North Texas and UNLV - two teams which haven't gone bowling in years, will clash in the Heart Of Dallas Bowl on New Year's Day. The game is set for a Noon (EST) kickoff at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas and will be televised by ESPNU.
It will be the first bowl trip for the Rebels since 2000, while the last postseason appearance for North Texas came in 2004.
Both teams have been rejuvenated by recent hires. UNLV is in its 4th season under Bobby Hauck and suffered through 3 consecutive 2-win campaigns before breaking through with 7 victories this year. North Texas in its 3rd season under Dan McCarney and, after going 5-7 in 2011 and and 4-8 last year, finished the regular season 8-4 in its first year in Conference USA. UNT played in the Sun Belt from 2001-2012 and won or shared that conference's title in each of its first four seasons in that league.
The Mean Green set several offensive, defensive, special teams and home attendance (21,030 fans per game) records this fall. UNT’s five-game winning streak this season was also the school’s longest victory string since the 2004 season. The team enters the bowl game on a hot streak, winning 6 of its last 7 games.
The key to North Texas' success in 2013 has been defense. The Mean Green rank 9th in scoring defense (18.1), 27th in total defense and 19th against the rush. The team also ranks 17th in turnover margin.
UNT linebacker Zachary Orr, an all-Conference USA performer, led the Mean Green defense with 113 total tackles (51 unassisted). Aiding
the Mean Green’s defense this season was North Texas' ball control offense that averaged 411.6 yards per game (184.0 rushing and 227.6 passing).
Offensive standouts are quarterback Derek Thompson (2,640 yards passing by completing 63.9 percent for 14 touchdowns), running back Brandin Bryd (1,023 yards rushing, 11 touchdowns), and wide receivers Darnell Smith (65 receptions for 716 yards and three touchdowns), Brelan Chancellor (47, 718, 4) and Carlos Harris (44, 519, 2). Chancellor is also one of the nation's all-purpose performers as he averages 148.6 yards per game and ranks in 5th in punt returns (16.8 yard avg.) and 9th in kick returns (28.1 yard average).
For UNLV, its 5 setbacks this season came against schools that finished at least 6-6 and four of those - Arizona, Fresno State and Utah State - are playing in bowl games.
UNLV boasts 10 players from the state of Texas, including all-time leading rusher Tim Cornett, record-breaking receiver Devante Davis and
junior cornerback Kenneth Penny. Penny ranks third in the nation in pass breakups.
Cornett ("Timmy Touchdown") has rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the second-straight season as the senior running back has netted 1,251 yards this season and 15 scores. He is UNLV’s all-time rushing leader with 3,700 yards for 49 games with 35 touchdowns, breaking the record set in 1975 by fellow Texan Mike Thomas.
Davis has caught 77 passes for 1,194 yards and 14 touchdowns, surpassing his sophomore totals of 61 passes, 854 yards and four scores. Quarterback Caleb Herring has completed 64.3 percent of his passes (234 of 364 with four interceptions) for 2,522 yards and 22 touchdowns
The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com give North State an 8.13-point advantage in the contest for the 13th-largest margin of all 35 postseason games.