UNLV football head coach Barry Odom addresses the media during the Mountain West football media ...

Rarely has a simple No. 1 inside parentheses been the source of such derision and mockery as on Wednesday at Circa when the results of the Mountain West preseason football poll were released at media day.

The initial wave of jokes and laughter very quickly turned to speculation about who could have committed such a grave injustice as to have cast an actual first-place vote for a UNLV team that has had more proposals to disband the program than bowl game victories.

Was it a data entry error? A troll looking to throw chaos into the process? An unabashed homer, or perhaps a relative of new coach Barry Odom?

My personal favorite was a theory that someone partial to former coach Marcus Arroyo cast the vote to put additional pressure and expectations on the new coaching staff. Silly, but that’s the kind of world we were delving into for several hours.

Admittedly, I was on the bandwagon of jokes and insults for some time myself. But then the focus changed. Was the vote really that crazy, and what reasons did the voter have for casting it?

Power Five coaching

After frantically contacting a large contingent of known voters to no avail, the search began to intensify until finally identifying the likely “culprit” from a small group of possible candidates.

Turns out the vote wasn’t a mistake or a troll job. It was cast after a great deal of research and contemplation.

“First and foremost, I really like the new coaching staff. By Mountain West standards, they have as much Power Five experience as any staff in the league,” broadcaster Matt Neverett said. “And this was a team on the right track last year (at 4-1) until the wheels kind of fell off. This staff is preaching consistency, and I think if they can get to the level they were at in the early part of last year and maintain that throughout the year, I think they’re primed to take a huge step forward.”

Neverett, a rising star in the broadcasting world as he follows in the footsteps of his father and Dodgers announcer Tim, calls some UNLV football and basketball games on television and radio, as well as his work with the Aviators in Las Vegas. He has also done some broadcasting work for the conference and hosts Mountain West programming that includes the league’s official podcast, so Neverett follows the conference closely.

He likes the infusion of depth and talent UNLV was able to add in the transfer portal that will blend nicely with returning standouts in quarterback Doug Brumfield and receiver Ricky White in a new up-tempo offense. Defensively, Odom has a proven track record at the highest levels of college football, and Neverett expects a huge improvement on that side of the ball.

Then there’s the schedule. Neverett believes the fact UNLV avoids Boise State and San Diego State will be a major factor in the conference race, particularly with a nonconference slate that should have them prepared for Mountain West play.

There is also the fact that there is no dominant team on paper. While Boise State finished atop the poll and garnered 28 of the 37 first-place votes, five teams received at least one first-place selection.

‘Calculated gamble’

Neverett isn’t alone in expecting a big leap, either. While UNLV finished ninth in the poll, the Rebels have the seventh-best odds to win the conference title at 16-1 at Caesars Sportsbook.

That’s by far the most respect they’ve had from the oddsmakers in quite some time. Their season-win total is at six, meaning a bowl berth is basically the standard for this team. As far as this program goes, that qualifies for soaring expectations that not many people have noticed nationally.

It’s certainly not a vote I would have cast, but I’d certainly pick them far higher than their ninth-place finish in the poll.

Give Neverett credit for putting himself on a limb and being willing to explain it.

“It’s a calculated gamble for sure, but it’s Vegas, so why not?” Neverett said. “I think they can absolutely be a dark horse.”

“There’s certain teams you can peg toward the bottom and others you can put at the top, but I really think there’s a solid mix of seven, eight or even nine teams that have a legitimate shot to win this league. And I think with their schedule and the lack of divisions this year, you get a team winning their last four or five games in a row, that could give you a chance because there is so much parity.”


SlamBall officially made its return Friday, and the initial reviews were very good on social media, particularly among those feeling nostalgic about the trampoline-infused hybrid of basketball and football’s original run two decades ago.

The season will run through Aug. 17, and it’s worth checking out a game in person at Cox Pavilion, where some of the athleticism and height at which the game is played can be better appreciated than on TV.

Perhaps the only real criticism for now is all the starting and stopping with so many infractions and violations. At times, it looked like even the players were confused about some of the rules.

That could impact how much traction this thing gains if players don’t do a better job of understanding, or alterations aren’t made at some point.

Otherwise, it’s a winner.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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Mike McNamara

Mike McNamara

A Las Vegas Realtor since 2008. Mike has a wide range of knowledge around all things Las Vegas.

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