ask because the entire Montana coaching staff came over and is now in their second season in Vegas.
Year one was quite the struggle, going 2-11, as they were outgained by 148.3 yards per game in conference play. That was the second worst in the MWC, and the even more amazing stat is that the Rebels walked away from the season without having any All-MWC players for the first time since 1982!
Bobby Hauck has had quite the history and has endured a laundry list of success at FCS school Montana, where he went 80-17 and went to the playoffs seven straight seasons.
This also includes three FCS Championships and seven Big Sky Conference titles, while recording a ridiculous 47-6 record in conference. Now, only if his success would automatically carry over to the big boys.
The Rebels may have their fun in Vegas during the offseason, but during the season they have been miserable. The past 10 seasons, UNLV was the worst of any team in the MWC, posting a 19-57 record.
In the past five years, they are just 9-31, which is tied with CSU for the worst record.
In the last three years, they are surprisingly jumbled in the middle of the MWC, as they are 7-17 (fourth to last).
The offense has seven back from a team that was ranked 118th in total offense, averaging just 274 yards per game.
There are some teams that average that amount of yards in just their passing game. In the passing game, look for a ton of threaded needles to receivers Keith Payne and Michael Johnson. Both are talented guys, who could get a look at the next level.
The Rebels' quarterback quandary is another issue that I am not going to even touch, other then they lose Omar Clayton, who was one of their more gifted quarterbacks in recent memory. Junior college transfer Sean Reilly drew looks from Kansas and Virginia, and is my best guess at starting under center.
The line is better than New Mexico’s, but that is the only thing they can pride themselves on, because both lines of scrimmage are abysmal. Winning battles in the trenches is something most coaches take pride in, and Coach Hauck has yet to be able to recruit solid studs up front in the one year he has been there.
The Rebels' defense has only four starters returning, which is not a good sign for a team that finished ranked 109th in total defense, 116th in scoring, 116th in run defense and 77th in pass defense.
The front four must improve, and the staff is clearly trying as they have recruited and landed several junior college players. B.J. Bell may be impressive at times, but overall, this is the worst defensive line in the MWC.
The linebackers are also arguably the worst in the MWC, as only Nate Carter (35 tackles, 1 INT), Tani Maka and Princeton Jackson are worthy of getting some hype. Maka was a UCLA transfer who did not qualify last year, and Jackson is among the best transfers in the entire conference at his position.
The secondary has two solid corners in Quinton Pointer and Will Chandler, but they must play perfect coverage, because the safeties are extremely inexperienced.
I truly believe UNLV can become a bowl team in three years. The Rebels will continue to struggle for the next season or two, as they should fail to top two to three wins, because they still lack the overall depth that is expected when a coaching overhaul occurs.
Predicted Finish: 1-11, 0-7
Predicted Bowl: None
Predicted order of finish in MWC: Eighth