Thursday, March 1, 2018 | 12:23 p.m.
A trip to sunny Southern California and a home game against an in-state rival will bookend the UNLV football team's 2018 season.
The Mountain West Conference released its schedules on Thursday, and all dates and opponents are now locked in for the Rebels. Tony Sanchez's squad will open the season at USC on Sept. 1 and close the year on Nov. 24 by hosting UNR in the annual Fremont Cannon game. In between, UNLV will play three other non-conference games — vs. UTEP (Sept. 8), vs. Prairie View A&M (Sept. 15) and at Arkansas State (Sept. 22) — and seven other Mountain West opponents. UNLV will get New Mexico, Air Force, Fresno State and UNR at home while traveling to play at Utah State, San Jose State, San Diego State and Hawaii.
UNLV will not play Boise State during the regular season, making 2018 the second straight year the Rebels have avoided that matchup.
The Rebels will have a bye week after their final non-conference game (Sept. 22 at Arkansas State) and will have two weeks to prepare for the Mountain West opener against New Mexico (Oct. 6 at Sam Boyd Stadium).
USC finished last season at No. 8 in the college football playoff rankings, and the Trojans figure to be a Top 25-caliber team again in 2018 despite the loss of starting quarterback Sam Darnold. Boise State is also expected to field a playoff contender; an early USA Today projection has the Broncos ranked No. 14 in the nation.
UNLV went 5-7 last season and posted a 4-4 record in Mountain West play. The Rebels went into the final game of the season needing a win at UNR to finish at .500 and earn a bowl berth, but a late drive failed and UNR came out on top, 23-16.
The 2018 season finale could end up being just as important, as UNLV looks to be on the fringe of bowl contention again. Sophomore quarterback Armani Rogers brings star potential to the most important position, while senior Lexington Thomas and sophomore Charles Williams make up a strong backfield.
The complete schedule (with kickoff times still to be announced):
UNLV football 2018 schedule
Sept. 1 — at USC
Sept. 8 — vs. UTEP
Sept. 15 — vs. Prairie View A&M
Sept. 22 — at Arkansas State
Oct. 6 — vs. New Mexico
Oct. 13 — at Utah State
Oct. 20 — vs. Air Force
Oct. 27 — at San Jose State
Nov. 3 — vs. Fresno State
Nov. 10 — at San Diego State
Nov. 17 — at Hawaii
Nov. 24 — vs. UNR