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Michigan’s 2023 opponents offseason recap: UNLV Rebels

A new head coach means big changes in Las Vegas.

UNLV Football Spring Showcase
New UNLV head coach Barry Odom
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Today, we’re continuing our series previewing each team the Michigan Wolverines face this year. Michigan starts its quest for the national title against East Carolina Week 1, and faces another non-conference opponent the following week at the Big House in UNLV.

The Rebels went 5-7 overall last season and 3-5 in the Mountain West, which led to head coach Marcus Arroyo getting fired after going 7-23 in his three seasons.

So what should the Wolverines expect from UNLV under new head coach and former Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom?

Week 2 - UNLV Rebels

  • 2022 Record: 5-7 overall, 3-5 in Mountain West (4th)
  • Head Coach: Barry Odom, first season
  • Key Losses: ILB Austin Aijiake
  • Key Additions: CB Jaxen Turner, DE Zavier Carter, RB Vincent Davis

Odom was the head coach at Missouri and is a defensive-minded coach, unlike Arroyo, who served as offensive coordinator under Mario Cristobal at Oregon.

It’s likely that UNLV’s scheme will look very different under Odom, but the Rebels do return quarterback Doug Brumfield. In the eight games Brumfield finished, UNLV went 4-4, with the four losses coming by seven points or less. Brumfield had 1,898 passing yards with 10 passing touchdowns, 261 net rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns last year in his first season as a full-time starter.

Brumfield taking an additional step would be promising for the UNLV offense, but he was knocked out of multiple games with injury last season and missed most of 2021 due to injuries, raising questions about his durability and how long he might be available for. If he is healthy, he provides a solid backbone for an offensive scheme that will look very different next year.

UNLV will be looking for improvements on the defensive side of the ball. Last year was UNLV’s best defensive season since 2007, allowing just 28.5 points per game. Odom led a top-10 defense at Missouri in 2015, a top-20 defense at Missouri in 2019, and helped Arkansas turn around its defense by cutting their points per game allowed down to 22.9 and total yards allowed per game by 84. Odom will hope to stage a similar turnaround in his first season at UNLV.

At Arkansas, Odom was diverse with his schemes, utilizing a 3-2-6 and a four-man front, but the team took a step back in 2022, allowing the most total yards per game in the SEC. UNLV was particularly vulnerable to big pass plays last year, giving up 21 pass plays of 30 or more yards, 93rd in the nation.

If that trend continues, this could be an opportunity for J.J. McCarthy and the offense to build chemistry in the passing game, but the UNLV defense will likely more closely resemble the Arkansas/Missouri schemes of Odom’s past. But without the SEC-level talent Odom had at his previous stops, there will likely be some growing pains, and a team like Michigan is going to exploit those flaws.