Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 8/24/12
MINNEAPOLIS If you think the University of Minnesota football program is in rebuilding mode, take a look at the Gophers' opponent for the 2012 season opener next Thursday.The UNLV Rebels finished with just two wins in 2011. They also won only a pair of games in 2010. In fact, since 2004, UNLV has had six two-win seasons, including four straight from 2004-07. The Rebels have not finished .500 or better since 2003, when they were 6-6 despite just a 2-5 record in conference play.You have to go all the way back to the beginning of the millennium to find a Rebels team with a winning season. Back in 2000, UNLV had an 8-5 record and earned a spot in the Las Vegas Bowl. Since then, though, UNLV has failed to produce a winning record for 11 seasons (and counting).A look at the Rebels' stats from a year ago explains why they put together their second straight two-win season. UNLV's offense managed just 17.3 points per game, which ranked 113th in all of Division I football. The Rebels' defense was even worse, giving up 40.4 points per game, good for 118th in Division I. That means only two teams allowed more points per game than UNLV. The Rebels also allowed 443.17 yards per game, 105th in Division I.Three times last season, UNLV surrendered 50 or more points including a season-high 59 in a 59-7 loss to Washington State. In five other games, the Rebels gave up at least 50 points. Minnesota was by no means an offensive juggernaut in 2011, scoring just 18.4 points per game (111th in Division I). But opening the 2012 season against a UNLV team that couldn't stop anyone defensively a year ago could be a good way for the Gophers to jump start their offense early in the season.It wasn't until Tuesday that third-year UNLV coach Bobby Hauck named his starting quarterback. Redshirt freshman Nick Sherry will be under center on Thursday when the Rebels host the Gophers at Sam Boyd Stadium in a 10 p.m. CT start. Sherry edged out last season's starter, Caleb Herring, for the job.Facing an inexperienced quarterback in his first college game could be exactly what the doctor ordered for a Gophers defense that had just four interceptions in 2011, tied for third-fewest in all of Division I. Any way you slice it, this looks like a game Minnesota should win. But look no further than last year and you'll be reminded of similar games the Gophers should have won (on paper, at least) but ended up losing. Those included a 28-21 loss at home to New Mexico State and a 37-24 loss again at home to North Dakota State, a Football Championship Subdivision school.The Gophers can make a statement in Thursday's opener by putting together a convincing win. Hanging a crooked number on offense would be a sign that Minnesota and second-year head coach Jerry Kill are taking steps in the right direction. Senior quarterback MarQueis Gray, who was the team's starter last season after two years as a wide receiver, can also show that he is an improved player from 2011. While UNLV has given little reason to strike fear into the Gophers, Minnesota is saying all the right things leading up to Thursday's opener."From last year's film, we've seen they're still a solid team," Gophers defensive end Ben Perry said. "A lot of returners, so we expect some experience there. We're ready for what they can throw at us."The old saying is that whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. A loss to a UNLV squad coming off back-to-back two-win seasons will not stay in Las Vegas if the Gophers falter on Thursday. In fact, it could haunt them for the rest of the season.Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Was firing Jeff Hornacek the wrong move for the Suns?

Panthers picked wrong day to play worst game of the season

Was Peyton Manning paid for Budweiser mentions?

Cam Newton walks out of postgame press conference

Eli did not look thrilled after Peyton locked up Super Bowl

Rick Reilly sends awkward tweet during Super Bowl 50


Peyton Manning gives Papa John a kiss after game

Panthers' Josh Norman crying after losing Super Bowl

Peyton Manning ‘going to drink a lot of Budweiser’ after win

Where Peyton Manning ranks among Super Bowl era QBs

Peyton Manning declines to comment on possible retirement

Mike Carey not heard from again after being wrong earlier

Aqib Talib wipes out on NFL Network

Six best plays from Super Bowl 50

Five biggest boneheaded plays of Super Bowl 50

WATCH: Cam Newton gives questionable effort to recover fumble

Lions say Calvin Johnson's future still not determined

How Louisville basketball bungled their self-imposed ban

Ted Ginn Jr. whiffs on football twice on one play, results in Panthers turnover

Kony Ealy makes one-handed interception of Peyton Manning

Mike Carey gets another call wrong on incomplete pass in SB

Steph Curry beats Panthers' "Keep Pounding" drum

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

WATCH: Panthers' Jonathan Stewart leaps over pile for TD

Aqib Talib commits three awful penatlies in first half of SB

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best and worst from Super Bowl 50

Six best plays from Super Bowl 50

Eli doesn't look thrilled as Peyton wins Super Bowl

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

Curry to serve as drummer for Panthers

Report: Marshawn Lynch plans to retire

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Five outrageous predictions for Super Bowl 50

QUIZ: Name the winning starting quarterback from every Super Bowl

The top six matchups that could decide Super Bowl 50

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker