UNLV Rebels (7-5) vs. North Texas Mean Green (8-4)
Jan. 1, noon ET, Dallas (ESPNU)
UNLV REBELS BREAKDOWN
Getting bowl eligible earned Bobby Hauck a three-year contract extension through the 2016 season.
A 7-5 finish now has UNLV playing in the postseason for the first time in 13 years. The Runnin' Rebels will ring in the new year against North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl at the Cotton Bowl. There they will try to extend the program's postseason unbeaten streak to four.
They can do that thanks to a five-win improvement from last year's 2-11 squad, which has done a good job of containing some of the Mountain West Conference's potent aerial attacks. UNLV ranks first in the MWC in pass defense and fifth in scoring defense, as they finished tied for third in the West Division with a 5-3 record in conference play. -- Matt Fortuna
NORTH TEXAS MEAN GREEN BREAKDOWN
Coach Dan McCarney has led the Mean Green to their best season since taking over the program three years ago. North Texas’ eight-win season is a four-game improvement over 2012.
The Mean Green are one of the better defensive teams in the country, allowing only 18.1 points per game, which ranks No. 9 nationally.
They're also No. 6 nationally in preventing touchdowns once teams enter the red zone, allowing them on just 45.5 percent of opponent's red zone trips.
Special teams is also an area of strength for North Texas.
The Mean Green have blocked eight kicks in 2013, and they have one of the country's best return men in Brelan Chancellor. The senior has a kickoff return touchdown and a punt return touchdown and ranks 11th in yards per kick return (28.14) and fifth in yards per punt return (16.82).
-- Sam Khan Jr.