Where does this Pack team stack up?
November 13, 2014
Sports fodder for a Friday morning …It's time to start looking at where this Nevada football team belongs in Wolf Pack history. The Wolf Pack has won three games in a row and is now 6-3 with a bowl game on the horizon and a likely Mountain West Conference championship game berth on Dec. 6. If this team wins out it's going to finish 11-3 with a bowl game victory, a Mountain West championship and an eight-game winning streak on its resume. It would clearly be one of the greatest seasons in Wolf Pack history. Only six other Pack teams (1978, 1985, 1986, 1990, 1991, 2010) have won 11 or more games in a season. Just one of those six finished with a win (the 2010 team won the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl) and no other team in school history would have won its final eight games (the 2010 team won its last seven). We are still a long way away from all of these lofty accomplishments but the next six weeks or so should be quite a ride.
We understand the Wolf Pack football team is a product of a soft schedule. The six teams the Pack has beaten this year are now a combined 20-37. None of them are more than a game over .500. But that soft schedule is the reason, after all, why we picked it to finish no worse than 8-4 in the regular season despite the fact that it was coming off a 4-8 season. But the Wolf Pack has had soft schedules in the past and didn't take advantage of them. Nobody is saying this is the greatest or the most talented team in Pack history.
If this Pack team finishes 11-3 will head coach Brian Polian stick around for a third year? There are Wolf Pack fans who hope he does go 11-3 just so he can find another job and leave town, there are Pack fans who are perfectly happy with him just because his last name isn't Ault and there are Pack fans who believe he's a rising star in the coaching ranks who could eventually take this program to Boise State-like greatness. No matter what you think of him, you can be sure if a job in a Big Five conference (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, SEC) is offered to him, he'll start chopping wood in another town faster than you can say Chris Ault. And he should.
He has the connections. He has the last name. And he has the resume. And it might be a long time before he goes 11-3 again at Nevada.
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Matt Williams deserves a ton of credit for winning the National League Manager of the Year award this season. The Carson Crusher led the Washington Nationals to 96 wins and won the East Division by 17 games. Yes, the Nationals are a turn-key team with an abundance of talent but sometimes those teams are the most difficult to manage, especially for a rookie manager. Williams might have taken the Nats to a World Series title if it wasn't for the team of destiny from San Francisco. Williams' toughest job, though, is still ahead of him. The Nationals now expect to take the next step. He will be judged not only on the regular season but how far he goes in the postseason. We'll find out exactly how good of a manger he is in the next few years.
This Wolf Pack men's basketball team might actually be better than advertised and certainly better than it looked in a 72-62 exhibition win over Cal State San Marcos on Saturday. The new kids can play. Tyron Criswell and Eric Cooper, a couple of 6-3 guards, give the team athleticism while big men Kaileb Rodriguez, Robyn Missa and Elijah Foster give coach David Carter bulk, muscle and toughness in the paint. They all look like they will contribute this year. Say what you want about Carter, but he's proven in his six years as head coach he can recruit. This might be his deepest class ever, even better than the 2010 group that started strong and flamed out before its senior year. There's no Deonte Burton in the bunch but there are a lot of Jerry Evans and Cole Huff types.
Don't be shocked if the San Francisco 49ers, now 5-4, end up winning their division. The Arizona Cardinals (8-1) just lost their quarterback. The Seattle Seahawks (6-3) are nowhere close to the team that won the Super Bowl last year. The Cardinals will likely lose five of their last seven games to finish 10-6. The Seahawks will probably lose three more games to also end up 10-6. The 49ers are going to win six of their final seven to finish 11-5 and steal the division. It all comes down to the 49ers' two games against Seattle and one against Arizona. This has happened before. The 49ers were 6-5 in 1988 after a demoralizing 9-3 loss to the Los Angeles Raiders at Candlestick Park and it looked like their season was over. The season didn't end, though, until John Taylor caught a touchdown pass from Joe Montana to win the Super Bowl over Cincinnati.
The move back to Oakland before the 1995 season has been a disaster for the Raiders. The Raiders, 0-9 this year, have had just three winning seasons (2000-02) out of 20 since they came back to the Bay area. The Raiders have become the joke of the NFL since they returned to Oakland. The franchise hasn't even made the playoffs since 2002. Nobody wants to coach them. Nobody wants to play for them. The Raiders are where careers go to die. If Colin Kaepernick had been drafted by the Raiders in 2011 he would be pitching in the minor leagues or modeling underwear by now. The Raiders have lost 15 games in a row and 17 of their last 18. "Just Win, Baby" needs to be replaced by "Just Get Out of Oakland, Baby."
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