Here is everything you need to know ahead of the matchup between the Kansas Jayhawks and the UNLV Rebels.
Tuesday, December 26; 8:00 p.m. CT; Chase Field; Phoenix, AZ
Radio: Radio: Jayhawk Radio Network (Brian Hanni, David Lawrence, Brandon McAnderson); UNLV Radio Network (Marques Pfaff, Caleb Herring, Steve Cofield)
Records: Kansas 8-4 (5-4); UNLV 9-4 (6-2)
Last Week: Kansas 49, Cincinnati 16; UNLV 44, Bryant 14
Series History: Series tied 1-1
Last Meeting: Kansas 46, UNLV 24 (2003)
Line: Kansas (-12.5)
Fun Fact: The winner of the 2023 Guaranteed Rate Bowl will own the series lead in the matchup between UNLV and Kansas as the duo each has one win against one another in program history.
QB JASON BEAN
While it’s no secret that Kansas’ quarterback situation this season has been less than ideal, the team made the most of things with the combination of Jason Bean and Cole Ballard under center. Leipold’s squad lost Jalon Daniels to a season-ending injury after the California native reaggravated his back injury ahead of the Jayhawks’ Week 5 game against Texas. Senior quarterback Jason Bean stepped in and thrived in 2023 throwing for 1,681 yards and a touchdown to interception ratio of 12-4.
CB MELLO DOTSON
Junior cornerback Mello Dotson was one of the best defensive backs for the Jayhawks this year in a room that includes Cobee Bryant and Kenny Logan. Dotson led the team in interceptions with four and also recorded 44 tackles, one sack, and two touchdowns. After helping revamp the Jayhawks secondary in the third year of the Lance Leipold era, Dotson will be tasked with slowing down UNLV in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
QB JAYDEN MAIAVA
Freshman quarterback Jayden Maiava has been an interesting storyline to follow in the transfer portal this offseason as conflicting reports have emerged about him entering his name into the portal. At this moment in time, Maiava is still a member of the Rebels and will play in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl pending any changes to his status. The Nevada native threw for 2,794 yards and a touchdown to interception ratio of 14-8 and added 261 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns. The Rebels will need a big day from Jayden Maiava if they intend to compete with Leipold and the Jayhawks.
LB JACKSON WOODARD
The player to watch on the defensive side of the ball for UNLV is junior linebacker Jackson Woodard. Woodard totaled 113 tackles in his junior season as well as 2.5 sacks, one interception, and two pass breakups. With Kansas currently listed as a 12.5-point favorite in the matchup, Woodard and the UNLV defense will need to be ready for the Jayhawks’ layered rushing attack.
The Jayhawks were commended all year long for their complex offensive scheme, but after Offensive Coordinator Andy Kotelnicki accepted a new job as the OC for James Franklin at Penn State, the Jayhawks will now scramble to prepare for the bowl game under a new playcaller. Lance Leipold brought in former Baylor offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes as the new OC for the group, but anytime a major coaching change is made at the coordinator position, watching the team weather the storm becomes the top priority.
How will the outcome of the Guaranteed Rate Bowl affect the Rebels roster? With a quarterback in limbo about entering the portal, the Rebels will need a solid showing to retain some of the team’s skill positions. While some losses are worse than others, the Rebels’ true freshman quarterback finished his first season of college football with the third most passing yards of any quarterback in the Mountain West behind Hawaii’s Brayden Schager and Colorado State’s Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi. Retaining their talented young quarterback is a must.
PREDICTION: KANSAS 34, UNLV 21
While I think UNLV is a better team than most, the matchup against Kansas is a tough draw for the Rebels. UNLV should make things interesting but I think Lance Leipold is going to prove that Kansas is more than ready to take the next step forward, and should become a serious title contender in the Big 12 Conference over the next few seasons. I like Devin Neal to have a good day on the ground while the Jayhawks’ defense corrals Maiava and the Rebels’ offense,