Friday, June 18, 2004 | 9:15 a.m.
Fall camp is still almost two months away for John Robinson's UNLV football squad. And depending on what college football magazine you read or believe, it could be a successful year for the Rebels ... or a disastrous one.
College football's version of the hot stove league is officially in full bloom as all five major preaseason football guides -- Athlon, Lindy's, Phil Steele's, Sporting News and Street & Smith's -- have hit the stands.
The Rebels are picked to finish as high as third place in the Mountain West Conference (and hosting UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl) by Phil Steele's very comprehensive 330-page publication and as low as eighth by Street & Smith's, once considered the bible of college sports magazines.
UNLV, which returns 14 starters from a squad that went 6-6 and stunned Wisconsin, 23-5, in Madison a year ago, is also picked fifth by Lindy's and seventh by both Athlon and Sporting News. All five pick defending MWC champion Utah to repeat in 2004.
"That's my kind of guy," Robinson joked when informed of Steele's Las Vegas Bowl projection.
Then turning more serious, Robinson downplayed the preseason projections.
"It means nothing to us," he said. "Many of the guys who write (the stories) have never even been to Las Vegas. It doesn't matter one way or the other where they pick you."
"Everybody has their own opinions," added senior linebacker Adam Seward, who was a preseason first-team all-Mountain West Conference pick by all five publications. "I don't really pay attention to them. As far as I'm concerned, they just do that stuff for the money. I'm not sure those guys really know what they're doing. I try and not pay attention to it because it really doesn't matter in the end anyway."
Athlon, the only magazine to award senior safety Jamaal Brimmer first-team All-American status, still managed to draw the ire of some Rebels players. The magazine tries to predict wins and losses in the upcoming season and projected UNLV winning just a Sept. 25 home game against Utah State with four more games -- Air Force, Nevada-Reno, at BYU and Wyoming -- listed as tossups.
"Everybody in the locker room laughs at that because we know we're not going to finish seventh or eighth in the conference," senior quarterback Kurt Nantkes said. "We know we're going to win more than just one game."
Robinson said he isn't surprised to see such a wide variety of predictions for his team in the magazines.
"Our conference is so even and so balanced," he said. "I think you say that Utah is clearly the favorite. But after that I wouldn't be surprised to see anybody."
Brimmer, believed to be the school's first position player to earn preseason first-team All-American honors from a publication, was totally overlooked as was the rest of the MWC by Street & Smith's. Brimmer, who was one of eight semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award a year ago, not only failed to make one of that magazine's three All-American squads but also wasn't one of 52 defensive backs in the nation to earn honorable mention All-American status. Brimmer also wasn't listed among the magzine's top 25 candidates for the Thrope Award. Lindy's, meanwhile, listed Brimmer as the 43rd best NFL prospect in the nation regardless of class.