Pack has chance to beat mirror image of itself | NevadaAppeal.com

Pack has chance to beat mirror image of itself

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

If the Nevada Wolf Pack was in the Pac-12 Conference, it would be the Washington State Cougars. The Cougars and Wolf Pack football programs are mirror images. Gimmick offense, no defense, mediocre fan support. The only realistic goal every year is to play in a meaningless bowl game. Washington State is really just a Mountain West team in disguise. So, if the Wolf Pack beats the Cougars tonight, it will be doing nothing more than beating itself. And we all know how well they do that. Wolf Pack 55, Washington State 48 in double overtime in a game that could end early Saturday morning.

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A win over Washington State, though, would be the first signature victory of head coach Brian Polian’s career at Nevada. Polian has just five victories at Nevada and two have come against FCS teams and the other three have come against weaklings San Jose State, Hawaii and Air Force. A win tonight would also do wonders for the Pack’s confidence. This game on Friday is similar to the last time a Pac-12 team dared to come to Mackay Stadium. Going into the 2010 season, coach Chris Ault had never beaten a Pac-12 team. The 2010 team was led by a bunch of seniors that had never beaten a BCS conference team. That all changed on the night of Sept. 17, 2010 when the Pack stunned California. The Pack could change once again on Friday night.

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The Washington State showdown is all about Wolf Pack offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich. It’s time Rolovich grows up as an offensive coordinator and proves he’s more than just a guy who has studied at the feet of brilliant (Ault, June Jones) offensive minds. Rolovich has to match Washington State’s Mike Leach play for play tonight. He needs to be creative. He needs to take chances. He needs to channel his inner Ault and Jones and bring their spirit and wisdom to the Pack sideline. Rolovich has the ability to do it and the training. He also has the quarterback in Cody Fajardo. It’s time for Rolovich to take a seat at the big boys table.

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Don’t let what you saw last week against Southern Utah cloud your vision of this Wolf Pack football team. Yes, the Pack offense looked flat and unimaginative, especially at halftime when it had just seven points and seven punts. The Pack’s top priority last week against Southern Utah was to not allow anything of value to appear on the game film for Washington State to study. The Wolf Pack treated the game as if it was a glorified Silver and Blue scrimmage. We’ll see the real Pack offense tonight.

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Don’t be shocked if the Oakland Raiders win eight or nine games this year and stay in the wild card hunt until the final month. The Raiders have a soft schedule that includes the Texans, Jets, Dolphins, Cardinals, Browns, Chargers (twice), Rams and Bills. It’s sort of the NFL’s version of a Mountain West schedule. Rookie quarterback Derek Carr has to be better than what we’ve seen from the likes of Matt McGloin, Terrelle Pryor, Bruce Gradkowski, JaMarcus Russell, Charlie Frye, Jason Campbell and Carson Palmer in recent years. Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew should be able to keep one another healthy in the backfield and the underrated defense will keep the team in most games.

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The San Francisco 49ers, on the other hand, seem to have hit a wall in their development. Did their Super Bowl window end with Richard Sherman tipping away Colin Kaepernick’s ill-advised pass in the NFC title game last January? We’ll find out a lot about the 49ers on Sunday in Dallas. If the 49ers are indeed ready to take the next step they will destroy the Cowboys, a team with an exciting but mistake-prone offense and a defense that makes the Washington State and Wolf Pack defenses look like the 1985 Chicago Bears’ defense. Kaepernick also needs to take the next step from a guy who seems more determined to have his picture taken without wearing a shirt than a quarterback who wants to become an elite player.

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Super Bowl pick: San Francisco over Indianapolis. Nobody in the NFC plays defense except the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. Kaepernick, who will pick on somebody other than Sherman with the game on the line, will show the nation this year he’s indeed better than Russell Wilson. The AFC seems to be made up of a bunch of teams that will finish somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7. The Colts will stroll to the AFC South title, have home field advantage throughout the playoff and ride the arm of Andrew Luck into the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl will be a match up of Jim Harbaugh’s current (Kaepernick) and former (Luck at Stanford) quarterbacks with the 49ers defense being the difference.