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November 24, 2014

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point/counterpoint:

Is momentum on UNLV’s sideline?

Image

Barry Wong

UNLV junior wide receiver Devante Davis catches his third touchdown in a 31-21 victory over Central Michigan at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013.

It’s not every day we have this debate about the UNLV football program.

The Rebels, who last year played in the Heart of Dallas Bowl for their first bowl-game appearance and winning season in more than a decade, are trying to maintain that momentum and accomplish a program first this fall.

If the Scarlet and Gray return to a bowl, it would be the first time UNLV has played in consecutive bowl games in more than 40 years of existence.

During the 2014 Mountain West Media Day at the Cosmopolitan last week, the Rebels were picked to finish fourth in their six-team division.

Our reporters have their own feelings. Here’s how they see it:

Ray Brewer: With Devante Davis, one of the best wide receivers to wear a UNLV uniform, I like the Rebels’ chances. He caught 14 touchdown passes last year, the most of any returning player in the Mountain West Conference, and he’ll be the best player on the field every week. DD=TD.

Taylor Bern: And who’s throwing to him? Maybe junior college transfer Blake Decker, who seems to fit the spread attack UNLV employed last year, ends up being capable of replacing Caleb Herring at quarterback. But we haven’t seen it yet.

RB: Decker threw for 4,241 yards and 47 touchdowns in JC. And at 24 years old, he’s more mature than your average college junior (he served a mission after high school). He’ll thrive in UNLV’s passing attack and could be an upgrade over Herring. Yes, an upgrade.

TB: Upgrade over one of the best offensive seasons in program history? Those are lofty expectations for a guy on a team that’s also replacing its all-time leading rusher in Tim Cornett. Don’t forget, UNLV had just one victory against a winning team last year.

RB: There’s no disputing that a weak schedule helped UNLV last year. But the schedule is equally mediocre this year. Aside from the season opener at Arizona, UNLV should be competitive in every other game.

TB: Maybe, but that’s no guarantee. The easier games are at home (Air Force, New Mexico) while the Rebels travel to Utah State and San Diego State. Three road wins last year don’t erase years of road woes.

RB: Utah State on the road will be tough, but the game comes after a UNLV bye week. It’s doubtful San Diego State, a team UNLV handled last year, is that much improved. Don’t count the Rebels out there.

TB: I’m not, but winning takes consistency and depth, which is why the classroom-related departures of offensive lineman Cameron Jefferson and running back Adonis Smith hurt. Not to mention that 13th game at Houston.

RB: The game at Houston is a good thing because it brings revenue to the program. It will help UNLV become battle-tested for Mountain West play. UNLV has plenty of capable running backs such as Keith Whitely and Shaq Murray-Lawrence, which is why Smith left.

TB: I like the money — $400,000 — but this is about the Rebels’ bowl chances, not their finances. And there’s no doubt that a 13th game, which means UNLV would have to go 7-6 instead of 6-6 to qualify, hurts its chances. For your sake, I hope it doesn’t come down to the last week of the season against UNR.

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