Media chooses Pack for second in their division | NevadaAppeal.com

Media chooses Pack for second in their division

Joe Santoro

Sports fodder for a Friday morning … The Nevada Wolf Pack football team has been picked to finish second this season behind San Diego State in the West Division of the Mountain West by the conference’s media. Boise State was picked to win the Mountain Division. No big surprises there. San Diego State and the Pack both don’t have to play either of the teams (Air Force, Boise State) picked to finish in the top two of the Mountain Division. They have a clear path to the top two spots. Finishing second in a Mountain West division, though, is like finishing second in the Miss America pageant. It means nothing. Your reward is just a garbage bowl game while the first place team gets to play in the conference title game. The Wolf Pack’s chances of playing in that title game comes down to Nov. 12 at Mackay Stadium against San Diego State. The last time San Diego State came to Reno (Nov. 1, 2014), the Wolf Pack won convincingly.

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The Wolf Pack’s schedule this year is a coach’s dream. There’s only one game (at Notre Dame) they can’t be expected to win. They play the toughest team (San Diego State) in their division at home and play just one game (Utah State) against one of the top three teams (as picked by the media) in the other division. And that game is also at home. The Pack also gets Fresno State at home. We could be looking at a 10-2 Wolf Pack regular season. If that happens you can bet the Pack won’t be playing in a joke of a bowl game in December against a conference opponent.

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UNLV is picked to finish ahead of only Hawaii in the West Division. The Rebels, who have to play at San Diego State and Boise State, could finish 6-6 if a few things fall into place. The Rebels have no excuse for not winning at least four games (Wyoming, Hawaii, Jackson State, Idaho) and they also have a puncher’s chance against the Pack, Central Michigan, Fresno State and San Jose State. Former Wolf Pack and Hawaii offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich is now the boss in Hawaii and, well, he’s going to find out that calling plays in one of the worst defensive conferences in the nation is a whole lot easier than trying to win games as the Rainbow Warriors’ head coach. He’ll be lucky to win three games and could lose to both UNLV and the Pack.

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The Pack placed just one player (defensive back Dameon Baber) on the Mountain West Pre-Season All Conference teams (offense, defense, special teams). James Butler should have been one of the two running backs. Butler, who just might be the best football player in the conference, should have been named with San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey as the top two backs in the league. Wyoming’s Brian Hill was given the spot with Pumphrey that should have gone to Butler. Hill had more yards (1,631- 1,342) than Butler last year but Hill also had 74 more carries and Butler scored four (10-6) more touchdowns. Butler also averaged 6.5 yards a carry to Hill’s 5.8.

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NFL training camps are now opening up and, well, how does an Oakland Raiders AFC West Division title this season sound? A division title might be a bit premature but a wild card playoff spot is definitely within reach. The AFC West might be in a transition year. The defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos have no quarterback and the San Diego Chargers have no clue. That leaves the Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs might have been the best team in the NFL at the end of last season (a loss to football deflator Tom Brady and New England in the playoffs snapped an 11-game win streak) and they should be the favorite to win the division. The Raiders, which could be Nevada-bound in a few years, should be in the wild card race to the end. Yes, the Raiders.

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Northern Nevada got a chance to see up close why Hunter Pence is one of the most beloved players in San Francisco Giants history. Pence is playing at Greater Nevada Field this week for the Sacramento River Cats on an injury rehab assignment and it appears he loves every minute of it. He runs out onto the field (carrying his own bats and glove) for the pre-game warm-ups. He signs countless autographs before the game, smiling and joking with fans, and he then puts on a show during the games, hitting home runs and making outstanding catches in right field. Pence played the game with more passion and intensity, and obvious love of the sport, than any other player on the field. And he was the one making the most money and had nothing left to prove as a player. If everyone played the game like Hunter Pence, baseball would still be the national pastime.

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Former Wolf Pack point guard Marqueze Coleman has signed a contract to play professional basketball in Germany. Coleman, who started just 53 games in four seasons, became the 25th Pack player in history last season to score more than 1,000 career points. Scoring 1,000 points in a career, though, really isn’t all that meaningful anymore. Nearly half (12) of the 25 1,000-point scorers finished their careers since the year 2000. The Pack, by comparison, had just nine 1,000-point scorers end their careers before 1990 (blame the 3-point shot). Coleman, for example, got to 1,000 despite sitting the bench for much of his first two seasons and then battling injuries his final two years. Senior D.J. Fenner (864 points) and sophomore Cam Oliver (511) both will likely go over 1,000 this coming season.

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Chris Sale clearly doesn’t want to pitch for the Chicago White Sox anymore. He sided against the organization this spring after Adam LaRoche quit the team after management told him to simply monitor the time his teen-aged son spent in the clubhouse. And last weekend Sale took a scissors and cut up White Sox throwback jerseys because, he said, they were uncomfortable. The White Sox should send Sale elsewhere. His value is greater than it is right now as one of the best pitchers in baseball with three affordable years left on his contract. That should net the White Sox about three top prospects from a team (Texas, Boston, Baltimore) looking for pitching this week. The White Sox aren’t going to compete for a playoff spot in the next two or three years so it’s time to tell Sale to take his scissors elsewhere.