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UNLV hopes to make program history with spot in MW title game

Barry Odom is a big fan of Thanksgiving.

The UNLV football coach spent part of his Monday news conference extolling the virtues of stuffing, sweet potatoes and a well-cooked turkey.

“I love to eat,” Odom said. “I don’t know why we don’t have this meal a number of times per year.”

Odom has a lot to be thankful for in his first season as the Rebels’ coach. UNLV is coming off a 17-point comeback win Saturday at Air Force. The Rebels have achieved bowl eligibility, and their nine wins are second-most in the program’s 46-year history as a Division I school.

UNLV (9-2, 6-1 Mountain West) will host San Jose State (6-5, 5-2) at noon Saturday at Allegiant Stadium in the regular-season finale. A win for the Rebels clinches a spot in the Mountain West championship game, which they would host Dec. 2.

“It’s such an exciting time for our program,” Odom said. “Really thrilled for our kids to come out of that game Saturday with a win in the fashion that they did. Showed a lot of character, toughness, togetherness, team work.”

The Rebels stand on the precipice of program history. The Mountain West championship game was created in 2013. Eight teams have appeared in the game at least once. UNLV has a chance to become the ninth.

Sophomore linebacker Marsel McDuffie has been at UNLV for three seasons. He endured a 2-10 record in 2021 during his true freshman season, then watched in agony as the Rebels fell short of bowl eligibility after going 5-7 in 2022.

Despite the previous disappointments, McDuffie said he wouldn’t change the journey it took to reach this point. Instead, it has made this year’s success more rewarding.

“To be a part of something like this, with this team and these coaches, the sky is the limit,” McDuffie said. “I’m happy to be in this position.”

Championship game scenarios

UNLV’s path to the Mountain West championship game is simple: Defeat San Jose State and host the game.

A loss complicates the path. UNLV, San Jose State and the winner of Friday’s game between Air Force and Boise State would be tied for first, activating the conference’s tiebreakers.

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record. If Air Force wins, there is no clear victor because the Rebels beat the Falcons, who defeated the Spartans. UNLV and Boise State didn’t play, also making this tiebreaker irrelevant if the Broncos win Friday.

Tiebreaker No. 2 is a composite average of four computer ratings: The Jeff Anderson & Chris Hester College Football Computer Rankings, Colley’s Bias Free Matrix Rankings, Massey Ratings and Peter R. Wolfe. UNLV (34.75) leads the group, followed by Air Force (54), Boise State (64) and San Jose State (71.25).

This means UNLV most likely will at least play in the game, barring getting blown out by San Jose State.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on X.