Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

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October 19, 2012
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Nevada lucky to be 6-1


Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . . Chris Ault needs to go out and buy a lottery ticket because right now he is the luckiest football coach in the world. His Nevada Wolf Pack team is 6-1, have won five games in a row and, well, they are doing it with mirrors, sleight of hand, optical illusions, hocus pocus and a whole lot of good fortune. This Pack team had no right winning its last two games against Wyoming and UNLV. It's not that the Pack isn't talented. They were never going to finish any worse than 8-4 this year anyway. It's just that they haven't played all that well in five of their seven games. But they've played a very forgiving schedule, backup quarterback Devin Combs is one of the truly great stories in college football and, voila, they are 6-1 and headed to another bowl. UNLV put a red cannon on its helmets last week. It's about time the Pack puts a four-leaf clover on its helmet.

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Everything is set up for the Pack to finish 11-1 in the regular season. They have just five games left and they get two weeks, thanks to two well-placed bye weeks, to prepare for their two toughest remaining tests, which are both at home (Fresno State and Boise State). College football is and always has been about scheduling. The Pack has played seven opponents and none of the seven right now have a winning record. There's nothing wrong with being lucky and playing the right teams at the right time. The football Gods, after all, owed the Pack a season like this. Heck, they owe them about a half dozen more. Just enjoy it while it lasts.

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Where can all this good fortune take the Pack? There's no reason why this team can't find itself in the Top 20 by the end of the regular season. The Pack, which received seven votes in the USA Today coach's rankings this week, is one of 33 teams in the nation right now with no more than one loss. A little more than half of those teams (18) are in the Big 12, Pac 12, Big 10 and SEC and it will be tough for the Pack to get ranked higher than about 15 of them. But if the Pack keeps winning there's no reason why they can't be ranked higher than moist of those other 14 and finish somewhere around No. 18-20 going into their bowl game in December.

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Why doesn't every college football team run the Wolf Pack's pistol offense? Yes, many of them do run some sort of variation of the pistol for at least a few plays every game. But nobody runs the pistol as much as the Pack. And it makes no sense. Coaches have copied great offenses since the sport was invented. But, for some reason, other coaches only want to steal a few things from the pistol and not totally commit to it. Why not? The pistol, as we've seen the last game and a half, works no matter who is taking the snap. It works no matter who is running the ball or catching it. The pistol doesn't require great athletes. It doesn't require Sports Center highlight big plays. All it does is methodically move the ball down the field and win games.

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It might be time for the San Francisco 49ers to give Colin Kaepernick some more playing time. The 49ers were reminded last week that Alex Smith is a very serviceable and efficient quarterback when they have a lead. But when they fall behind by more than a touchdown, well, he's almost worthless. Kaepernick has shown this year that he's ready. He has earned more paying time. He's another Robert Griffin III waiting to happen. The Niners would be a nightmare for opposing defenses to prepare for if Kaepernick got just a quarter of the snaps every week.

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The Wolf Pack men's basketball team should finish no worse than 18-12 in the regular season this year. And if just a couple things go right -- they need to replace forwards Olek Czyz and Dario Hunt -- they could be looking at 22-8. They key to the whole season is winning at least 10 of the 14 non-league games before the Mountain West schedule begins in January. The Pack could very well go 12-2 in those 14 non-conference games. The hard part will be finishing over .500 in the 16 Mountain West games. The key in the Mountain West is winning at least six of your eight home league games. This is a league where the good teams rarely, if ever, lose at home.

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You have to admire New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi for having the guts to bench Alex Rodriguez in the postseason. You have to wonder how this will all turn out this winter. Will Girardi get fired? Will A-Rod be traded? But is Girardi doing the right thing by sitting A-Rod? Not at all. Why isn't he benching the slumping Robinson Cano? The postseason is not the time to start experimenting with lineups. You don't want to lose with a Hall of Famer sitting on the bench. Just ask the Washington Nationals.



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The Nevada Appeal Updated Oct 19, 2012 02:05AM Published Oct 19, 2012 02:02AM Copyright 2012 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.