FODDER: Santoro predicts big Nevada win in bowl game | NevadaAppeal.com
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FODDER: Santoro predicts big Nevada win in bowl game

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

Sports fodder for a Friday morning … Expect the Nevada Wolf Pack to turn the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl into the Kraft Fight Boredom Bowl about midway through the third quarter on Jan. 9. That is how much the Pack should dominate this game and end its four-game losing streak in the NCAA’s postseason exhibition season. The Pack is favored by 10 points. It should have that covered by the end of their second drive. Wolf Pack 49, Boston College 17.

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Boston College is a perfect example of why there are far too many bowl games. The Eagles (7-4 overall and 4-4 in the mediocre Atlantic Coast Conference) are one of 22 bowl teams with a record of 7-5 or worse. They are one of 22 that had a .500 or worse conference record. The Eagles wouldn’t even be in San Francisco on Jan. 9 if the Pac-10 had one more bowl eligible team. The Eagles lost to every decent team (Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, North Carolina State, Florida State and Maryland) and beat all of the horrible (Weber State, Kent State, Wake Forest, Duke, Virginia) and mediocre teams (Clemson, Syracuse) on their schedule. They are about as middle-of-the-road as you can get, with a five-game losing streak this year and a five-game winning streak.

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You will read repeatedly over the next month how great Boston College’s defense is against the run. The Eagles are first in the nation, allowing just 80 rushing yards a game. And they are solid. No question. Linebackers Luke Kuechly and Mark Herzlich, two old-school, hard-nosed linebackers, are fun to watch. But don’t expect Chris Ault to steal Hawaii’s pass-happy playbook this month. The Eagles allowed 100 or more yards rushing this year to five teams, including Weber State. Their rushing defense stats were tremendously inflated because they gave up eight yards rushing combined in two games (Duke, Kent State). They only faced one team (Virginia Tech) that finished in the nation’s top 40 in rushing. They clearly haven’t faced a running game like the Pack’s running game. The Pack already has faced a rushing defense like the Eagles’ rushing defense in Boise State. And they ran for 269 yards.

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Wolf Pack fans should be commended for going out and buying tickets (about 15,000 so far) to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. This football team deserves your support. But nobody should have doubted that Pack fans would support this bowl game. The game is a four-hour drive away in San Francisco, a great place to spend a weekend. It is at AT&T Park, a big league stadium with big league comforts. The Pack is coming off a victory over Boise State and a conference title. It will be the final game for Colin Kaepernick, the greatest Pack player in history. It will be like a home game for the Pack. Unless the New England Patriots are playing the Oakland Raiders on Jan. 8 or 9 in a NFL playoff game, there won’t be any Boston-area fans there. It’s going to be like one, giant Pack party.

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It’s about time the Portland Trail Blazers did Luke Babbitt a favor by sending him to the NBA Developmental League. OK, sending someone to Boise for the winter isn’t really doing anyone a favor. But it was the only way the former Pack forward was going to sharpen his skills this year. Babbitt, who played a total of 30 meaningless minutes with Portland over six weeks, exploded for 19 points in 22 minutes Wednesday night in his Idaho Stampede debut. He’ll play in Reno against the Bighorns (and ex-Pack Nick Fazekas) on Jan. 1 and 2. That means in a span of just nine days, you can watch three of the greatest and most accomplished Wolf Pack athletes in history (Fazekas, Babbitt, Kaepernick) in action.

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It is time to start fantasizing about possible dream Super Bowl match-ups. San Francisco-Oakland would indeed be a dream. But you’d have a better chance of seeing the Kansas City Royals sign Cliff Lee this month. Tossing a bit of reality into our dream match-up possibilities, you couldn’t get any better than Tom Brady and the New England Patriots against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles. College football has the better regular season. But the NFL’s postseason blows the NCAA’s bowl season out of the water. All of the games are meaningful and you don’t have to wait around five weeks to watch it.

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The Wolf Pack basketball team should send the football team a gigantic Christmas card this month, stuffed with Best Buy gift cards and cheerleader phone numbers, for distracting everyone this past month. The football team’s success has allowed the basketball team to go 1-7 with hardly anyone noticing. That’s a good thing. This Pack hoops team will get better. We promise. But it was always going to struggle out of the gate. You can’t put together almost an entire basketball team in one off-season and expect to breeze through your first dozen games or so. The football team beating Boise and winning a WAC title bought this Pack basketball team some valuable time to mature.