Guaranteed Rate Bowl: Kansas vs. UNLV

By Lee Wakefield

Bowl season makes another stop at a diamond for the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Arizona, as one of four games due to take place in baseball stadiums, which certainly gives a different feel to the games. It used to be more but the bowl in Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida, moved to the Ray Jay.

The Kansas Jayhawks are 2-0 in this particular bowl game after their previous visit ended in a win over Minnesota in 2008. UNLV hasn’t previously visited Arizona for a Guaranteed Rate game (or whilst it held any of its previous titles) but they have come up against the Jayhawks a couple of times with their head-to-head series sitting at 1-1.

The Rebels have a 3-1 programme record in bowl games, which whilst not the greatest sample size, is a nice winning percentage.

Where and When

Guaranteed Rate Bowl

Location: Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona

Date: 26th December 2023

Time: 9 pm (ET)

Story so far…

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Lance Leipold’s Jayhawks are on an upward trend under his leadership! And he can see good things on the horizon in 2024.

From 2-10 in 2021 to 6-7 and now 8-4, Kansas is going bowling for the second year in a row and whilst it will almost always be a basketball school, its football programme is no longer a complete afterthought. Those painful memories of 2020’s winless season under Les Miles appear to have been banished.

This year began brightly, with Kansas only losing to CFP-bound Texas in the first 6 weeks. However, once the schedule toughened up a little, cracks began to appear in Kansas’ squad, with conference losses coming against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Kansas State.

That said, they come into this one off the back of a rousing win in Cincinnati where they knocked off the Bearcats 49-16.

UNLV also had a very positive year under Barry Odom, in his first season leading the programme.

Whilst it wasn’t perfect; the Rebels lost the Mountain West championship 44-20 to Boise State, but a 9-4 record is a great mark to hit for this team. Like Kansas, 2020 was a dreadful year for UNLV as they also went winless under former Head Coach, Marcus Arroyo. The parallels of improvement ever since are also there between the two teams, as UNLV has also improved every season since 2020.

Only once in programme history has UNLV reached double figures in the win column, which actually didn’t really happen.

This was in 1984 when the Rebels posted an 11-2 and won the California Bowl against Toledo. Only to have the NCAA force them to forfeit all of their wins from the ‘83 and ‘84 seasons due to fielding ineligible players. 

The Quarterbacks…

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Sixth-year passer Jason Bean will likely be under center for Kansas, even though the Jayhawks have cycled through two other quarterbacks this season so far. Jalon Daniels, who was the starter in 2022, went unbeaten in his three games towards the start of this season but has suffered with injuries ever since. Daniels, who came into the year as Big XII Offensive Player of the Year, is coming back to play in 2024, which leaves Bean with not much to lose in the bowl game since it’ll be his last act in college football.

Bean is coming off an impressive showing in the aforementioned Cincinnati win, where he went 13/17 for 250 yards with 2 passing touchdowns. Bean also added 90 yards off 4 rushes on the ground whilst also finding the endzone twice more. 

The Rebels will be counting on Freshman passer Jayden Maiava, who has had a solid year for a quarterback who is so young. A former three-star recruit from Henderson, Nevada, who also garnered attention from Louisville during his recruiting cycle. Maiava opted to stay at home and also to have a clear pathway to starting reps earlier in his collegiate career at UNLV. This looks like a wise decision; he’s playing close to home, for a winning programme and could top it off with a bowl win in year 1.

Prospects to watch…

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Devin Neal, Running Back – Neal has been a workhorse back for Kansas for a number of years. A dogged runner who always fights for extra yards and who has shown that he can be a productive player on film. There’s always a place for day 3 running backs within every NFL stable

Dominick Puni, Offensive Line – Puni has the versatility needed by all late-round linemen, having spent time at left guard before kicking out to tackle for the 2023 season. Puni is a decent pass protector who can also generate rush lanes for the likes of Devin Neal.



Ricky White, Wide Receiver – A productive and explosive pass catcher who began his collegiate career at Michigan State, White will be the best receiver on the field for this one. His production has exploded this year with 1,387 yards and 7 touchdowns. White has a skinny build at 6 ‘1, 185 lbs but has the pure burst and top-end speed to worry any defensive back. He will attract double teams from the Kansas defense. 


Despite both sides being on an upward swing I see Kansas as the stronger team, playing against a higher level of competition on a weekly basis, and therefore they should have the edge in this one. Especially given they’ve been able to ride the loss of their starting QB to arrive with a positive regular season under their belts.

Kansas 38 – UNLV 19

Lee Wakefield