Friday Fodder: Pack fans have ridden Polian Express
November 20, 2014
Sports fodder for a Friday morning … Nevada Wolf Pack football coach Brian Polian said "our fans need to step up" this week against Fresno State. That is a dangerous road to travel on with Wolf Pack fans. Pack fans have stepped up quite nicely in support of Polian the last two seasons. They have welcomed him with open arms and support despite the fact he was replacing the greatest football coach in school history. Pack fans have showed up in solid numbers (24,345 this year and 24,939 last year) to watch Polian's teams despite the fact most of the games are played in ridiculously cold weather, drag on tediously for around four hours and don't end until the clock is approaching midnight. And, don't forget, Polian's teams have gone just 10-12 and gave away the Fremont Cannon last year at home, in front of 32,521 loyal Pack fans, by the way. Pack fans should be applauded for their support. They don't deserve to be challenged like they are a bunch of 6-year-olds being told to clean their rooms or else Santa won't visit them next month. Polian is always saying he doesn't need to tell his team when it's facing a big game. He should also realize he also doesn't have to tell his fans.
Nobody wants to win the West Division of the Mountain West Conference. Three teams (Nevada, Fresno State, San Diego State) are leading the division at 3-3 with just two games left to play. You could argue there are four teams in the conference's Mountain Division (Boise State, Colorado State, Utah State and Air Force) whho are better than any team in the West Division. Nevada, Fresno State and San Diego State are, after all, a combined 0-5 against Colorado State, Boise State, Air Force and Utah State. The only reason Fresno State is still in the race is because it doesn't have to play Air Force, Colorado State and Utah State this year. The Mountain West will have a title game on Dec. 6 with the fifth-best team in the conference playing for the title while the No. 2, 3 and 4 teams are all sitting at home. And that fifth-best team (Nevada) will, no doubt, walk away with the championship.
No Wolf Pack team has ever won a conference title with more than one conference loss. The Wolf Pack has won 14 conference championships in its long football history and those 14 champs have combined to lose just eight league games. The Pack has had six teams (1925, 1926, 1929 and 1931 in the Far West Conference, 1985 in the Big Sky Conference and 2009 in the Western Athletic Conference who lost just one league game each and finished second. This Pack team has lost three league games and has a legitimate chance to win a conference title. But college football, especially mediocre Division I-A college football, is forgiving these days. You can't help but win some type of championship by the end of the season. This Pack team will lose at least four games overall this year and it could come away with four trophies — a West Division title, a Mountain West title, the Fremont Cannon and a bowl game championship. Four losses in a season used to make some coaches question everything they do. Now it makes them millionaires.
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Cody Fajardo's legacy is now on the table. The Wolf Pack quarterback, arguably one of the top five quarterbacks in school history, is a mediocre 20-20 as a starter in his career. He has no league championships on his resume. He has never won a bowl game. He's the only Wolf Pack pistol quarterback (starting in 2005) to ever lose to UNLV. Fajardo is without question a good player who, at times, has shown greatness. But he hasn't been consistent, as a 20-20 record would suggest. Since he became the full-time starter in Week 5 of 2011, his replacement starters at quarterback have gone 3-1 with the only loss coming to national champion Florida State last year. Well, the time for consistent greatness from Fajardo has come. Fajardo needs to end his Pack career in a flourish, with a West Division title, a win over UNLV next week, a Mountain West championship on Dec. 6 and a bowl game win in late December. It's all right there in front of him.
The Wolf Pack men's basketball team will get a good test this weekend at the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam. The Pack will play Seton Hall of the Big East today (1 p.m., CBS Sports Network) and then play either Clemson or Gardner-Webb on Saturday. The Seton Hall game will be a good early-season measuring stick. The Pirates aren't what they used to be when P.J. Carlesimo was coaching them to six NCAA Tournaments in a row from 1989-1994 and the Big East isn't what it used to be in the days when Georgetown, Syracuse and Connecticut were around. But this young and energetic Pack team doesn't know that it's not supposed to be all that good and they just might surprise the Pirates.
Has college football's new four-team playoff system added excitement to the sport? It doesn't seem so. Is anybody all that excited about a final four that includes Oregon, Alabama, Florida State and Mississippi State? It's obvious college football didn't go far enough with its four-team playoff. It should be eight teams. If there were eight teams in the playoff, who knows? They might even invite the Mountain West champ to the party once in a while. But that's the biggest reason why it's just four teams. The Power 5 Conferences don't want anyone else to get past the bouncer at the door.
The Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox are making things difficult for the San Francisco Giants to bring back third baseman Pablo Sandoval. There were reports this week Sandoval is likely getting a 5-year deal and the Jays and Red Sox are serious about stealing him away. If it indeed turns out to be a five-year deal the Giants should just let him go. Sandoval will turn 29-years-old this summer but his body looks like it belongs on a 40-year-old. Do you really want to tie yourself down with an injury-prone, overweight third baseman who has averaged just 14 homers and 72 RBI the last three years? Sandoval seems to be a great guy in the clubhouse and Giants fans love him. But the key to success in baseball is to never pay for past accomplishments. You should only pay for the future. And Sandoval's future most likely won't be as good as his past.
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