The Bullet Points
- After all the teeth-gnashing and general Internet outrage — which is roughly the same as actual outrage, but with less than one tenth the effort expended — the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Conference Game Bowl is upon us. And once you get past the inherent lack of exterior appeal to it all, it could actually be an interesting game to watch. Colorado State comes into this game with the better record against the tougher schedule, as well as the bowl’s best player in wide receiver Rashard Higgins. But like any 7-5 team, there are blemishes to be found, with the Rams boasting a rushing defense even worse than the Wolf Pack’s (208.5 yards given up per game compared to 188.8 for Nevada), and their -11 turnover margin tied for second-worst in the league. The Rams are most successful when quarterback Nick Stevens throws more touchdowns than interceptions, while the Pack are most successful when the ground attack is clicking. The main wild card in this game is how interim offensive coordinator Jim Hofher calls plays. If he has something good up his sleeve, and his unit keeps the ball, Nevada can win it. If not, it’s another season of “Been There, Done That, Lost the Bowl Game.” Prediction: Colorado State 31, Nevada 28.
- In previewing conference play for basketball, which starts on Wednesday at New Mexico, I’m changing things up a little. Rather than go through the season game-by-game, I’m giving some of my impressions of each opponent and how I think Nevada will do against them team-by-team.
- Air Force ~ A team with a surprisingly high RPI given their resume to date. Their Princeton offense is a scheme that Musselman hasn’t had to prepare for as a head coach yet. Still, I’ll go with the Pack’s athleticism over the Falcons’ discipline. Home: win. Away: win.
- Boise State ~ One of the top teams in the league at this time, and maybe #1 depending on who you ask. I think Nevada will acquit themselves better than they did in their two games against the Broncos last year, but a split would still be an achievement. Home: loss. Away: loss.
- Colorado State ~ After starting the season 5-0, the Rams have lost five of their last seven, including a head-scratcher at Northern Colorado. They have, however, looked better in their last two games. I’m thinking a split here, with both contests close. Home: win. Away: loss.
- Fresno State ~ Here’s another series that could go in several directions. The Bulldogs’ overall resume is stronger than Nevada’s, but I still think a split is possible. Home: Loss. Away: win.
- New Mexico ~ The Lobos are reeling, having lost at home to a mediocre Rice team before going oh-fer in the Diamond Head Classic last week. There are much worse times Nevada could’ve picked to open conference play in the Pit. I see a close loss there, but a more comfortable home win when these teams meet again in March. Home: win. Away: loss.
- San Diego State ~ Nevada plays SDSU once as part of this year’s unbalanced conference schedule. Like usual, there’s plenty of talent on their roster, but they haven’t been able to put things together with any consistency, and have some truly baffling losses (San Diego and Grand Canyon) to their name. This is the year I think the Pack finally gets over the hump against the Aztecs. Home: win.
- San Jose State ~ The Spartans have shown some real, tangible improvement this season, but it’s still hard to picture them finishing anywhere but last in the league. Any hope Nevada has of demonstrating their own development under Musselman is contingent upon them handily winning games like this one. Away: win.
- UNLV ~ Speaking of mediocre Rice teams (*rim shot*), these Rubbles have actually done well for themselves so far...so in retrospect, that joke makes little sense. I apologize. The Rabbles demonstrated the most consistency in non-conference play among MWC teams, but if David Carter can out-coach Dave Rice on multiple occasions, then surely Eric Musselman can, too, right? Home: win. Away: loss.
- Utah State ~ The Aggies have beaten the bad teams they’ve played and lost to the good teams they’ve played. This is a series that could go either way, in all honesty. At a minimum, I think Nevada has two better outings than last year’s games. Home: win. Away: loss.
- Wyoming ~ Similar to San Diego State, I think this is the year Nevada finally gets the better of the Cowboys, who’ve taken a step back. Both games could be close, but I think the Pack takes the two of them. Home: win. Away: win.
- Predicted conference finish: 11-7. 7-2 at home, 4-5 on the road.
New Belgium + Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale (Fort Collins, Colorado) ~ New Belgium is currently the fourth-largest craft brewery and eighth-largest overall brewery in the U.S., as well as my personal go-to brewery for all Colorado State match-ups like tomorrow’s. Along with the Vermont-based ice cream makers, they both put out salted caramel brownie offerings of beer and ice cream to raise money for Protect Our Winters, an environmental group bringing winter sports businesses together to combat climate change. The beer half of that collaboration pours mahogany brown with a very small, light tan head. The smells were faint, and ranged from caramel and brownie batter to malted milk balls and vanilla. The taste continues that caramel-y sweetness pretty far, with a bitter, roasted malt finish and an ever-so-slight twinge of salt. Overall, I’d say it was adequate, and more cloyingly sweet than I would’ve liked. It’s an interesting concept that doesn’t quite fully work, serving best as a dessert drink paired with some of those aforementioned smells in food form. Not bad, but could’ve been better. I give it three tipsy Wolfies out of five.
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