The Bullet Points
- Yes, like the beacon from a lighthouse, my weekly column has returned to guide you to the shores of Wolf Pack football season through the stormy seas of summer. No more will you have to rely on Olympic scandals (take your pick) or coverage of the perpetual waking nightmare we call the presidential election campaign (MAKE THE HURTING STOP FOR GOD’S SAKE) to tide you over until football returns. It has, in fact, returned, and it’s here to say “Up yours, Election 2016! You go straight to Hell and you stay there!” Because politics is weird and creepy, and college football is…slightly less weird and creepy. Ever so slightly.
- For a season when Nevada isn’t expected to contend for a Mountain West title, there’s a lot riding on how they perform. Brian Polian’s proverbial seat isn’t quite “hot” so much as it’s on a medium boil. Defensive coordinator Scott Boone has to replace all seven front starters from his kinda/sorta/not quite/maybe respectable-ish defensive unit from last year. And there’s the small matter of the athletic department needing a good season in a renovated stadium to overcome an underwhelming slate of home games and start generating some badly needed revenue. So what are we waiting for? Let’s dive in. No pressure or anything.
- Cal Poly ~ The Mustangs are an occasionally great FCS program entirely capable of beating FBS teams. These include a few wins against the Mountain West (San Diego State twice and Wyoming once) and one famously close call against Wisconsin. They run a triple option offense which has given Nevada varying levels of problems: lots of them when Air Force runs it, and fewer when other teams run it. I’m guessing this game will unfold something like Nicholls State in 2007, another triple option FCS opponent: some problems at the start, but eventually a comfortable win after the first quarter. Nevada 44, Cal Poly 17.
- @ Notre Dame ~ Nevada last played in South Bend under a glimmer of optimism for the 2009 season against an Irish team that maybe, possibly could’ve been vulnerable. They ended up beating Nevada 35-0 before finishing the season a very ordinary 6-6. Now it’s Notre Dame starting the season with lots of optimism and hope, ranked in the preseason top ten and opening their home slate against a Nevada team in a kind of transition. Expect a few more scores from the good guys, but not a very different result. Notre Dame 48, Nevada 14.
- Buffalo ~ The Bulls (not Bills) went 5-7 with a team of many veteran players last year, and will have a lot of new faces — particularly at the skill positions — in 2016. Their defense is more experienced, and will likely be tasked with carrying the team for the first few weeks. After barely squeaking out a win in last year’s tilt, Nevada entertains the first of three straight opponents who will be coming off of bye weeks when they play the Pack. According to the Wall Street Journal, however, the supposed "bye-week advantage" in college football is mostly bupkis. So there's that. Lance Leipold is also a great coach, but the Bulls (not Bills) are a few years away from being equally great. Nevada 35, Buffalo 21.
- @ Purdue ~ Nevada’s second trip to the Hoosier State (that's gotta bug Purdue fans...) in three weeks is an interesting one. Poor travel planning aside, this is a power conference road game the Pack are capable of winning, and perhaps the rare case when they should actually be expected to win. The Boilermakers were hot garbage last year and, in spite of returning 18 starters from that team, aren’t expected to be much better this year. In order to show sufficient progress in his leadership of the program, this is arguably a must-win game for Coach Polian. And not least of all because Yours Truly and his Dad will both be in attendance. Nevada 34, Purdue 31.
- @ Hawai’i ~ Poor travel planning became heinous travel planning the day the Mountain West released its conference football schedule and stuck Nevada’s trip to the islands right after its game at Purdue. Although considering the Rainbow Warriors’ schedule, that’s still relative. It’s mentee versus mentor as Nick Rolovich hosts his former employer in a game that could make or break Nevada’s conference season. While Hawai’i isn’t quite starting over from scratch, and they actually looked OK for long stretches of their opening loss to Cal, they’re still probably a few years away from being a factor in the west. Confound you, frequent long plane trips! Nevada 38, Hawai’i 31.
- Fresno State ~ It’s funny that I predicted the Pack would lose to Fresno last year, but lost a few other games I figured they would easily win. And I mean that word in the way Dane Cook is "funny," which is to say "not at all funny." If Brian Polian’s seat is on a medium boil, Tim DeRuyter’s seat is “Fires of Hell” scorching. In an effort to defibrillate life into his program, he replaced both of his main coordinators after last season, and desperation is always an interesting wild card. I’m thinking DeRuyter’s days in the valley are numbered. Keep the optimism train rolling along and sayonara, Timmy! Nevada 42, Fresno State 24.
- @ San Jose State ~ The team that helped fist bump Nevada to bowl eligibility last year is another intriguing unknown variable in the West Division. This is a game that has quietly become a difficult out for the Pack after they frequently dominated San Jose when both teams were in the WAC. On paper, the Spartans have reeled in some great-looking recruiting classes under Ron Caragher. Without wins, however, that’s the college football equivalent of having a nice personality. They do have Kenny Potter and the makings of a good offense, and their defense won’t suck. This is as close to a pure toss-up as we have on the schedule so far, so don’t mistake my prediction for a ringing endorsement. Nevada 31, San Jose State 28.
