Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

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January 2, 2014
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Friday Fodder: Pack’s conference season starts Saturday

Sports fodder for a Friday morning ... What did the Nevada Wolf Pack basketball victory at San Jose State on Wednesday mean? It only means they didn’t party too much on New Year’s Eve. San Jose State is a truly awful college basketball program. The Spartans haven’t had a head coach leave the program with a winning record since Stu Inman from 1960-66. San Jose State has had one winning season in the last 19 years and just two in the last 26. They haven’t finished more than four games over .500 in over three decades. The only reason the Pack won just 11 games last year is because they didn’t get to play San Jose State. The Pack has gone 22-1 against the Spartans since 2002. Happy New Year, Pack. The real Mountain West season starts Saturday against Wyoming.


The Wolf Pack, though, seems to have turned a corner. A.J. West has given the Pack a presence and an attitude in the paint. Deonte Burton continues to be the best overall player in the conference and coach David Carter has found a way to keep his team’s head above water despite a fourth of his roster seemingly always injured or ineligible. Wyoming has beaten the Pack nine consecutive times since 1938 but this is a game the Pack should win by a half dozen points. The Cowboys are 9-4 but they haven’t beaten anybody that could even beat San Jose State. If the Pack has any chance of finishing .500 or above in its 18 Mountain West games this year they have to win at home on Saturday.


Mountain West basketball is just not that good this season. San Diego State is clearly the only team that resembles a NCAA Tournament team right now while everybody else seems headed to the NIT or some internet tournament in March. There’s no reason the Pack can’t finish in the top third of the 11-team league. Due to the silly, quirky Mountain West schedule the Pack only has to play San Diego State and Colorado State each once this year. As long as Burton stays healthy and West stays eligible, the Pack should win at least 10 league games.


NFL playoff picks: San Francisco 49ers over the Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs over the Indianapolis Colts, the Philadelphia Eagles over the New Orleans Saints and the Cincinnati Bengals over the San Diego Chargers. Colin Kaepernick has made his career on shredding the Packers defense. The Chiefs won’t turn the ball over four times like they did against the Colts last month. The Bengals are 8-0 at home and the Saints couldn’t beat the Wolf Pack on the road.


The 49ers won four more games than the Packers this year. The Packers shouldn’t even be in the playoffs. Kaepernick, who was born in Wisconsin, loves to beat the Packers. He ran for 181 yards last year against Green Bay and passed for 412 this season. The Niners have a defense and the Packers, well, they just close their eyes and curl up in the fetal position until Aaron Rodgers gets back on the field. 49ers 34, Packers 20.


The Houston Texans would be making a huge mistake if they pass on Johnny Manziel with the first pick in the NFL draft this spring. Manziel would be perfect for the Texans. He belongs in Texas. He was the most dynamic player in college football the last two seasons. The kid is a winner and a leader. The Texans, though, like most NFL teams, will let the measuring tape and the stopwatch cloud their judgment over the next four months and probably take Jadeveon Clowney or Teddy Bridgewater with the top pick. And they will regret it for the next dozen years.


The NHL is overdoing it with too many outdoor games this season. Over 100,000 fans showed up at the University of Michigan on Wednesday to watch the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs play in the cold and snow. It was a great showcase for the NHL. The New Year’s Day outdoor game is becoming a staple of our holidays because, well, the Rose Bowl and the rest of college football’s bowls that day mean absolutely nothing. Wings-Leafs at The Big House should have been the only outdoor game of the NHL season. It is, however, just the first of six. There will even be one in Dodger Stadium later this month. Hockey indoors is a stretch for southern California. But outdoors? The only thing that freezes in L.A. in January are cheap computers and bad actors with stage fright. Leave it to the NHL to ruin a good thing.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jan 2, 2014 11:47PM Published Jan 2, 2014 11:47PM Copyright 2014 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.