Friday Fodder: Don’t bet the house on these picks
Sports fodder for a Friday morning … Back in August we told you the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts would meet in this season’s Super Bowl. So don’t exactly go out and get a second mortgage on the house and make the following bets. Now that you are warned, go ahead and take the four home teams in this week’s opening round of the NFL playoffs. The Carolina Panthers will out-field goal the Arizona Cardinals 9-6. The Pittsburgh Steelers will grind down the Baltimore Ravens, 17-13. The Indianapolis Colts will win the battle of the Andys at quarterback and beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 30-17. And the Dallas Cowboys will destroy the Detroit Lions, 28-14, because, well, it’s the Detroit Lions.
It was yet another forgettable year up on north Virginia Street. The Nevada Wolf Pack’s most memorable moments of 2014? The men’s basketball team swept its two games against UNLV, winning on Jan. 8 in Las Vegas and March 8 at Lawlor Events Center. The football team beat Washington State on Sept. 5 at Chris Ault Field and took the Fremont Cannon back home from Las Vegas on Nov 28. The baseball team won three games at the Mountain West tournament last May. In other words, you will likely remember the amazing 1957 Chevy that rolled past you on Virginia Street during Hot August Nights a lot longer than you will savor anything that happened to the Pack in 2014.
It’s difficult to believe the San Francisco 49ers will benefit in the long run by the Jim Harbaugh-Trent Baalke feud. Harbaugh revitalized 49ers football, getting the franchise to the NFC title game three times and the Super Bowl once in his four seasons. The 49ers were 49-22 (including the playoffs) under Harbaugh. This is a head coach you force out of town? But Harbaugh is now the Michigan Wolverines head coach because he and Baalke seemingly couldn’t get along. They have been as silly as the fighting Kardashian sisters. It’s a wonder 49ers fans aren’t hanging Baalke in effigy off the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team’s 81-67 win over Northwest Christian, a team the Pack could have beaten with four sports writers and a Lawlor Events Center usher in the starting lineup, surprisingly taught us a great deal. It taught us the Pack, which open its Mountain West schedule Saturday (3 p.m.) at Lawlor against Air Force, desperately needs A.J. West. The Pack outscored Northwest Christian 37-16 in the 19 minutes West was on the floor. In those 19 minutes West scored 14 points, pulled down seven rebounds and blocked three shots. In the 21 minutes West was on the bench, watching the game along with the reporters and ushers, Northwest Christian outscored the Pack 51-44. The Pack needs West at his best to have any chance in the Mountain West.
What are the Wolf Pack’s realistic chances at finishing in the top half of the 11-team Mountain West? Probably better than you think. The good news is the Pack gets 10 of its 18 league games against the five worst teams of the Mountain West (Air Force, San Jose State, Fresno State, Wyoming and Utah State). They only have to play eight games against the five best teams (Boise State, UNLV, Colorado State, San Diego State and New Mexico). There’s no reason why the Pack can’t finish at least .500 in league play and end up in fifth place. One of their nine league wins, though, better come Saturday against Air Force.