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Mountsin West Championship

Steve Marcus

UNLV head coach Barry Odom watches from the sideline during the second half of the Mountain West championship football game against Boise State at Allegiant Stadium Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.

Phoenix — 

  • What:
    Guaranteed Rate Bowl
  • Who:
    UNLV vs. Kansas
  • Where:
    Phoenix, Ariz.
  • When:
    Tuesday, 6 p.m.
  • TV:
  • Radio:
    1100 AM, 100.9 FM

The moment has finally arrived for UNLV football. After a decade of waiting, the Scarlet and Gray are back in a bowl, as they’ll kick off against Kansas in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on Tuesday (6 p.m., ESPN).

Can Barry Odom’s squad cap off their astounding turnaround season with a 10th victory? Three keys to watch:

Gotta get stops

UNLV’s defense looked worn down toward the end of the season, and it showed in the amount of big plays they allowed over the final two contests. San Jose State and Boise State combined to score five touchdowns of 25 yards or longer, and the Scarlet and Gray lost both games.

Like both of those teams, Kansas features a star running back in Devin Neal (1,209 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns) and a quarterback capable of beating them deep in Jason Bean (61.4%, 1,681 yards, 12 touchdowns). Will three weeks of rest have UNLV’s defenders back at top speed on Tuesday?

Senior defensive lineman Jalen Dixon said the game plan is all about matching up with Kansas’s offensive line and rallying to the ball.

“They’ve got big guys who move well and they’re all athletes, so it’s going to be a battle up front,” Dixon said. “We’ve been up against some good backs the last couple weeks. It’s going to be fun. We’re going to go out there and do our job and try to come away with a dub.”

Game ready

Football is a regimented sport. Coaches like to detail their practices, off-days, travel days and game days down to the minute, but the run-up to a bowl game can threaten that rhythm.

With the Guaranteed Rate Bowl set on a Tuesday, and the team being on the road for five days (instead of the usual two), plus a big holiday smacked in the middle of the trip, UNLV has been off-schedule while preparing for this one.

Odom isn’t looking at it as a negative, however. He wants his players to enjoy the bowl experience, while balancing the amount of work it is going to take in order to come out on top on Tuesday.

Odom reported that the team’s practices were strong, and that Saturday’s final full-tilt session would have the Scarlet and Gray ready to go against Kansas.

“Guys have handled it really well,” Odom said. “In any bowl game, you want them to understand it’s a reward for what they’ve earned up to this point, and the reward will be so much greater if they win the game. We’ve talked openly about that. I think our team does have maturity, and it’s been a really good week.”

Last look at go-go (for now)

Will we get an explosive season finale for the go-go offense?

At media day on Sunday, star receiver Ricky White announced that he’s coming back for his senior year, and Mountain West Freshman of the Year Jayden Maiava said he has no intention to transfer. Add in the imminent return of offensive coordinator Brennan Marion, and it looks like UNLV is set to run it back with their offensive core in 2024.

That’s all good news, but Maiava wants to put another big number on the scoreboard and carry that momentum into the offseason.

“It’s another good opportunity,” Maiava said. “It’s a lot of energy out there [in practice]. I can tell the guys are excited and ready to play.”

What: UNLV vs. Kansas

Where: Chase Field (Phoenix, Ariz.)

When: Tuesday, 6 p.m.


Radio: 1100AM, 100.9FM

Line: Kansas -12.5

UNLV leaders


Jayden Maiava: 62.9%, 2,794 yards, 14 TDs, 8 INTs


Vincent Davis: 722 yards, 5.5 yards per carry, 6 TDs


Ricky White: 81 receptions, 1,386 yards, 7 TDs


Jackson Woodard: 114 tackles, 8.0 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT

Kansas leaders


Jason Bean: 61.4%, 1,681 yards, 12 TDs, 4 INTs


Devin Neal: 1,209 yards, 6.6 yards per carry


Lawrence Arnold: 38 receptions, 650 yards, 3 TDs


Austin Booker: 56 tackles, 12.0 TFLs, 8.0 sacks

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at

Article written by #LasVegasSun