Friday Fodder: Can the Wolf Pack upset Notre Dame?
September 9, 2016
Sports fodder for a Friday morning … The Nevada Wolf Pack last Friday night suffered through its most disappointing season opener since it made the jump to Division I-A in 1992. You could argue it's the most disappointing opener since Frank Taylor's Sagebrushers were slaughtered 70-0 by Belmont in the program's first-ever game in 1896. A three-point win over a Division I-AA Cal Poly team at home isn't the way you want to kick off a season in which your head coach is looking for a contract extension, your athletic director is looking to sell tickets in order to pay for a $12 million stadium renovation and your fans are just biding time until the men's basketball season starts. The Wolf Pack was outcoached and outplayed for the majority of the game against a team that went 4-7 in the Big Sky Conference last year. Poly was more physical and aggressive and practically shoved the football down the Pack's throats. Pack coach Brian Polian, as usual, took no responsibility for the lackluster effort, blaming his administration for scheduling a team who runs a triple-option offense. Polian even went so far as to say he was pleased and not alarmed by the game. If there was ever a coach in the history of college football who simply doesn't understand his own fan base, it's Brian Whinin' Polian.
It's important, though, to not put too much emphasis on the season opener. First of all, the Pack never plays well against a triple-option team. You could toss a high school team on the field who runs the triple option and the Pack defense would be confused and get run over. Second, we probably didn't see the real Pack offense last Friday. It's reasonable to assume Polian and new offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey were scared to death to put anything on film Notre Dame could look at this week. The Pack kept the offense pretty basic against Cal Poly and the result was a total of three points over the second, third and fourth quarters combined. It was an awful way for the new hotshot offensive coordinator to debut in front of the home fans but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now. Games against Division I-AA teams signify everything that's wrong with college football. Everybody — the fans, players, coaches, cheerleaders — are bored to death. The Wolf Pack isn't good enough to play bored. Expect a much better effort at Notre Dame on Saturday.
Can the Wolf Pack beat Notre Dame? Anything is possible but if that happens, if Polian and the Pack come home 2-0 on Saturday night, it would be the greatest victory in the history of Wolf Pack sports. No other victory would come close. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly would be fired before he walks off the field at Notre Dame Stadium. Touchdown Jesus would start tossing lightning bolts at the Irish mascot. A Pack win in South Bend simply wouldn't make any sense especially after what we saw against Cal Poly. If you can't tackle a Division I-AA quarterback and fullback how can you stop Notre Dame? A Pack win on Saturday would mean the end of the world is upon us. The sky will turn black, the earth would start shaking, fires will erupt everywhere, the oceans would turn into one giant tsunami and your pets will start speaking.
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If you're Nick Rolovich are you second-guessing your decision to leave the Wolf Pack as offensive coordinator to become the head coach at Hawaii? Of course not. Head coaching jobs don't come around all that often and you must jump at the chance even if you know you're jumping into a pit of alligators and poisonous snakes. Hawaii is 0-2 and has been outscored 114-34 but it was against California and Michigan on a road trip (Australia and Ann Arbor, Michigan) that would exhaust a rock band on a 50-city tour in 50 nights. Those games were scheduled, in part, so Hawaii could pay Rolovich's salary. That's all college football at the mid-major level is. It's a giant bake sale so the coaches and athletic directors can live like doctors and lawyers, drive fancy cars and live in big houses and the rest of the sports at the university other than men's basketball can exist. The players are just pawns tossed into the arena to fight the lions so the coaches and ADs can become rich.
Has there ever been a NFL season as unpredictable as this one at the start of the season? There's no clear-cut Super Bowl favorite. A half-dozen teams in the NFC and AFC are looked at as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. But all dozen or so of those teams could also not even make the playoffs with a key injury or two. But Week One is upon us so here are our annual NFL predictions: The Carolina Panthers will beat the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC title game and the New England Patriots will beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC. The Super Bowl will see Tom Brady and the Patriots beat Cam Newton and the Panthers.
It's time for the Oakland Raiders to make the playoffs. The AFC West is wide open. The Denver Broncos don't have a quarterback, the Kansas City Chiefs are boring and predictable and the San Diego Chargers would struggle against a I-AA team. Expect the Raiders to win 10 games and that will likely be good enough to win the division. The San Francisco 49ers, though, are looking at a six-win year if a lot of things go well. There will likely be a merry-go-round at quarterback all season long with both Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick getting physically abused because of an inept offensive line. The defense will be better than last year so the Niners will play a lot of close games. But the offense doesn't have enough playmakers to win those close games.
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