Pack hoping for win in SoCal shrine
Sports fodder for a Friday morning… The last time the Nevada Wolf Pack football team walked into a college football shrine, well, they didn’t score a point. The Wolf Pack was coming off a 7-6 season, it was quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s junior season and it began with a 35-0 loss at Notre Dame on Sept. 5, 2009. Fast forward to Saturday night. It is Cody Fajardo’s junior season. The Pack is coming off another 7-6 season and is headed to the Rose Bowl to play the UCLA Bruins. The result of the Pack’s visit to a college football cathedral will be different this time. The Pack will indeed score a point on Saturday. They will score a lot of points. And they won’t lose by as much as 35 points. They might not lose at all.
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The UCLA Bruins are vastly overrated this weekend by the odds makers. UCLA lost five games a year ago. They lost their last three. They lost their starting running back (Johnathan Franklin) off last year’s team. They lost to Cal (43-7) last year, a team the Pack beat (31-24). Yes, they won the Pac-12 South Division last year but that division was the only one in Division I-A in which every team lost at least five games. UCLA deserves to be the favorite on Saturday but not by three touchdowns. The Wolf Pack has beaten Pac-12 teams on the road before.
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Yes, of course, there is no rational reason to justify predicting a Wolf Pack victory on Saturday night. But college football is not about rational reasoning. All of the intangibles will be on the Wolf Pack’s side Saturday night. The point spread will motivate the Pack. UCLA has no idea who they will be playing. The Bruins are probably already looking forward to their trip to Nebraska in two weeks. The Wolf Pack is a hungry team full of players with a giant chip on their shoulder because UCLA didn’t offer them a scholarship. The Pack, with its unknown coaching staff, has the element of surprise on their side. This is the Wolf Pack’s Super Bowl. For UCLA, it means less than a spring scrimmage.
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Texas A&M and the NCAA embarrassed themselves with its silly half-game suspension for Johnny Manziel. The NCAA wants us to believe that Manziel was not compensated for autographing thousands of items. They say, though, that Manziel violated the spirit of the rule so a 30-minute suspension in the first game of the season was warranted. Is that all the spirit of the rule is worth? Half a game? This opens up world of trouble.
All college athletes have to do to make some extra money is find some sleazy memorabilia sellers who won’t cooperate with the NCAA.
The NFL doesn’t even understand its own fans. They have plastered posters of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco all around Denver (including Sports Authority Stadium) in an effort to promote the season opener next Thursday between the Broncos and Ravens. Broncos fans, not surprisingly, are upset. They should be. Can you imagine what would have happened if the NCAA put a giant poster of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton on the side of Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in November, 2010?
Colin Kaepernick simply does not get the respect he deserves. ESPN ranks the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl quarterback as the 15th best quarterback I the NFL this week. They even rank him behind overrated, outdated quarterbacks such as Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub and Philip Rivers. All of those one dimensional, lead-footed, stay-in-the-pocket quarterbacks are ranked ahead of Kaepernick, Russell Wilson (No. 14, according to ESPN), Robert Griffin (No. 16) and Cam Newton (No. 17). Doesn’t ESPN understand that Kaepernick, Wilson, Griffin and Newton are the present and future of the league?
Johnny Manziel gets a 30-minute suspension for blatantly autographing thousands of items and Yasiel Puig gets a full game benching from manager Don Mattingly for showing up late one day for pre-game batting practice. Mattingly then benched Puig for a Manziel-like half a game for not giving enough effort in the field this week. Maybe Mattingly should take over the NCAA.
Polian said this week that it wasn’t his idea to start his Wolf Pack coaching career at UCLA. He said he could think of “a bunch of different ways” he’d rather begin his career. Polian, though, should be thankful it’s UCLA. He’s in a no-lose situation. Nobody expects him to go to the Rose Bowl and win. Anything the Pack accomplishes on Saturday — scores a touchdown or two, keeps the game close until halftime, comes out of the locker room with all their helmets and pads on correctly — will be considered a success for Polian. It’s the perfect way to begin your head coaching career.