Arizona Bowl game for the Wolf Pack is hollow victory | NevadaAppeal.com

Arizona Bowl game for the Wolf Pack is hollow victory

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

The Nevada Wolf Pack’s 28-23 Arizona Bowl victory over Colorado State means next to nothing. A loss also would have meant next to nothing. That’s the beauty of playing a meaningless bowl game. Nothing has changed with Pack football because of what happened in Tucson. The Pack simply beat a mediocre team playing with no motivation in a silly bowl game that nobody cared about. The Pack is not going to challenge for a national title next year. The Wolf Pack is not going to add 30,000 seats to Mackay Stadium, join the Pac-12 and hire Chip Kelly. The Wolf Pack is not going to the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl or any other bowl where Kirk Herbstreit would dare show his face. All the victory over the Rams accomplished was to take the edge off of this disappointing season. So tear down the gallows. The Pack now has a winning record (7-6) and its first bowl win since 2010. That’s all well and good. But it’s also not a reason to stage a parade down Virginia Street just yet.

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The 2015 season will forever be known as the What Might Have Been season for Pack football. This should have been a 10-win season. The schedule, which was full of patsies and programs on life support, was set up for the Pack to flourish. How do you lose to UNLV and Wyoming? How do you blow a 20-point lead in the middle of the third quarter against Utah State? You get out-coached, that’s how. This Wolf Pack team had a ton of talent this year. It was the Pack’s most talented team since 2010. But they never played well for more than two quarters — usually two plays — in a row all season long.

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What should we expect out of Pack football in 2016? The schedule, once again, is set up for success. The Pack should go 3-1 in the non-league games (Cal Poly, Buffalo, Purdue, Notre Dame) and then lose no more than three Mountain West games. The Pack next year plays just three teams (San Diego State, Notre Dame, New Mexico) that had a winning record this year. They play six teams that won four or fewer games. Like this year, the Pack can’t help but win at least seven games next year. It should win at least nine or 10. But when was the last time the Pack did what it was supposed to do?

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The biggest issue facing the Pack starting this spring is whether or not they can come up with a new defensive line and set of linebackers. The Pack will definitely miss Ian Seau, Lenny Jones, Rykeem Yates, Jordan Dobrich, Matt Lyons and Bryan Lane next year. They can’t replace that sort of talent and experience in one year. The offense seems set with most everybody coming back but if you are quarterback Tyler Stewart, you have to be a bit concerned. The Pack only let Stewart throw 13 passes on Tuesday. They were down a point at their own 28-yard line with just 3:34 to go and they still only let Stewart throw one more pass. That’s not showing a lot of confidence in your starting quarterback. That’s telling your starting quarterback that he better be ready to compete for his job this spring.

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The biggest Wolf Pack moment of 2015 was, without question, the hiring of Eric Musselman as the men’s basketball head coach. It is still difficult to be comprehend how an accomplished and respected coach like Musselman would end up at Nevada. But he did. So sit back and enjoy it while it lasts. Unlike football, which can never win anything more meaningful than a Mountain West title and a made-for-TV bowl that nobody watches, basketball can transform Wolf Pack sports and give it a true national footprint. This Wolf Pack team is going to win 18 or more games and go to some sort of postseason tournament. And next year, well, look out. It could be the deepest Wolf Pack team in school history.

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Chip Kelly should go back to college football. The problem with that scenario is that there are no schools with openings right now that can afford him. Texas, which will fire Charlie Strong eventually, could open up. Kevin Sumlin is getting exposed at Texas A&M. Auburn might be tired of Gus Malzahn and Jim Mora might leave UCLA for the NFL in a few weeks. And nobody ever knows when Les Miles will leave LSU. But all those jobs right now are filled. So if Kelly is going to coach in 2016 it will likely be in the NFL. That would be a mistake for Kelly and the team that hires him.

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Imagine Kelly in Dallas with Jerry Jones? That would be a TMZ moment waiting to happen. Most everyone expects Kelly to end up in Tennessee where he could coach ex-Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. But unless the Titans get to schedule Oregon State, Washington State, Utah and Colorado every year, Kelly won’t win in Music City. Kelly, though, could win in Indianapolis with Andrew Luck. And it might be fun to see what he could do with Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. But Kelly still belongs in college where gimmick offenses get you 10 wins a year and players are forced to put up with your my-way-or-the-highway personality.