Chris Morris / Special to the Sun
Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
- Brian Greenspun: This city, this team need each other (9-1-2011)
- Take Five: Getting to know Wisconsin (9-1-2011)
- For a successful season, UNLV will have to improve on the road (9-1-2011)
- The 2003 UNLV football team refused to back down against Wisconsin (8-31-2011)
- Future scheduling key to the UNLV football program’s forward progress (8-31-2011)
- UNLV releases depth chart for Thursday’s season opener at Wisconsin (8-27-2011)
- Five signs that UNLV football is headed in the right direction (8-23-2011)
- Sophomore Caleb Herring officially named UNLV’s starting quarterback (8-21-2011)
Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer take a look at UNLV football's Thursday night opener at No. 11 Wisconsin, where the Rebels will head to as a five-touchdown underdog. While Bobby Hauck's program tries to continue its upward trend, Dave Rice and the men's basketball staff kept theirs going on the recruiting trail. The guys discuss the Monday night commitment from Bishop Gorman power forward Demetris Morant and much more.
There is hope for UNLV headed into Thursday night’s opening game at No. 11 Wisconsin.
Hope the size of a snowflake in the desert, but hope nonetheless. It’s not going to take the biggest upset in college football history for the Rebels to stun the Badgers.
It would only come in as the most improbable college football outcome of the past three years, according to oddsmakers, so there’s that. In 2007, two teams that had higher numbers than the +35.5 attached to UNLV in local sports books triumphed over supposed powers.
Syracuse, a 37-point underdog, beat No. 18 Louisville by a field goal that year. Later, Pac-10 bottom feeder Stanford shocked No. 2 USC as a 41-point underdog.
An upset of this proportion isn’t unprecedented. It can happen. In fact, ESPN.com’s AccuScore projections indicate the Rebels have a 1.8 percent chance to pull off a victory.
Let’s badger into five ways UNLV could become the talk of the college football world by knocking off Wisconsin.
Karma for the Badgers
If Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema were a peewee football coach, the way he has treated undermanned opponents might spark a national outrage.
Let’s just say Bielema isn’t going out of his way to not run up the score and, no matter the margin, he’s in no hurry to get his starters out of the game. Not every kid would get a trophy in Bielema’s league. The man is politically incorrect.
Because he’s a college coach, fans are only mildly turned off by this mentality. In two of Wisconsin’s last three games last year, Bielema embarrassed inferior foes by pouring it on when the result was clear.
Wisconsin beat Indiana 83-20 and followed it with a 70-23 smackdown of Northwestern. Some theories suggest that behavior should catch up to the Badgers in a wicked way.
The lights go out — and they keep playing
Aside from UNLV’s victory at Wisconsin in 2003, Rebel fans remember the series best for a 2002 incident when the lights went out at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Only seven minutes remained in the game, so officials called it off and rendered Wisconsin a 27-7 winner. Is it really that far-fetched to foresee a similar scenario happening at Camp Randall Stadium? Probably, but if handled differently, it could work in UNLV’s favor.
Imagine if the two teams decided to play on. Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson’s arm would matter less if he couldn’t see whom he was throwing to. The Badgers’ four returning starters in the defensive front seven would spend a lot of time whiffing on tackles.
In essence, it would increase the luck factor substantially. It’s only fitting for that to work in UNLV’s favor after all the Wisconsin tourists who come to Las Vegas, sit down at a poker table and exclaim the age-old cliché “better to be lucky than good.”
Repeat of last year’s first half
If the NBA is where caring happens, then college football is where wackiness happens.
There’s usually a game or two per week where the statistics and play don’t match the results. Take, for example, UNLV’s first half against Wisconsin in 2010.
The Rebels had 12 total yards — 267 less than the Badgers — and one first down, but trailed only 17-14 at halftime.
It all evened out in the second half, as Wisconsin went home with a 41-21 victory. If that kind of good fortune could fall upon UNLV for four quarters in Madison, Wis., anything’s possible.
Win turnovers and special teams
Let’s be honest: The Rebels out-gaining the Badgers is about as likely as the University of Wisconsin banning beer and cheese on campus.
Luckily for UNLV, that’s not a necessity. Looking back on upsets of this magnitude reveals that most of the time the favorite still has more total yards.
But the underdog almost unanimously wins the battle in turnovers and special teams. There’s reason for optimism in both areas for UNLV.
Wisconsin ranked in the top 10 in the nation in turnover margin last year. That’s a statistic that’s nearly guaranteed to regress this season because the Badgers posted an unsustainable rate.
The Rebels held their own special teams-wise last season, and actually fielded a better kick return unit than the Badgers.
The Incredible Hauck
UNLV coach Bobby Hauck hasn’t forgotten the last time he coached at Camp Randall — not even a little bit.
Hauck was a defensive assistant on the 1995 Colorado team that opened its season almost 16 years ago to the day at Wisconsin. The Buffaloes and Hauck scored an emphatic victory, torching the Badgers 43-7.
Not many teams have solved the Camp Randall riddle since, as Wisconsin is 32-3 at home over the past seven years with Bielema at the helm. Maybe Hauck will channel his inner wizard and show off some magic or a secret to serve as the Wisconsin antidote.