Continuing the look at UCLA’s 2016 schedule, here is a breakdown of the Bruins’ second opponent of the year, UNLV.
UCLA vs. UNLV
Saturday, Sept. 10 | Rose Bowl
5 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Network
2015 in review
Head coach Tony Sanchez jumped from prep football powerhouse Bishop Gorman to UNLV in 2015, coaching the Rebels to a 3-9 record during his first year at the helm. It’s a very underwhelming record, but when compared to UNLV’s equally underwhelming history recently, it doesn’t look so bad. The three-win season marked only the second time since 2009 that the Rebels got more than two victories, and four of the losses were by seven or fewer points. UCLA got a 37-3 road victory over UNLV on Sept. 12 in which the Bruins racked up 526 total yards.
— What’s next? Although there’s uncertainty at quarterback (more on that later), UNLV has several returning starters, including three on the offensive line, as well as a strong recruiting class. The team’s recruiting class was ranked No. 4 in the Mountain West according to 247Sports, despite the fact that the school only has one winning season in the past 15 years. The Rebels likely won’t be too much of a challenge for UCLA this season, but UNLV is moving forward in its rebuilding process.
— QB battle One-time Nebraska Cornhusker Johnny Stanton is competing with junior Kurt Palandech to win the starting quarterback job for UNLV. Stanton transferred to Saddleback College after falling out of favor at Nebraska and transferred to UNLV to play for offensive coordinator Barney Cotton, who was on the Nebraska coaching staff until 2014. The Rebels listed two starting quarterbacks on their post-spring practice depth chart, but Sanchez told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that “Stanton’s a little bit ahead.” With a veteran offensive line and a dynamic pair of receivers in Devonte Boyd and Kendal Keys, whoever gets the starting nod under center will have talent to work with.
— Get defensive UNLV surrendered the most yards per game in the Mountain West last year (457.2), including a whopping 705 yards allowed to Boise State in a 55-27 loss in October. The Rebels lacked strength up front to stop the run and only tallied nine total sacks. Two players in the Pac-12 eclipsed that mark alone last year (Oregon’s DeForest Buckner, 10.5, and Arizona State’s Antonio Longino, 10). The offense is trending up for the Rebels, but the team needs the defense to follow suit.
UNLV players to watch
— WR Devonte Boyd He was just the third UNLV player to ever earn Freshman All-American honors from the Football Writers Association of America after 65 catches for 980 yards in his debut season. Boyd was named Mountain West Freshman of the Year.
— LB Tau Lotulelei Despite missing two games due to injury, Lotulelei led the team in tackles for loss (11.5) and sacks (3.0) from the weakside linebacker position. He had 70 total tackles, a significant dip from his 100-tackle season as a sophomore. He is UNLV’s best pass-rushing option.
— LB Ryan McAleenan The team leader in tackles last year, McAleenan blossomed after bouncing through San Jose State and junior college. He had 85 total tackles last year at the middle linebacker position and one sack.
UNLV in GIF form
2016 UCLA schedule
Sat., Sept. 3: UCLA at Texas A&M — 12:30 p.m., CBS
Sat., Sept. 10: UNLV at UCLA — 5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Sat., Sept. 17: UCLA at BYU — 7:15 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2
Sat., Sept. 24: Stanford at UCLA
Sat., Oct. 1: Arizona at UCLA
Sat., Oct. 8: UCLA at Arizona State
Sat., Oct. 15: UCLA at Washington State
Sat., Oct 22: Utah at UCLA
Sat., Oct. 28: BYE
Thurs., Nov. 3: UCLA at Colorado — 6 p.m., FOX Sports 1
Sat., Nov. 12: Oregon State at UCLA
Sat., Nov. 19: USC at UCLA
Sat., Nov. 26: UCLA at California
Home games in bold, all times in Pacific Time