The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 125 to our projected No. 1 team.
Today at No. 120: UNLV
Coach: Bobby Hauck (6-32, fourth season; 86-49 overall)
2012 record: 2-11 (2-6 in Mountain West Conference)
Look back: The rebuilding plan continues at UNLV, which hasn’t made a bowl appearance since December 2000 and is a long way away from Randall Cunningham leading the program to its sole season of at least 10 wins (11-2 in 1984). Coach Bobby Hauck led the Rebels to a 2-13 record in 2012, picking up a 38-35 win over Air Force and a 35-7 win over New Mexico. While the win-loss record didn't improve much over Hauck's 2-11 record in 2010 and 2-10 record in 2011, the Rebels were more competitive and lost four games by five points or less. UNLV lost 30-27 to Minnesota, 17-14 to Northern Arizona, 42-37 to Nevada and 28-23 to Wyoming.
UNLV struggled in a variety of key statistical categories, ranking No. 110 nationally out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in passing efficiency (109.89 rating), No. 109 in net punting (34.01 yards per punt) and No. 106 in rushing defense (207.08 yards allowed per game). The Rebels also were ranked No. 95 in both scoring offense (22 points per game) and scoring defense (32.62 points allowed per game).
Kicker Nolan Kohorst and linebacker John Lotulelei were among the strongest performers on the team, earning first team All-Mountain West honors. Lotulelei’s 120 tackles was the 10th-highest in the school's single-season history, while Kohorst was steady force for the special teams unit.
Offensive starters returning: 8
Offensive starters lost: 3
Defensive starters returning: 10
Defensive starters lost: 1
Key losses: LB John Lotulelei, LB Princeton Jackson, RB Bradley Randle
Top returnees: RB Tim Cornett, OL Robert Waterman, RB Adonis Smith, QB Nick Sherry, DB Tim Hasson, LB Tani Maka
Strengths: Hauck has a history of developing winning programs, posting an 80-17 record at Montana and leading the team to seven Big Sky championships. Entering his fourth season leading UNLV, Hauck should have his recruits in place to start executing the system that made him successful while leading the Grizzlies. UNLV is tied for fifth nationally in most returning starters, according to college football analyst Phil Steele.
UNLV’s rushing attack should be its biggest strength entering the 2013 season. The Rebels return starter Tim Cornett, who ranked 37th nationally with 94.77 yards per carry. Cornett sat out spring practice recovering from an injury, opening the door for Northwestern transfer Adonis Smith to shine during the spring game. Smith could help give returning quarterback Nick Sherry a variety of options this season.
Weaknesses: UNLV struggled to a variety of areas during the 2012 season and it’s unclear whether the Rebels can make a major jump after one offseason of conditioning work and film study. The defense will have to recover from the loss of Lotulelei, who was a leader and playmaker on the field. Sherry, a sophomore, returns to lead the offense after a bumpy freshman year during which he tossed more interceptions than touchdowns. Sherry was 226-of-426 passing for 2,544 yards, 16 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
Outlook: UNLV caught a break with its schedule, dodging a contest against Mountain West power Boise State. However, the Rebels have a long way to go to reach their first bowl games since 2000.
Aug. 29 At Minnesota
Sept. 7 Arizona