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UNLV meets North Texas Wednesday in Dallas
By: Freddy Wander - StatFox
Published: 1/1/2014  at  5:39:00 AM
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UNLV REBELS (7-5)
vs. NORTH TEXAS MEAN GREEN (8-4)

Heart of Dallas Bowl
Cotton Bowl Stadium - Dallas, TX
Kickoff: Wednesday, 12:00 p.m. ET
Line: North Texas -6.5, Total: 54.5

Two programs that have not won a bowl game in over a decade, UNLV and North Texas, square off in Dallas on New Year’s Day for the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

The Rebels put together their first winning season since 2000, which is also the last time that they won a bowl game. The season looked to be in jeopardy when they opened November by losing two games at home in consecutive weeks to fall to 5-5, but they pulled things together and won their final two games by an average of 23 points. UNLV has played in only four bowl games in its history, but has won three straight, including a 31-14 victory over Arkansas back in the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl as 1.5-point underdogs. The Mean Green will be in their first bowl game since going to the New Orleans Bowl over four consecutive years from 2001 to 2004. They went 1-3 (both SU and ATS) in those New Orleans Bowl games, while having the total go Under in the past three contests. But North Texas was tremendous in its first season in Conference USA, and went 6-2 (both SU and ATS) in conference play, finishing tied for second in the Western division. The Mean Green defeated their conference foes by an average of 26.8 PPG over the six victories. These two programs have squared off twice since 1999, but last played in 2000 when the Rebels defeated the Mean Green 38-0. UNLV is 6-0 ATS after playing a home game this season, but North Texas is 11-1 ATS in the past two seasons when the total is between 49.5 and 56. There are no significant injuries for either team in this game.

Which school will end its bowl drought on Wednesday? For the answer, connect to College Football Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 regular season and bowl season. The four experts finished the regular season a collective 51.1% ATS (120-115-7) on college football Best Bets, led by StatFox Dave's stellar 57% ATS (35-25-2) mark. This included a 64% ATS (23-13-2) record in his final 11 weeks. StatFox Gary was 2-1 ATS in the final week to finish 53% ATS (21-19-1) in the regular season. Gary was 56% ATS (20-16-1) in college football Best Bets since Week 3. StatFox Brian also finished strong with a 3-1 ATS mark on Best Bets in Championship Week, giving him his fourth straight winning season of college football Best Bets at 52% ATS (33-30-1). StatFox Scott is looking to repeat a huge 2012-13 bowl season, when he posted a 71% ATS mark in Best Bets (5-2-1).

The Rebels actually rank 52nd in the nation in both passing yards (242.4 YPG) and rushing yards (181.4 YPG), while scoring 31.3 PPG (53rd in FBS). Senior QB Caleb Herring put together a wonderful year with 2,522 passing yards (6.9 YPA), 22 TD and only 4 INT. He is coming off a big game on senior day when he went 20-for-30 for 270 yards and five touchdowns while keeping the ball away from the defense with zero interceptions. He also added to the rushing attack this season with 313 rushing yards (2.8 YPC) and five touchdowns. His favorite target on the season was junior WR Devante Davis who tallied 77 receptions for 1,194 yards (15.5 avg.) and 14 touchdowns. Davis caught four touchdown passes from Herring in their final game of the season, tying the UNLV record for a single game, finishing with eight receptions for 171 yards in the contest. He was somewhat of a feast-or-famine type receiver with four multi-touchdown efforts, but has not scored a TD in six of the past nine games. Senior HB Tim Cornett also had a big individual season with 1,251 rushing yards (5.0 YPC) and 15 touchdowns. His best game came in the second-to-last game at Air Force where he rumbled for 220 yards (6.1 YPC) and added four touchdowns. The Rebels struggled on defense though, giving up 31.5 PPG on the year 93rd in nation) and lost possibly their best defensive player when senior CB Sidney Hodge went down in the second game of the season. UNLV allowed a robust 436 total YPG, which included an atrocious 223 rushing YPG on 5.2 YPC. The pass defense was much more effective, as it held opponents to 214 passing YPG on 51% completions and 6.5 YPA.

North Texas won a majority of its games with defense, but still put up respectable offensive numbers with 31.5 PPG (51st in nation) on the season. Senior QB Derek Thompson had 2,640 passing yards (7.3 YPA) with 14 touchdowns, but really struggled with interceptions (13). Thompson had only three games where he did not throw a pick all year, with his best game coming in the first week of the season when he completed 23-of-27 passes for 349 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT in a 40-6 rout of Idaho. Senior HB Brandin Byrd ran for 1,023 yards (5.6 YPC) and 11 touchdowns, including a pair of 200-yard efforts in two of the past three games and five total touchdowns in that span. Senior WR Brelan Chancellor (718 rec. yards, 4 TD) has been more of the big-play guy with 15.3 yards per reception, with senior WR Darnell Smith (716 rec. yards, 3 TD) leading the team with 65 receptions. LB Zach Orr (113 tackles) and DB Marcus Trice (85 tackles, 5 interceptions) led the nation's ninth-best scoring defense (18.1 PPG allowed), while giving up only 14.0 PPG in conference play. While opponents were able to pass for 230 yards on 6.7 YPA and 59.2% completions, the Mean Green gave up only 127 rushing YPG on 3.8 YPC. North Texas has also helped itself out with 32 takeaways this season.

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