What: Heart of Dallas Bowl
When: Wednesday, Jan. 1, 12:00 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Where: Historic Cotton Bowl Stadium (92,500), Dallas, Tex.
Opening Line: North Texas -7
What matters: In a battle of two teams you might have thought you'd never see in a New Year's Day bowl it's North Texas (one bowl win in its history) against UNLV (first winning season since 2000). A win would help UNT match its best finish since 1978, and would also hand Dan McCarney the third bowl win of his career (2000 and 2004 while at Iowa State). The Cotton Bowl is less than 50 miles from the University of North Texas campus. UNLV would match its best season since 1984 with a victory, and would move the school to 4-0 all-time in its limited bowl history.
Who matters: North Texas has a playmaker in wideout Brelan Chancellor, who is top 20 in the nation in all-purpose yards and has scored via reception, punt return and kickoff return this season. Running back Brandin Byrd totaled 505 yards and five touchdowns over the Mean Green's final three games. UNLV's attack centers around three productive players -- quarterback Caleb Herring (22 TD passes, 4 INT), running back Tim Cornett (1251 rushing yards, 15 TD) and wideout Devante Davis (77 catches, 14 TD).
Matchup question: Can UNLV punch it in against college football's No. 1 red-zone defense? The Rebels have scored a lot of points in 2013 (33.9 per game over their past 10), but are just 102nd in red-zone offense, which bodes poorly in a matchup against a UNT squad that has defined bend-but-don't break.
Prediction: UNLV has been one of the nation's surprising stories, but this will be basically be a home game for a North Texas team with a better 2013 resume. UNT played six 2013 bowl teams and beat three of them (Ball State, Middle Tennessee and Conference USA champion Rice), so the Mean Green look to be just a bit more prepared for this moment. North Texas 31, UNLV 21.