Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

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August 8, 2014
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Friday Fodder:

Sports fodder for a Friday morning ... Brian Polian put Nevada Wolf Pack football into perspective this week. The second-year head coach said his idea of the perfect non-conference schedule would involve one Football Championship Subdivision (Division I-AA) team, two teams from non-BCS conferences and one team from the middle or lower ranks of some BCS conference.

In other words, Polian wants the Pack to have a chance every year at being the best mediocre team from a mediocre conference that it can be. What did you expect? A national championship? The Wolf Pack is never going to come close to winning a national championship so why stress out your coaching staff and players by playing UCLA and Florida State? The goal of the Pack every year is simply to beat a bunch of mediocre-to-bad teams, win a mediocre conference, go to a meaningless bowl game and get the head coach as many contract incentives as possible.

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This year’s Pack schedule would appear to be perfect for Polian’s Wolf Pack model for success. The Pack plays an FCS team (Southern Utah), two mediocre BCS teams (Washington State and Arizona) and a former Mountain West team (BYU) that thinks it’s more important on the college football landscape than it really is. There’s no excuse, therefore, for the Pack to win any less than eight of its 12 games. It actually has a chance at playing 14 games this year if it qualifies for the Mountain West title game and a bowl game. A 10-win season is a distinct possibility. Former coach Chris Ault, by the way, only had one season (13-1 in 2010) of 10 or more victories in his 11 seasons as a Division I-A (FBS) coach.

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Polian was careful this week to not put any added pressure on quarterback Cody Fajardo. “I don’t want Cody to be somebody he’s not,” Polian said. The head coach treated Fajardo like he was some wet-behind-the-ears freshman who couldn’t handle the pressure of carrying his team. “We have to do a better job around him in all facets of the game,” Polian said. Ault would have sat in front of the media this week and stated bluntly the time has come for Fajardo to put this team on his shoulders and carry it to greatness. No more excuses. No more we-have-to-do-a-better-job-around him garbage. Do you think Colin Kaepernick cared what his teammates did around him in 2010? Kaepernick just went out and basically said, “You guys follow my lead and don’t get in my way.” Fajardo can handle it. This is the year he’s trained his entire life for. He’s not going to spend his senior year handing off to Kendall Brock and hoping for the best. Well, he better not.

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The only interesting aspect of the Wolf Pack’s season opener in three weeks against Southern Utah will be the comparison of Wolf Pack defensive end Brock Hekking to Thunderbirds defensive end James Cowser. They both wear No. 53, they both have weird hair, they both love to destroy quarterbacks and both are about the same size (about 6-4, 255 pounds). Cowser has 18 sacks and 32.5 tackles for a loss over the last two seasons and Hekking has 24.5 tackles for a loss and 17 sacks. Yes, Hekking has compiled his numbers against far tougher competition but Cowser did have two tackles for a loss against Washington State last year as well as a tackle for a loss and an interception against California in 2012.

Fajardo better be aware of where Cowser is on every play just to be on the safe side.

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Football coaches in the so-called Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 10, Pac 12, SEC and Big 12) were polled recently and they are in favor of playing only fellow Power 5 conference teams. That’s what the four-team playoff is going to do to college football. It’s all about strength of schedule and playing FCS teams and teams from, say, the Mountain West and Conference USA, does nothing to get you into that four-team playoff. That’s not good news for the Wolf Pack, which needs a game or two every year against a Power 5 conference team to, you know, pay Polian’s salary.

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If the San Francisco Giants ever learn how to win at home they will run away with the National League West title. The Giants are still breathing down the backs of the Los Angeles Dodgers despite going just 29-30 so far at home, a place they used to just annihilate opponents. The good news, though, is the Giants have 22 home games remaining and 16 are against patsies such as the White Sox, Phillies, Rockies, Diamondbacks and Padres. Despite a rash of injuries the Giants can still finish on top of the underachieving Dodgers. But they better go out and get Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley from the Phillies to, you know, just make sure.

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It’s too bad college football isn’t more like major league baseball. If a team, such as the Wolf Pack, has nothing to play for late in the season (like last year) it should be able to trade senior stars like Fajardo and Hekking for scholarships. Hey, if college football players want a salary and want to be treated like professional athletes then the schools should have the option of trading them, right? The traded seniors might welcome the chance of playing for a championship as well as the added exposure of playing meaningful games in November, December and January. Everybody comes out a winner.


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The Nevada Appeal Updated Aug 8, 2014 12:03AM Published Aug 8, 2014 12:03AM Copyright 2014 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.