Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 | 2 a.m.
Heading into his second year at the helm of UNLV football, we’re not quite sure what kind of team Marcus Arroyo has on his hands. The 2021 version of the scarlet and gray certainly seem more talented than the sorry squad that went 0-6 last year, but there are so many question marks — especially at quarterback — that making any concrete predictions is probably a fool’s errand.
So here are 44 concrete predictions for UNLV football in 2021:
1. How many games will UNLV play? This was the most important question in last year’s predictions column, and the threat of COVID-19 cancelations is still hovering over the 2021 season. The pandemic landscape has changed for the better, however, and with the team sitting at a vaccination rate of 92% heading into Week 1 it looks like UNLV is doing everything within its control to make sure every game goes off as scheduled. I think they’ll play all 12.
2. Which quarterback will start the season opener? Doug Brumfield
3. Which quarterback will start the final game of the season? Justin Rogers. When there’s no clear No. 1, sometimes it’s better to be the backup replacing the shaky starter. That’s how I expect things to play out with UNLV’s quarterbacks this season, with Brumfield getting the first shot and Rogers looking relatively palatable in relief.
4. Which quarterback will start the most games? Rogers
5. Will any quarterback top Max Gilliam’s numbers from last year? In six games Gilliam put up a pedestrian line of 60.1% for 786 yards and five touchdowns with four interceptions. If UNLV shuffles QBs the way I expect, with three guys getting significant snaps, it’s conceivable none of them approach Gilliam’s modest stats. In the end I do think Brumfield will pass for more than 786 yards, and both he and Rogers will throw more than five touchdown passes apiece.
6. Who will account for more touchdowns, former UNLV quarterback Kenyon Oblad (now at Dixie State) or any single UNLV quarterback? Oblad
7. Who will lead the team in receptions? Kyle Williams
8. Who will lead UNLV in receiving yards? Kyle Williams
9. Who will lead UNLV in touchdown receptions? Steve Jenkins
10. Will Charles Williams become UNLV’s all-time leading rusher? Williams is currently third on UNLV’s all-time list, 793 yards behind Tim Cornett (3,733). It doesn’t sound like much, but Williams has only surpassed 793 yards once in his six-year college career—2019, when he ran for 1,257 yards. In fairness, he was on a prorated pace to rush for 990 last year, so assuming decent health it seems likely Williams will break the record.
11. Will Charles Williams gain 1,109 yards from scrimmage to surpass Cornett as UNLV’s all-time leader? Yes
12. How many touchdowns will Charles Williams score? Eight
13. Can the UNLV defense crack the top 100 in yards per play allowed? No
14. Can the UNLV defense crack the top 100 in yards per rush allowed? No
15. Can the UNLV defense crack the top 100 in yards per pass attempt allowed? Yes. UNLV fielded an historically bad defense last year and finished outside the top 100 in all three of these categories. I’m not convinced the run defense will be much better, but the secondary is more experienced and should be able to bat down enough passes to avoid a bottom-30 ranking.
16. Will UNLV win its opener against Eastern Washington? Yes–and they’d better. After facing FCS-level Eastern Washington, there’s a chance UNLV will be a betting underdog in the next 11 contests. And seeing as how he began his head coaching career with an 0-6 campaign, the last thing Marcus Arroyo needs is the specter of another winless season. He’ll get the monkey off his back in Week 1.
17. What will be UNLV’s highest scoring game? 32 points vs. Hawaii, Nov. 13
18. What will be UNLV’s lowest scoring game? 6 points vs. Iowa State, Sep. 18
19. What will be UNLV’s longest play from scrimmage? 62 yard pass from Doug Brumfield to Zyell Griffin
20. Which newcomer will make the biggest impact on offense? Tiger Shanks. Though not technically a newcomer (he redshirted last year but played the last two games), Shanks is set to start at right tackle and could play a big role in the rushing attack.
21. Which newcomer will make the biggest impact on defense? Kylan Wilborn
22. How many interceptions will the UNLV defense record? Five
23. Who will lead the team in interceptions? Bryce Jackson
24. Who will lead the team in sacks? Adam Plant
25. Will UNLV score a defensive touchdown? No
26. Will the coaches regret moving Jacoby Windmon to inside linebacker? Yes. Defensive coordinator Peter Hansen assured fans last week that Windmon will still be able to get into the backfield from his new position on the second level of the defense, but he looked like a game-changer on the edge last year. UNLV may regret tinkering with a good thing.
27. How many home games will UNLV win? Two
28. Will UNLV reclaim the Fremont Cannon? No
29. Will UNLV return a kick or punt for a touchdown? No
30. Will any UNLV players make the All-Mountain West first team? One (Charles Williams)
31. Will UNLV hire a new athletic director before the end of the football season? No
32. What will be the highest attendance game of the season at Allegiant Stadium? 41,000 vs. Iowa State, Sept. 18. Now, a large chunk of those attendees will be traveling Iowa State fans—maybe a majority—but for UNLV fans this is still a big home game against a top 10 opponent.
33-44. Which games will UNLV win (and lose)?
Sept. 2 vs. Eastern Washington — Win (1-0)
Sept. 11 at Arizona State — Loss (1-1)
Sept. 18 vs. Iowa State — Loss (1-2)
Sept. 24 at Fresno State — Loss (1-3)
Oct. 2 at UTSA — Loss (1-4)
Oct. 16 vs. Utah State — Win (2-4)
Oct. 21 vs. San Jose State — Loss (2-5)
Oct. 29 at UNR — Loss (2-6)
Nov. 6 at New Mexico — Loss (2-7)
Nov. 13 vs. Hawaii — Loss (2-8)
Nov. 19 vs. San Diego State — Loss (2-9)
Nov. 26 at Air Force — Loss (2-10)