- Wyoming ~ The first third of a “This Time It’s Personal” three-fer on the season. The Cowboys were picked to finish last in the Mountain Division, and we know they will be in Nevada’s collective head after last year’s slow-motion tire fire in Laramie. Wyoming finished 2-10 last year, and they even beat UNLV for us in the final week just to rub it in some more. They couldn’t sack opposing quarterbacks much, they couldn’t get off the field on third downs, and they gave up a ton of points — all three of which were conveniently flipped just for the Pack. Lucky us. Now beat them the way you’re supposed to beat a homecoming opponent, guys. Nevada 42, Wyoming 21.
- Bye Week ~ No quarter for Bye Week scum! Nevada 100, Bye Week 0.
- @ New Mexico ~ Have you ever landed a date with someone so clearly out of your league you looked back on it afterwards and thought “How the heck did I do that?” That was Nevada’s win over New Mexico last year, as the Lobos went on to beat Boise State in Boise a few weeks later and very nearly won their division after that. You’d better believe they remember that game, and will be eager to atone for it. I’ve got a bad hunch that this year’s game will be as inversely frustrating as last year’s win was terrific. New Mexico 35, Nevada 27.
- San Diego State ~ While Boise State still might get most of the attention, from our side of the league, the Aztecs are the team to envy. Their offense will be good, their defense could be great, and they have that intangible air of a team that expects to do great things. If Nevada gets enough fortunate bounces in the nine games leading up to this one, they could be playing for the West Division title. “Could” is the key word there. In any case, I’m thinking they’ll come up short in this one. San Diego State 38, Nevada 21.
- Utah State ~ “This Time It’s Personal,” Part Duh. Nevada had a chance to end the Aggies’ streak of thirteen consecutive home wins in last year’s match. But like so much else in that season, they whizzed it down their collective leg and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Then Akron beat them in a bowl game, and the banging of the head on the wall resumed. Missed opportunities of all kinds have plagued the last few games in this series for the Pack. And for whatever reason, Nevada just seems to be snake-bitten against those darn cow-milkers. Utah State 31, Nevada 30.
- @ UNLV ~ “TTIP 3: Liberation.” If Wyoming successfully got in to Nevada’s collective head, the Rebels had already built a log cabin there, where they’ve been gleefully squatting since October 3rd of last year. The battle for the Fremont Cannon will once again be played on the final week of the regular season, and it’s not just that traditional date that should excite you. By this point in the season, UNLV will have given up their adorable dreams of bowl eligibility, and will have nothing left to play for but pride and that piece of artillery. Advantage Wolf Pack. Do not mistake me: no outcome other than swift, humiliating defeat of Rebel scum will be accepted, Coach Polian. Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose. Nevada 42, UNLV 20.
- Bowl Game ~ I do, in fact, have Nevada winning eight games in this run-through of a potential regular season. It would be cause for…maybe not quite celebration, but perhaps a smile and a nod that says “You did OK for yourself”? Yeah, that sounds about right. My highly scientific bowl game dart board has them pegged for Boise in mid-December — be still, my fluttering heart — with Northern Illinois. Or maybe Toledo. In either outcome, I’m picking another bowl loss, as Nevada has never won bowl games in back-to-back seasons before. From there, I foresee the resuming of heated talks on whether Polian is worthy of a contract extension segueing into a potentially epic conference basketball season. NIU/Toledo 41, Nevada 34.
- Lastly, it pains me to say that we have to talk about Kap again. I didn’t wish to weigh in on his recent episode unless I was absolutely sure I could do it in a way that was measured, thoughtful and unique. I tried and tried to type out something meaningful on it, but in the end, I couldn’t fulfill that desire. What I wrote down failed to differentiate from every other click bait "hot take" on the subject in a positive way. It would’ve sounded like so much other unproductive shouting that’s already taken over my Facebook feed. So instead, I encourage you to read three viewpoints on this topic articulated far better than what I could possibly offer: this one from Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News; this one from fellow Mercury News contributor Marcus Thompson II; and this one from a professor at the University of Nevada’s College of Business. I’ll end my current thoughts on this story thusly: don’t compromise your beliefs, Kap, but also don’t be so quick to cast aside the opportunity you’ve earned, and still have. I want to see you experience success in all of your endeavors, on and off the field.
Tap It S.N.A.F.U. Double IPA (San Luis Obispo, CA) ~ We return to column-ending beer reviews with a hop bomb from California’s central coast in honor of this week’s visiting Mustangs. Five different kinds of hops were added at six stages of the brewing process to create this foamy orange monster — the “D” in this double IPA is definitely capitalized. It smelled of pine and citrus, and had a medium body with grapefruit, orange and light spice tastes. The finish was clean, and the whole thing wasn’t nearly as aggressively bitter as other DIPAs out there. And considering its alcohol content (11.1% ABV), it can sneak up you if you aren’t careful. While the hop profile didn’t quite work for me — I tend to like more traditionally hopped IPAs — I still liked it fine enough. I give it three and a half tipsy Wolfies out of five.
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