Wyoming (4-2) at Nevada (3-4)
Saturday, October 22nd, 7:30pm
Line (Atlantis): WYO -4.5; O/U: 53.0
All-Time: Series tied 3-3
TV/Online/Radio: ESPN 2/WatchESPN/ESPN 94.5
My prayers have been answered! For the first time ever, Nevada Basketball is doing a Midnight Madness-type of event. Arch Madness starts at 7pm in downtown Reno on the ReTrac Plaza. It will be followed by the March from the Arch, which has quickly become a staple of Homecoming weekend since its inception in 2013.
San Jose State Thoughts
Just when I thought this season couldn't possibly get any worse, it did. As fellow columnist Andrew Maurins pointed out, this wasn't just another low point in Brian Polian's career, it was THE low point of his career.
Frankly, this was probably the worst Pack loss since a September 2012 loss to South Florida at home. That Bulls team won their first two games of the season and not another one until a November date with UCONN, to finish 3-9. The Spartans are on that same 2-3 win track. Their best chances of winning a game in their last five are at home against UNLV (S&P+ gives them a 34% chance) and on the road at Fresno State (S&P+ gives them a 32% chance) or they're looking at a 2-10 season with wins over Portland State, a game in which they gave up 35 points, and Nevada. Woof.
This was easily Nevada's worst offensive game since the 2009 Notre Dame game when they got shutout. San Jose State's defense was ranked 124th in the Nation coming into the game and all the Pack could muster was 10 points and 257 total yards. The problem for the Pack offense is it difficult to be a power running team when there's virtually no threat in the passing game. The Spartans were able to stack the box with as many guys as possible because they knew Tyler Stewart could not beat them with his arm and they were right. Granted, the elements played a factor in some of Stewart's struggles but they weren't an excuse on either of the awful picks nor some of his other outings this season.
The defense has bent but hasn't broken much in either of the last two games but both the Fresno and San Jose offenses are about as potent as Bishop Manogue's. The defense faced four different possessions where the Spartans started at the Nevada 30 or better and gave up 14 total points. Impressive stuff. Lastly, it was great to see the lineman finally get some pressure and sacks for the first time this season. I feel a lot better about the Silver & Blue defense than the offense right now. These are scary times on North Virginia Street.
On to Wyoming
Tale of the Tape from the S&P+ Rankings:
- Wyoming (89th Overall): Offense: 68th, Defense: 90th, Special Teams: 93rd
- Nevada (120th Overall): Offense: 108th, Defense: 113th, Special Teams: 112th
- S&P+ Prediction: Wyoming with a 70% chance to win, with a projected score of 34.5-25.4.
Last year, the Pack lost to a lifeless Cowboys team that couldn't beat any team outside of the Silver State. That's right, they were 2-10 with wins over Nevada and UNLV. This is a very different squad than a year ago. For one, they're much better on offense and defense. Two, they still have RB Brian Hill leading the way, he was a monster in that 2015 game, rushing for 188 yards on 33 carries. He's clearly the one of the top two backs in the Mountain West along with SDSU's Donnel Pumphrey.
Match-up wise, this is a bad one for the Pack. As we all know Nevada loves to run the ball and the Cowboys have a great run defense. They concede just 3.75 yards per carry and 140.67 per game. Their passing defense is their biggest weakness on the team, giving up 291.5 yards per game, while Nevada averages just 179.1 through the air.
Wyoming is a rush-first team that throws when they have to. On the season, they have just 150 pass attempts compared to 270 carries. Hill has 145 of those rushes for 721 yards, 5.0 yards per carry and 8 TD's. As a team, the Pokes average nearly 200 yards a game on the ground while Nevada gives up 250.71. If you haven't see him play, the most striking thing about Hill is that how fast he is for his size. He's listed at 6'1" and 219 pounds and he can fly. He's also the type of back that can absorb a lot of hits and get extra yardage off of missed tackles.
When Wyoming does throw the ball, they're somewhat efficient. Their QB Josh Allen completes 58.0% of his passes, averaging 25 attempts a game and 8.03 yards per attempt. He has thrown six interceptions this year, so if the Pack can get pressure on him they might be able to force him into a mistake.
One way of looking at this game is that both teams play a very similar style but Wyoming just does it much better. Both teams are run-oriented and try to pass 20-25 times a game, but the Pokes excel at it while Nevada cannot sustain drives.
If the Pack have any chance of winning this game, Stewart will have to lead them there. Nevada isn't likely to rush it for more than 4.0 yards per carry so the passing game will have to be a lot better than it has been the first seven games.
Around the MWC
Boise State once again moved up in both the Coaches and AP Polls, moving up a spot in both to #14. They play a huge OOC game at home against BYU on Thursday night...Air Force hosted the Air Force Classic at the Cotton Bowl last week against New Mexico. The announced crowd was 18,756 which was likely 6-7,000 more than were actually there to witness UNM's win and 373 yards on the ground...UNLV won a thriller in Hawaii 41-38 last week and now have a good chance at bowl eligibility, they host Colorado State in the MW's most intriguing conference game this week...
Fremont's Bet (3-3): Since Wynn Las Vegas opened this line on Sunday afternoon, I've been scratching my head as to how Wyoming was just a 4-point favorite. Wyoming had great and big wins against Colorado State and Air Force and are coming off of a bye week. After Nevada's anemic offensive output last week, coupled with a bad run defense I don't know how the Pack keep this game close, much less cover. I'm taking Wyoming -4.5 and I'm putting a lot more than my usual bet on it, this feels like free money.
As always, you can follow all of my debauchery @SaturdaysInReno. Battle Born!
JCF's Note: For the last two weeks, I've been working on a piece on Polian's career at Nevada that will run during the bye next week. I'm very excited about it and I've put a lot of effort into it, so I hope that you'll read and enjoy it. Lastly, sometime between now and November 11th, I will have a Nevada Basketball preview as I will be a weekly columnist throughout Hoops season.