Joe Santoro: In the weirdest season, Nevada Wolf Pack could go undefeated | NevadaAppeal.com
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Joe Santoro: In the weirdest season, Nevada Wolf Pack could go undefeated

By Joe Santoro For the Nevada Appeal
Quarterback Carson Strong (12) celebrates after Nevada beat San Diego State, 17-13, on Nov. 9, 2019, in San Diego. With Strong and other skill players returning, the Wolf Pack could have the best offense in the Mountain West this season.
Denis Poroy/AP, file

There is absolutely no logical reason why the Nevada Wolf Pack football team’s offense should not dominate the Mountain West this season. Yes, the Wolf Pack offense is coming off a dismal season in 2019 when it averaged a mere 21.3 points and 365 yards a game. The Pack scored just 31 touchdowns all year. It was the program’s worst year of offense in roughly 20 years. But we will assume that head coach Jay Norvell and offensive coordinator Matt Mumme will not try to screw up the quarterback situation this year. We will assume that Norvell and Mumme will keep their silly look-at-how-detailed-our-playbook-is gadget plays to a minimum. Norvell, after all, is hopefully maturing as a head coach and Mumme is finally figuring out he’s not in Division III anymore. Everything is in place for the Wolf Pack to improve by 50 percent on offense (to around 32 points and 500 yards a game) this season. All of the important skill players (quarterback Carson Strong, running backs Toa Taua and Devonte Lee and wide receivers Elijah Cooks and Romeo Doubs) are back. No more excuses.

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This will likely be the weirdest season of Wolf Pack football since the 1952 team played just four games after taking a year off for financial reasons. First of all, the stands will be almost empty. Yes, of course, a quiet Mackay Stadium will be nothing new but this season will take that sleep-inducing experience to the extreme. There will likely be some people in the stands at Mackay Stadium but whether it is a couple hundred or a few thousand remains to be seen. Anything can happen. The new university president, after all, is a former governor and might have some influence down in Carson City. The question you must ask yourselves is whether or not Wolf Pack football is worth risking your health for as a fan. Your mental health, of course, was always at risk by going to a Pack game but now your physical health will also be in jeopardy. And keep in mind that fighting with opposing players in the end zone will be frowned upon during this pandemic. But, remember, this crazy season is not for your enjoyment, Pack fans. It is so the university can collect some television money so it can begin to justify paying the seven figures it owes its bloated coaching staff as well as the free education it is giving to the 80 or so full-ride scholarship players on the roster. You, the fan, will have to pay good money to risk your health, watch mediocre college football in a quiet stadium, wear a mask and sit six feet away from the next group of fans. It will be sort of like standing in the checkout line at Raley’s.

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The Wolf Pack, though, could have a very special season. The Pack might not lose a game. They shouldn’t lose a game with the talent they have on offense. The Mountain West is going through a ton of transition this year with six head coaching changes. And the task of being a new head coach in this pandemic season is, well, ridiculously difficult. There should not be a team on the Pack’s schedule this year that strikes fear in their silver and blue hearts. The Mountain West championship game on Dec. 19 just might be at Mackay Stadium.

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San Jose State, on the other hand, could go winless. That’s nothing new. But this year the challenge of fielding a winning team might be next to impossible for San Jose State. The Spartans have announced that they will house their football team 300 miles away from campus at Humboldt State University because they cannot conduct practices in their county (Santa Clara) with more than 12 players. The players will practice at Humboldt and take online classes until the county relents and allows gatherings of more than a dozen. It seems like a horrible situation for the Spartans and hopefully will not last the entire season. But it shouldn’t surprise anyone that San Jose State is willing to do it. As we have learned this fall (and the past three decades), there is no limit as to what universities will do for college football television money.

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One of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this season is a product of the Mountain West. Go figure. Josh Allen, who started for Wyoming in 2016 and 2017, has completed 81-of-114 passes this season for the unbeaten Buffalo Bills for 1,038 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception. He’s also rushed for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Allen, despite his success, just might be the most underrated quarterback in the NFL. He’s won 13 of his last 19 regular season games and gets almost no publicity because he plays in Buffalo. Allen might already be the best NFL quarterback the Mountain West has ever produced. All he has to do, after all, is be better than Andy Dalton, Alex Smith and Derek Carr.

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We could be headed to a New York Yankees-Los Angeles Dodgers World Series. That matchup, even though it might bore the middle of the country to tears, could turn out to be a classic. The Dodgers have been the best team in baseball all season and the Yankees just might have the best offense. We could see a half dozen home runs a game. Both legendary franchises are due to win a World Series. Yes, it’s unfortunate that they would have to do it in Arlington, Texas. But there will be 11,500 tickets sold for each game and Arlington could turn into a little New York or Los Angeles. Yankees-Dodgers is always good for baseball, no matter what the good folks in Wichita, Omaha and Denver think.

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If you are a Golden State Warriors fan you have to like what you have seen in the NBA the last couple months. The league is a joke right now. This NBA Finals might be the least appealing in the history of the league. Is there a team in the NBA that should scare the Warriors next year? The Warriors will be right back in the mix for a title next year with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins leading the way. The Warriors will also have the No. 2 pick in the draft. Can a team go from 15 wins the previous year to a NBA title? This Warriors team can in this NBA.