Heart of Dallas Bowl preview: North Texas vs. UNLV
North Texas (8-4, 6-2 C-USA) vs. UNLV (7-5, 5-3 MWC)
January 1, 12 p.m. ET (ESPN)
North Texas Players to Watch:
Brandin Byrd, RB—Byrd is the center of all things good when running the football, totaling 505 yards and five touchdowns in his last three games. He’s averaged 115 yards in the Mean Greens’ eight wins.
Brelan Chancellor, WR—Not only is he the team’s lead receiver, but Chancellor is top-20 in the nation in all-purpose yards as a dynamic kick and punt returner as well.
UNLV Players to Watch:
Tim Cornett, RB—An extremely consistent player, Cornett has rushed for 1,251 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, going for at least 115 yards in five of his last eight games.
Devante Davis, WR—By far the most productive player within UNLV’s receiving corps, Davis comes in with 77 receptions for 1,194 yards and 14 touchdowns, scoring three times or more in as many games.
North Texas Key to Victory:
Make sure Brandin Byrd gets enough touches. North Texas is 7-0 when Byrd receives at least 14 carries and averages 39.0 points per game when he runs the ball 18 times or more. UNLV possesses a weak linebacker group that ranks 110th against the run, allowing 5.19 yards per rush and a total of 25 touchdowns on the ground. The Mean Green should find success attacking the gaps with Byrd and letting him run free on the edge.
UNLV Key to Victory:
Score touchdowns in the red zone. North Texas is No. 9 in the country in scoring defense (18.1 points per game) and No. 15 in turnover margin, but more importantly, it has the top-ranked red zone defense. UNLV struggles in this area, finishing the regular season with the No. 102-ranked red zone offense. The Rebels will have to be efficient in this area, or it’ll be a challenging afternoon.
Line: North Texas (-6.5)
Prediction: UNLV has a strong offense, but didn’t play consistent football against quality teams. This isn’t your usual North Texas squad, as Dan McCarney has the Mean Green one win away from its first nine-win season since 2003 and will be playing in a virtual home game in Dallas.
North Texas 28, UNLV 22
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